New west Michigan animal welfare alliance debuts Saturday at Grand Rapids event

A terrific event is happening on Saturday that will benefit animals in need all over west Michigan.

Thanks to a collaborative group of animal welfare advocates, shelter animals in west Michigan will have a better chance at finding a loving home.

Thanks to a collaborative group of animal welfare advocates, shelter animals in west Michigan will have a better chance at finding a loving home.

The Subaru of America “Share the Love” event takes place at Delta Subaru, 6025 28th Street in Grand Rapids, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Subaru of America has joined with several charities, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to donate $250 from the purchase or lease of every new Subaru. The buyer can designate which of the participating charities, including ASPCA, gets the donation.

But Saturday’s event is about more than just getting a slick new Subaru. It also marks the “coming out party,” if you will, of the West Michigan Network of Animal Protection. The WMNAP is a collaboration of six area animal welfare organizations working to increase pet adoptions and put an end to pet overpopulation and euthanasia through education, advocacy and spaying/neutering of animals. The six organizations forming WMNAP currently represent care for 95 percent of west Michigan’s homeless pet population.

Many in west Michigan already are familiar with the organizations that make up WMNAP: Kent County Animal Shelter, Humane Society of West Michigan, Community Spay and Neuter Initiative Partnership (C-SNIP), Vicky’s Pet Connection, Carol’s Ferals and Reuben’s Room Cat Rescue. The groups began meeting in late 2011 and WMNAP has been busy planning throughout 2013. It was awarded a $5,000 capacity building grant from the Dyer-Ives Foundation in May.

As part of Saturday’s festivities, WMNAP and Delta Subaru have created an off-site adoption event at the Grand Rapids dealership. If you’ve been thinking of getting a new dog or cat for the holidays, come by and meet some of the shelter animals available.  There also will be free pet ID tagging, dog licensing and appointments for low-cost spay and neuter.

Attendees also can help “Stuff the Subaru Outback” with donated pet food and supplies for homeless pets under the care of WMNAP partners.

The logo for the new group dedicated to helping animals in west Michigan.

The logo for the new group dedicated to helping animals in west Michigan.

If you’ve had interaction with any of the organizations involved in WMNAP, you no doubt are aware of the struggles they face every day. By joining forces, the groups can brainstorm new ideas, share resources and simply help one another out. West Michigan is fortunate to have such a dynamic and dedicated group working on behalf of the homeless animals in our area.

“Nearly 10,000 pets are still entering the two largest shelters servicing our community each year,” Jennifer Self-Aulgur of HSWM said in a news release. “The bleak reality for these animals is that there simply are not resources to find all of them a home. In 2012, positive outcomes were achieved for 43 percent of the animals entering the shelters.  Working together and sharing new and innovative ideas is the only way we will be able to help solve the problem of pet overpopulation and homeless pets in our community.”

I urge you to take the time to stop by the event Saturday. You can meet the folks behind the WMNAP, discuss how you can be a part of their efforts and help the homeless animals of west Michigan. Don’t forget to bring some dog or cat food to “Stuff the Subaru Outback,” which has a direct impact on our homeless cats and dogs.

Ready for Blocktail? Bone up on last year’s grant recipients and get your tickets today

Editor’s note: The following appeared in the May/June issue of Dogs Unleashed magazine. 


The goal, of course, is to save more cats and dogs. The idea is to find them the loving homes every pet deserves.

Our dog, Truman, is ready for the party scene. Are you? Bissell Blocktail tickets are $55 today and go up to $65 Tuesday. The event is Wednesday at Mangiamo! in Grand Rapids. (Grumpy Pups Pet Photography photo)

Our dog, Truman, is ready for the party scene. Are you? Bissell Blocktail tickets are $55 today and go up to $65 Tuesday. The event is Wednesday at Mangiamo! in Grand Rapids. (Grumpy Pups Pet Photography photo)

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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.”


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 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.”


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 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.


Area animal advocates come together for a common goal

Had a great time at Bow-Wows & Brews, a big fundraiser for C-SNIP, on Thursday night. The food was great, beer was flowing (although I don’t drink and didn’t partake, I was told by many the microbrews were tasty) and the “Heads or Tails” game to win prizes went over quite well.

