Editor’s note: The following appeared in the May/June issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine.
By CINDY FAIRFIELD
The goal, of course, is to save more cats and dogs. The idea is to find them the loving homes every pet deserves.
The problem, of course, is that too many pet owners are irresponsible, avoiding the simple steps of spaying or neutering that can make a real difference in curbing the exploding population of unwanted cats and dogs.
Enter the BISSELL Pet Foundation and the annual BISSELL Blocktail Party, set for June 12 at Mangiamo!, 1033 Lake Drive SE, Grand Rapids. Tickets are available for $55 until Tuesday, when they increase to $65. Go to the Blocktail website to order them online today.
Last year, the event raised $187,000 to help pets in West Michigan. But beyond the dollars, it sparked a united front among the agencies and charitable organizations that tend to pets’ needs, creating efficiencies and surely saving more lives along the way.
That’s because Cathy Bissell, founder of the Bissell Pet Foundation, required those seeking grant monies to exercise collaboration with other pet non-profits to eliminate overlap and ensure that each dollar granted went as far as it possibly could to make a pet’s life better.
“The Blocktail Party has really fostered collaboration among organizations that love and want to help animals,” said Shannon Reinecke, foster care/adoption coordinator at Vicky’s Pet Connection in Ada. “I think that has made a bigger difference, even beyond the dollars. The grant process has inspired all of us to work together to see how we can best help pets.”
It has allowed the organizations to specialize in many areas, ensuring that no dog or cat is left behind. From spaying and neutering, to caring for the needs of at-risk senior dogs and cats, monies raised at the annual Blocktail Party are making a difference in West Michigan.
“It’s amazing,” said Carly Luttmann, program supervisor of the Kent County Animal Shelter. “I can’t say enough what it means to all of our organizations around here to not only have the Blocktail Party but to have the Bissell Pet Foundation.”
And it means a lot to plenty of cats and dogs, too, who have been saved from euthanasia and/or placed in loving homes.
“It is amazing to have an organization right in our backyard that recognizes the unheard voices of the millions of homeless animals,” said Trudy Ender, executive director of Humane Society of West Michigan. “Bissell Pet Foundation is a wonderful resource not only in West Michigan, but beyond.”
To illustrate BPF’s reach in West Michigan, here’s what the grant money from last year’s Blocktail Party did for area organizations.
KENT COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER, $41,000
With 7,500 animals per year coming through the Kent County Animal Shelter, workers have focused on increasing the save rate of unwanted dogs and cats. Of the $41,000 in grant money received, $25,000 was used for spaying and neutering with the adoption program; $11,000 was used to underwrite adoption fees for low-income would-be pet owners and $5,000 was used to spay and neuter stray dogs and cats.
“Spaying and neutering is the most important thing,” said Luttmann. “If people realized that a simple act has such a positive repercussion on the animals saved because of it, they would do it more.”
Luttmann hopes to change the culture in West Michigan to align more with areas like Denver, Colo., where it is unusual not to have a pet spayed or neutered.
“Our goal is to increase live release all the way,” Luttmann said.
KCAS, which is funded primarily through county government, takes in about 7,500 animals per year and has a save rate (adoptions, reclaims and transfers in comparison to euthanasia rate) of about 30 percent.
In the spirit of collaboration, the shelter has worked with other agencies, such as Vicky’s Pet Connection, to place animals and give them the best chance for adoption.
“We work a lot with other agencies in the area,” Luttmann said.
C-SNIP’s mission is “fixing” pets so they don’t reproduce, and last year’s grant helped the organization focus primarily on its Big Paws Project, which spays and neuters dogs 50 pounds and bigger.
“Larger animals will have larger litters,” explained former executive director Pat Schoen, who retired in February. “We have never turned anyone away for lack of affordability and we offset the costs of what the client cannot pay.”
C-SNIP, which has facilities in both Muskegon and Kent counties, opens its doors to anyone throughout the country and has spayed and neutered more than 95,000 cats and dogs. A fully staffed operation, C-SNIP’s funding comes from donations, surgery fees and grants. Schoen said about 96 percent of C-SNIP’s clients are low-income.
“Our mortality rate is probably the lowest in the country because of the skills and attention of our staff,” said Schoen.
Still, she is particularly concerned about the “overwhelming continuing explosion” of cats in West Michigan and grant money not used for the Big Paws project has helped with spaying and neutering cats.
C-SNIP partners with the Humane Society of West Michigan two days a month to provide vaccinations for low-income pet owners. It also waives fees for active military personnel and women who are entering a shelter situation and need help with their pets.
VICKY’S PET CONNECTION, $27,000
Older dogs and cats present special challenges, Reinecke said, because their needs are greater and they are more difficult to place in homes.
So Vicky’s Pet Connection used $15,000 of its Blocktail grant for its Golden Paws program.
“We pull at-risk senior dogs out of shelters and provide them with medical attention and try to get them adopted,” Reinecke said.
They include dogs like Franny, a Beagle taken from the Allegan County Animal Shelter and then Wishbone Rescue, who was in critical shape by the time she reached Vicky’s. Franny had extensive dental work as well as a three-inch tumor removed from her paw.
“These animals are remarkable,” said Reinecke. “Most of the time they can be rehabbed into very loving family pets.”
Vicky’s also takes in and adopts out about 600 cats a year, but focuses primarily on aging and special needs dogs.