There were a ton of silent auction items and several people took advantage of pet portraits shot by Grumpy Pups Pet Photography‘s Jennifer Waters. While we didn’t bring our dogs to the event, there were a TON of dogs at the DeltaPlex. In fact, we “borrowed” Shelley Irwin’s Jack Russell terrier, Petie, for a portrait and kept an eye on him while the WGVU Morning Show host helped to emcee the event.

But the best part of the evening, aside from raising funds for such a worthwhile cause, was seeing representatives from many of the other west Michigan non-profit organizations on hand to support C-SNIP.

Aside from the many staff and volunteers from C-SNIP, it was wonderful to visit with Trudy Ender and Jennifer Self-Aulgur of the Humane Society of West Michigan, Carly Luttmann, program supervisor of the Kent County Animal Shelter, and Cathy Bissell, whose Bissell Pet Foundation helps shelter animals nationwide.

Laurel Pruski, who is co-chair with Cathy Bissell for June’s Blocktail Party, was working the silent auction tables. She also is in charge of Mackenzie’s Bark at the Bob event on April 18.

Many other Grand Rapids organizations were on hand as well. It warmed my heart to see the collaboration of these organizations, who all are vying for fundraising dollars. Rather than thinking only of their own organizations, they banded together to support one another and, most importantly, to support the cause of helping prevent pet overpopulation and finding homes for shelter pets.

Next up on the big event calendar is HSWM’s Paws, Claws & Corks on March 25. For information or to purchase tickets, check out the HSWM website. It’s my hope the various non-profits will continue to offer support to each other. After all, united we stand. Right?



Celebrate Bow-Wows & Brews, and wish C-SNIP’s Pat Schoen a fond farewell

It’s a bittersweet day for anyone who has been involved in C-SNIP. It happens to be the last day of work for Pat Schoen, the organization’s executive director the past seven years.

C-SNIP co-founder Pam Olsen, left, and outgoing Executive Director Pat Schoen at the 2011 Bow-Wows & Brews event. (C-SNIP photo)

C-SNIP co-founder Pam Olsen, left, and outgoing Executive Director Pat Schoen at the 2011 Bow-Wows & Brews event. (C-SNIP photo)

Schoen took over in 2006, when C-SNIP, the Community Spay and Neuter Initiative Partnership in West Michigan, moved from a mobile unit to its current building at 1675 Viewpond SE in Kentwood. The building was donated by Lois Levy and allowed C-SNIP to perform many more surgeries, including those on dogs.

About the time the doors to the new building opened, Schoen had taken early retirement from her previous job. She had planned to perhaps work part-time somewhere. But Pam Olsen, Betsy Pullen and Sue Carl, founders who founded C-SNIP in 2001, had other plans. Before she knew it, Schoen was in place as C-SNIP’s director and charged with taking the organization to the next level.

During her seven years there, C-SNIP has performed 75,773 spay/neuter surgeries on dogs and cats. All told, C-SNIP has “fixed” some 96,000 pets since its inception in 2001. Many pet owners couldn’t afford the surgery at their veterinarian, and C-SNIP has never turned away an owner for inability to pay for the procedure.

“I think that’s what I’m most proud of,” Schoen told me Thursday morning, her last day at work. “Through grants donations, we have been able to subsidize surgeries. We have never, ever, turned anyone away for lack of finances.”

Her swan song, so to speak, will be next week’s Bow-Wows & Brews event at DeltaPlex Arena in Grand Rapids. The event, from 6:30-10 p.m. on March 7 (that’s a Thursday), features sample microbrews, heavy Hors d’oeuvres (both vegan and traditional), silent and live auctions, raffle prizes and photos of your dog by Grumpy Pups Pet Photography‘s Jennifer Waters.

 Bow-Wows & Brews is all about, food, beer, fun, dogs and a good cause. What's not to love?

Bow-Wows & Brews is all about, food, beer, fun, dogs and a good cause. What’s not to love?
(C-SNIP photo)

Dogs are welcome, and encouraged to come with their owners. Tickets are $40 per person (with $28 tax deductible) or $75 for two ($51 tax deductible) and can be purchased through the C-SNIP website. (I purchased ours this morning and was amazed at how simple it was … it took me less than a minute!).

I checked out the list of items available in silent and live auctions, and a fun new event, “Heads of Tails.” It’s more like a game, and the last person standing wins a fabulous prize, including an iPad, certificates to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. The 50-plus silent auction items include lift tickets to Boyne Mountain, a weekend spa getaway and a kid’s birthday party for 10 at the Humane Society of West Michigan. Live auction bidding includes — get this — a trip to Chicago’s Wrigley Field worth $1,400.

If you’re a pet lover in West Michigan, I encourage you to attend Bow-Wows & Brews and help support the wonderful work C-SNIP and Pat Schoen have come to represent. Their efforts have prevented unwanted litters of puppies and kittens and have made a difference in our community.

“We have brought awareness to the absolute necessity to spay and neuter our pets by offering affordable services to people who otherwise could not afford it,” Schoen said. “We are seeing a reduction in our area of dogs, specifically, at the animal shelter and humane society.

“Cats still remain a big effort. The cat population continues to explode because of the ability of them to have several litters per year.”

Schoen and the C-SNIP staff have come up with various programs and specials throughout the years, including “Beat the Heat” with reduced fees for cats and kittens, and “Primp Your Pit,” which last summer offered reduced fees for those who brought their pit bull or pit bull mixes in for spay/neuter surgery.

C-SNIP is able to offer such specials and affordable surgeries thanks to grants from various organizations, notably the Bissell Pet Foundation and PetSmart Charities, and with the money it makes at its annual fundraising events, like Bow-Wows & Brews, Antiques Road Show and the C-SNIP Classic golf outing.

And while we’ll be saying good-bye to Pat at this year’s Bow-Wows & Brews (although she has “volunteered” for the golf outing committee), we also will be saying hello to C-SNIP’s new executive director, Kara Eagle. Eagle, a native of Grand Rapids, has nine years experience in non-profit administration, including five in animal rescue. She served a year on the board of directors at C-SNIP.

“I’m absolutely delighted with Kara,” Schoen said. “She is going to be able to take this organization further and she has the same passion and same approach. She’s very friendly and is very good working with people. She believes in the mission and we consider ourselves lucky. She already has a head start (from serving on the board).

“Because Kara is taking over, I have no problem walking away and don’t have to worry. The only think I have to worry about now is me.”


Saturday in GR sure to be the cat’s meow and howling good time

Kiddies and kitties, canines and comedy … what’s not to love? Help spread the word about a couple of fundraising events being held this weekend that benefit pets and their owners.

First up is the “Catabulous Cat Show” for kids and cats. The event is being presented by C-SNIP, the Humane Society of West Michigan and the Cook Arts Center. The FREE cat friendly event is for children in grades K through 6 and takes place Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Cook Arts Center, 644 Grandville Ave. SW in Grand Rapids.

Kids are invited to show off their cats and participate in cat-related events and arts & crafts. Prizes will be awarded for best decorated cat carrier, best cat story, best cat portrait, best cat name and several other categories. Cat carriers should be decorated at home prior to the event, while materials will be supplied on site for other contests.

Judges for the various contests are WZZM-13’s Jennifer Pascua, WGVU Morning Show’s Shelley Irwin and Grand Rapids community police officer Sue Clare.

Everyone who attends the event will receive a goody bag filled with cat toys, treats and important information about cat care. All children must be accompanied by a responsible adult and all cats must be in a secure cat carrier. Carriers are available through C-SNIP.

Not only will kids get a chance to show off at the cat show, they’ll also learn about responsible pet ownership, including the importance of spaying and neutering.

Pre-registration is requested, so contact C-SNIP by calling 616-455-8220 ext 112. For more information on the event, check out C-SNIP’s website.

Saturday night is sure to be a howling good time at Hubs Inn, 1645 Leonard NW in Grand Rapids. A comedy show and silent auction will benefit Hearts of Hope Dog Rescue. The silent auction starts at 7 p.m. and the comedy show begins at 8.

Comedians Jim Hollister, Russell Cairns and Sean Hunter will be on hand to entertain guests. Tickets are just $10 and can be purchased through the Hearts of Hope website or at the door. Email for more information.