Vicky’s used $5,000 of its Blocktail grant for its Buddy’s Big Fix Fund, which focuses on spaying and neutering larger dogs, while $7,000 has been used for microchipping pets.
HUMANE SOCIETY OF WEST MICHIGAN, $21,600
The bulk of HSWM’s Blocktail grant has been used on adoption specials, including its Silver Paws Program for senior dogs. The remaining dollars were spent on microchipping for low-income pet owners and providing animal transfer subsidies.
With an annual operating budget of $1.5 million funded primarily with grants and donations and an intake rate of about 3,500 animals per year, every dollar is critical to helping animals in West Michigan, Ender said.
The oldest help agency for animals in West Michigan — the organization was founded in 1883 — it works closely with other organizations to provide homes and care for cats and dogs.
“The grants fueled by funds raised at the Blocktail Party have such a positive impact on Humane Society of West Michigan’s mission, enabling us to improve and extend the care we provide to animals, increase the number of animal adoptions, expand opportunities, and launch new initiatives that benefit the community’s animals and pet owners,” said Ender. “The Bissell Blocktail Party is another philanthropic testimony that as a community, we are in it together — we are joined together for life-saving measures for animals in our community.”
Specifically, the grant allowed the Humane Society, located in Walker, to subsidize six months of adoption specials and to provide reduced-rate vaccinations and free microchipping for low-income pet owners.
CAROL’S FERALS, $12,000
There are plenty of behind-the-scenes costs that go into helping animals, and equipment is just one of them.
Carol Manos, founder of Carol’s Ferals in Grand Rapids, said the Blocktail grant was instrumental in purchasing a washer and dryer and dishwasher to help clean the bedding and dishes for the thousands of cats passing through the organization on a yearly basis.
“These purchases have really helped us provide more sanitary conditions for our cats,” said Manos.
Remaining Blocktail grant funds have been used for the shelter’s spay and neuter program, the top priority at Carol’s Ferals.
A cat rescue placement center in Grand Rapids, Crash’s Landing doesn’t aspire to be the biggest shelter in West Michigan.
“We never set out to be the biggest shelter,” said Kimberly Grant, vice president and director of communications for Crash’s Landing. “We are more than happy and satisfied to, as the motto states, ‘help our little corner of the world, one cat at a time.’ We firmly stand by the ideal of quality over quantity and do not apologize for that.”
Yet, the Blocktail grant allowed the shelter to increase its capacity by 8 percent to 130 cats. Other monies have been used to publicize the facility, which has resulted in more than doubling the number of adoptions per month, from an average of 7 to 19. An added bonus: Volunteer numbers also have more than doubled.
“We’ve worked very hard in 2012 to alter the public perception of Crash’s Landing,” said Grant. “I believe we were perceived as difficult to adopt from — even standoffish.”
Crash’s has used $7,000 of the grant to promote adoptions and community outreach and $3,000 for food and supplies.
MACKENZIE’S FOUNDATION, $10,000
Mackenzie’s takes in out about 100 dogs per year but was unable to provide some of the on-site care needed to prepare them for adoption.
The Blocktail grant has been used toward purchasing laboratory equipment to assist with diagnostics. “We are not able to do in-depth eye exams, run more accurate fecal samples, urinalysis, etc.,” said Jorel Davis, assistant general manager of Mackenzie’s. “This was the first step towards the future.”
Davis said he’s excited about what Mackenzie’s, located in Lake Odessa, will be able to do to help homeless dogs with an on-site veterinary clinic.
“We will be able to impact a greater number of deserving animals relinquished to animal control facilities, humane societies and other types of facilities that euthanize,” said Davis. “Through this, we will be able to show our community that these dogs are not to blame; given needed attention and some time, they are great companions that just need to find their forever home.”
SAFE HAVEN HUMANE SOCIETY, $5,000
Located in Ionia, Safe Haven has used its grant to create a dog-training program for people who adopt their dogs, in addition to supporting a free spay/neuter program for female cats and their litters.
Safe Haven focuses on rescuing cats and dogs from abandonment situations.
REUBEN’S ROOM CAT RESCUE, $4,000
Reuben’s has targeted its grant for helping with the needs of its senior cat population.
Reuben’s Room facilitator Jeanine Buckner is convinced that cats make a difference in senior citizens’ lives and she has focused on matching her older cats with elderly men and women. Her program is called “Worry Free Adoption for Seniors.”
BELLWETHER HARBOR, $2,050
This dog and cat shelter in Fremont, has used its grant to purchase 200 Avid microchips in hopes that animals can be reunited with their owners sooner than Bonnie and Clyde, two elderly Beagles who came to the shelter in 2011.
Carmen Froehle, facilities manager at Bellwether, said the elderly dogs stayed at the shelter for nearly a year when a young boy showed up after seeing photos posted online. They were the boy’s dogs, named Daisy and Gunner, and “the family was overjoyed” to get their dogs back.
Had the dogs been microchipped, they would have been reunited much sooner. With the Blocktail grant, Froehle said they can now ensure every cat and dog is microchipped before they are adopted.
MIDAMERICA BORDER COLLIE RESCUE, $1,000
MidAmerica Border Collie Rescue serves the Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Indiana areas and has used its grant to microchip its border collies before putting them up for adoption. There is no facility for the rescue. Instead, adoptable dogs are housed in foster homes.