More and more, community involvement and attendance at these types of events goes a long way toward keeping non-profit organizations afloat. If you can spare the time, please make an effort to support these events that benefit the animals and their owners.


Antiques, golf, festivals, beach clean-up … take your pick of events to help pets!

It’s a busy weekend ahead for pet lovers, with three consecutive days of events to help out our furry friends.

Tonight is “An Antique Roadshow” at Bluedoor Antiques (946 Fulton St. E in Grand Rapids) to benefit C-SNIP. It’s the second year of the event, a takeoff on the popular PBS series. Just as seen on TV, take items to be appraised at Bluedoor, or just show up to enjoy the atmosphere and snack on food provided by chef Tommy FitzGerald. Tickets are $50, appraisals are an additional $25. To purchase tickets in advance — yes, there is still time! — click here.

Friday is the C-SNIP Golf Classic at Saskatoon Golf Club. A couple of foursomes remain for the event, which features 18 holes of golf, dinner and a “Bid It or Buy It” auction. The weather forecast has changed and rain should clear out well before the 1 p.m. shotgun start, so if you want to get another round in and raise money for a good cause, check out the contact information on C-SNIP’s website.

Auction items included an Xbox 360, framed autographed items from LPGA Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, an autographed photo of MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo from last season’s game on the aircraft carrier, BISSELL home care cleaning products, lawn care service and more.

Saturday is Dog Day in the Park at Riverside Park in Grand Rapids. It’s a day to celebrate and bring your canine companion. Many vendors will be on hand, and there will be demonstrations, education and, of course, fun for dogs and their owners.

There also will be canine good citizen evaluations, Police K-9 demonstrations and contests for fastest kisser, best trick, longest ears, waggiest tale, best costume and vocal styling.

Dogs Unleashed, our new bi-monthly magazine that debuted this month, will be on hand, too. We’ll have plenty of copies of the “lifestyle magazine for dog lovers” if you haven’t gotten your paws on one yet.  Stop by our booth and say hello to publisher Brad Uhl and editor Mary Ullmer!

Dog Day in the Park is from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

If you’re on the lakeshore and can’t make it to Grand Rapids on Saturday but still want to help a good cause, help out the Friends of Muskegon Dog Beach in their Adopt-a-Beach Cleanup. It’s from 9 to 10:30 a.m.

Anyone who has used the dog beach in Muskegon knows what a gem we have in our backyard. But debris accumulates from across the lake and, let’s face it, as much as we try to enforce the rules, not every dog owner is responsible in cleaning up after their dog.

If your calendar for the weekend isn’t already full, try to hit one of these events and help those organizations who help make pets’ lives better!


BISSELL Blocktail Party grants announced: $163,650 shared by recipients

A  whole lot of dogs and cats, and those who care about their well being, are a whole lot happier today. Eleven animal welfare organizations in the Greater Grand Rapids area received word on their BISSELL Blocktail Grant applications, and the dollar amounts they’ll receive are staggering.

Daisy the dachshund was the 2011 “Blockstar” and attended this year’s BISSELL Blocktail Party as well. (Photo/Yvonne Reames)

This year’s BISSELL Blocktail Party, held on June 13 at Mangiamo!, set a record by raising $187,000. More than 800 people attended Blocktail, another record. Proceeds from the event ($163,650 after expenses) benefited the BISSELL Pet Foundation, which then distributed the money to the organizations applying for grants. Included in the event’s expenses were the $1,000 donations made to each of 10 Blocktail “party partners” before the event even took place.

Many of the groups receiving grants couldn’t dream of raising the amount they received from BPF in a single fundraiser. The BISSELL Pet Foundation should be applauded for coming to the aid of these hard-working organizations who are on the front lines fighting pet overpopulation and promoting pet adoption through shelters and rescues.

“The West Michigan community never fails to stand behind a great cause, and this event shows that we believe pets are important, too,” Cathy Bissell, event co-chair and founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, said in a news release announcing the final dollar amounts.  “The community really pulled together to make this our best year yet.  We are overwhelmed with appreciation from the outpouring of support.  Every year, local sponsors and donors help to make this a unique event, and this year was no different.  We’re so thankful for everyone’s generosity.”

The Kent County Animal Shelter received a whopping $41,000 grant, while C-SNIP, which offers low-cost spaying and neutering services, received $30,000.

“It’s exicitng to be recognized by BISSELL as the solution to pet overpopulation,” said Pat Schoen, executive director of C-SNIP.  “They’re the first local corporation that has really stepped up to the challenge and has recognized those organizations that are addressing pet overpopulation and adoptions.”

Schoen said $15,000 of C-SNIP’s grant will go toward her organization’s BISSELL Big Paws Fund, which will help offset the cost of spay/neuter surgery for dogs 60 pounds or more. Another $10,000 will go to the community spay/neuter assistance fund for smaller dogs and cats, and the remaining $5,000 will assist rescue organizations who bring dogs and cats to C-SNIP for spay/neuter services.

Schoen said now that C-SNIP has some funding, the challenge is to get people through their doors.

“Today, we had seven no-shows with dogs and 10 no-shows with cats,” she said Monday. “That’s 17 people who had appointments today that didn’t show up. We run on a 12 percent no-show rate. We have the money, now it’s a matter of getting clients in.”

Here’s the breakdown of all 11 BISSELL Blocktail grant recipients and the amount they received, according to BISSELL’s news release:

Kent County Animal Shelter received $41,000 to support their adoption efforts through the upcoming ASPCA and Rachel Ray $100K Challenge that takes place from August to October.  In addition, the grant money will be used to help with spay/neuter costs for stray pets that are being reclaimed by their owners.

Community Spay Neuter Initiative Partnership (C-SNIP) received $30,000 to fund programs aimed at subsidizing sterilization surgeries for low-income families and local rescue groups.

Vicky’s Pet Connection was awarded $27,000 to initiate a community microchip and ID tag program and help support programs that provide care and treatment to “at-risk” animals that are rescued from local shelters.

Humane Society of West Michigan received $21,600 to fund monthly adoption promotions, including subsidies to support low-cost adoption of senior pets, and to support their live-saving efforts with animal transfer and microchipping.

Carol’s Ferals was granted $12,000 to support their TNR (trap-neuter-return) program for feral cat populations and to provide appropriate equipment needed to care for their adoptable cats.

Crash’s Landing and Big Sid’s Sanctuary received $10,000 to support their Humane Education and Adoption Programs and to provide food and supplies for cats in their care.

Mackenzie’s Foundation received $10,000 to purchase needed equipment for a planned on-site veterinary clinic.

Safe Haven Humane Society was awarded $5,000 to create a dog training program for their adopters and to support a free spay/neuter program for female cats and their litters.

Reuben’s Room Cat Rescue received $4,000 to provide care and treatment for cats in their care, with funds targeted to supporting the special needs of senior cats.

Bellwether Harbor was given $2,050 in needed funding to help advance their microchipping program.

MidAmerica Border Collie Rescue received $1,000 to purchase a requested microchip kit and additional microchips for adoptable pets in their care.

Congratulations to all the organizations and a big thank you for all they do for animals.


First-round voting ends this week in Erhardt’s ‘Building Our Community’ contest

I have received a few emails and noticed several Facebook posts asking for my vote in the “Building Our Community” contest. Erhardt Construction is celebrating its 50th Anniversary by joining project partners to give away a construction project and prizes totaling $50,000 to West Michigan non-profit organizations.

Among the 60 non-profits who sought votes in the contest, which began June 18, are four organizations whose mission is to reduce pet overpopulation and promote adoption from shelters and rescues: C-SNIP, Crash’s Landing, Harbor Humane Society and the Humane Society of West Michigan.

Until now, vote totals could be viewed by the public. This week, however, voters will not be able to see which organization is among the leaders. It is the final week of voting, so if you haven’t already, I encourage you to register and vote for your non-profit organization. You may vote once per day.

Press Unleashed has not weighed in on the contest to ask support for any particular organization for good reason. With so many dedicated hard-working non-profits in our community, I can’t possibly single one out.

I think all of those entered, whether related to pets or not, are deserving of the grand prize, $45,000 toward a construction or renovation project. I know all of them struggle to raise that kind of funding, and I know all would put the prize to good use.

The first round of voting ends Friday. On Monday, July 16, the top five vote-getters will be announced. Voting among those top five begins July 23 and continues until Aug. 17. The grand prize winner of the $45,000 toward the construction will be announced Aug. 23.

The other four finalists will receive cash donations: $2,000 for the first runner-up, $1,500 for second runner-up and $1,000 each for the final two finalists.

It’s not too late to vote for your favorite non-profit. And once the top five is announced, it’s my hope you will continue voting, whether your favorite organization is among them or not.

Here’s more information on the animal-related entries, and how they would benefit from the money toward a construction project (be sure to check out more detailed information, including photos and videos, on the Erhardt’s voting page):

C-SNIP (Community Spay/Neuter Initiative Partnership)

C-SNIP, a non-profit spay/neuter clinic, has performed over 88,000 surgeries since its opening providing high quality, low cost spays and neuters for pet owners in the community not able afford to have their pets altered through a private veterinarian. C-SNIP and its rescue partners provide transportation services for clients unable to bring their pets to the clinic for surgery. A GARAGE to provide an enclosed area for the safety of the transported cats and dogs and a safe place for staff to clean as well as a protected area for the vehicles is a real necessity. Presently, the dogs and cats are unloaded at our back door regardless of weather conditions (rain, snow, sleet, extreme heat). Not only does this create a hazard it also presents a safety issue as transported animals could escape from their leashes or carriers during drop-off and loading. Also, staff has to wash, clean, and sterilize crates and carriers every day. The only area available is outside and this is a major hardship especially in the winter and rainy seasons.

 Crash’s Landing

Our greatest need is an addition for a medical treatment room. 85% of the cats we take in are sick or injured. Our founder, veterinarian Dr. Jen Petrovich nurses the cats back to health and then we find them fur-ever homes. An on-site treatment room will allow us to provide top-notch medical care in a hospital-like setting. It will prevent the spread of infection, reduce stress on the cats and decrease medical costs as we serve the community by reducing the numbers of homeless pets in our area.

Harbor Humane Society

 A leaky roof. Structural damage. Pets confined to small spaces. These are all problems facing Harbor Humane Society. But, if fixed, they would allow us to provide more secure and ample housing for the animals in our care, more appropriate quarantine, surgical and recovery areas, and more healthy and adoptable animals to the public at a faster pace. Vote to help us help the animals and build our community together.

Humane Society of West Michigan

Humane Society of West Michigan seeks to improve our cat viewing sanctuary to increase adoptions by creating an environment for our cats that allow them to be happier & healthier. Kittens & cats should have sufficient room to stretch their full body length; a safe hiding place when stressed; freedom from dog view & noise; space to jump, climb & run; resting surfaces; & space for playing with toys. Happy cats provide adopters with social support, stress relief & health benefits.


BISSELL Blocktail sets records for fundraising, attendance

BISSELL’s Blocktail Party crushed its previous attendance record … for people and dogs. (Mary Ullmer photo)

Talk about going to the dogs! This year’s BISSELL Blocktail Party, held Wednesday night at Mangiamo! in Grand Rapids, easily was the biggest in its 7-year history. Continue reading

Animal shelter’s 2011 statistics aren’t pretty, but they are reality

We see them every day on our Facebook pages, in Tweets and on various websites. Pleas for help in saving a dog or cat who was abused, or has a medical issue, or is scheduled for euthanasia because no one has been willing to adopt them.

Star, a 1-year-old female German shepherd mix, recently was brought to the Kent County Animal Shelter as a stray. She is now available for adoption at KCAS.

Our hearts break for these animals. We wish we could save them all. Reality can be so cruel.

Imagine you’re responsible for these animals. Imagine the day-in, day-out frustration of seeing unwanted pets come through your doors, knowing full well more than half of them won’t ever leave. Imagine you’re Carly Luttmann.

Luttmann, the program supervisor of the Kent County Animal Shelter, shared with me the reportable statistics she’ll be turning in to the Michigan Department of Agriculture this month.

KCAS took in 3,216 dogs in 2011. Astonishingly, 2,026 (63 percent) were put down. Cats fared even worse, with 3,789 taken in and 2,952 (78 percent) euthanized. There are some bright spots: 603 dogs and 25 cats were reclaimed by their owners, 359 dogs and 179 cats were adopted from KCAS and 179 dogs and 591 cats were transferred to other facilities where they might have a better chance of being adopted. But those glimmers of hope don’t offset the stark reality that too many pets are dying unnecessarily every day.

The numbers are appalling. But as director of an open-admission facility, they are Luttmann’s reality. Unlike limited admission organizations, who might specialize in certain behavioral or medical issues but can choose not to accept an animal because of them, the animal shelter and any open admission organization must take in any animal brought through its doors.

“I think it is important that folks understand that we are accepting everything that is brought to our doors and that we receive the vast majority of animals in the community that will have severe health and behavioral issues,” Luttmann said. “We see medical and trauma issues, like animals that were hit by a car, and animals that are just generally ill-kept, with viruses, parasites, malnutrition and behavioral issues. We get a lot of aggressive dogs and cats, cats soiling, pets not getting along with other pets in the house, that sort of thing.”

2011 Kent County Animal Shelter reportable statistics

Dogs Cats
Intake 3216 3789
Reclaimed by owner 603 25
Adopted 359 176
Transferred 179 591
Euthanized 2026 2952
“Other” (stolen, died) 24 22

Luttmann said an average of 30 animals a day come into the animal shelter. She’s not happy about that.

“Our euthanasia rate is very high, and it’s sad,” she said. “When you do it day in and day out it’s hard to understand why people don’t take more care with their pets and spay and neuter so we’re not having excess animals coming to our door every day. That’s a large part of it.

“Secondarily, they don’t think through their decision to get a pet and what it means and what a commitment it’s going to be. They have to be prepared to manage and work through some of the (behavioral) things. I understand sometimes they can’t. People’s circumstances change. But not taking care of them or not looking for their stray animal is what’s sad to me. People don’t come in here looking for them.”

The keys to decreasing euthanasia numbers at her facility, Luttmann said, are communication and education.

“We need to get word out about adoption program, internally speaking,” she said. “And we need to get the word out to the pet-owning community about responsible pet ownership.”

Luttmann said there are many dogs in the community classified as “resident” dogs, which often come to the shelter with behavioral or health issues.

“There’s a divide in our community between family pet dogs and resident dogs,” she said. “The resident dogs are the ones acquired for breeding or guarding, and they generally live in the yard with no social interaction. Or it might be a resident cat who doesn’t spend time inside and just comes and goes. Our responsible ownership message that we’re trying to get across has to do with making pets a part of your family … training them and keeping an eye on them and socializing them so they’re physically and behaviorally healthy.”

Spaying and neutering is a huge big part of the message Luttmann is trying to get across.

“There’s a huge lack of spay/neuter education in our community, and it’s a big problem,” Luttmann said. “Any public presentation we give, we drill the message of spaying and neutering, whether it’s in a child or adult learning classroom. It’s not every often one our animal control officers comes across an intact animal and the subject of spaying and neutering doesn’t come up. They’ll talk to that owner about spaying and neutering We distribute a lot of C-SNIP (a reduced-cost spay/neuter clinic based in Grand Rapids) material via animal control.”

Aside from helping control the pet population, Luttmann said spaying and neutering has health and behavioral benefits. A spayed/neutered pet is less likely to escape and roam the streets looking for a mate, thus reducing the changes of getting hit by a car. It also has been shown to increase the lifespan in dogs and cats. According to, altered animals have a very low to no risk of mammary gland tumors/cancer, prostate cancer, perianal tumors, pyometria, and uterine, ovarian and testicular cancers.

“In general, you’re going to have healthier, happier animals when they’re spayed and neutered,” Luttmann said. “They’re less likely to roam and they’ll form a bond with their human family a bit better because they don’t have that extra urge to mate.”

Luttmann realizes people may be surprised and angered by the euthanasia rate at KCAS. She also realizes she can’t change those numbers on her own.

“I’m never happy with them, but you can’t shy away from it,” she said. “You have to look at it and understand what can be done to change those numbers around. We’re trying to chip away at the mountain.

“People will be outraged by the numbers. We don’t like it, either, but we need their help to make it happen.”