Rescued Jack Russells arrive in West Michigan, prep for adoption

Crates of Jack Russells arrive via the ASPCA truck at Kent County Animal Shelter on Wednesday.

Crates of Jack Russells arrive via the ASPCA truck at Kent County Animal Shelter on Wednesday.


The Jack Russell terriers rescued from a suspected puppy mill operation in Lake City arrived at the Kent County Animal Shelter and Humane Society of West Michigan this afternoon.

The ASPCA’s Animal Cruelty Investigation Disaster Response truck pulled into KCAS around 1:30 p.m. and unloaded 15 Jack Russells. Six additional dogs, also JRTs, were then transported to HSWM. No Shiba Inus, also rescued from the puppy mill, were brought to West Michigan.

Dr. Laurie Wright, staff veterinarian at KCAS, said the dogs are in good shape, given what they’re going through. Some dogs had vomit and diarrhea in their travel crates and were given baths upon arrival.

“Most of the dogs are a little bit stressed because they’ve had a long car ride, but they’re really in pretty good physical condition,”  Wright said. “One I just processed had some evidence of flea dirt,  but no fleas. The ASPCA had already pretreated everybody, and  they’re all vaccinated heartworm tested, microchipped, fecal tested and dewormed, so we’re basically just getting them to the point where we can get them settled comfortably.

“They’ll get reassessed probably in the next 24 to 48 hours and we’ll see how they’re settling in. The bandanas you see us putting on them are sprayed with a pheromone to help calm them down. The bandanas aren’t just for cuteness, but also for de-stressing.”

Carly Luttmann, adoption program supervisor at KCAS, said the Jack Russells could be ready to be adopted as early as tomorrow.

“I think we need to do more behavior assessments on everybody tomorrow morning just to see how they’re going to fit in our adoption program, but I anticipate we’ll be ready to have them available,” Luttmann said.

The KCAS dogs all have familiar temporary names to anyone who follows the Detroit Tigers. They’re named after Tigers players and manager Jim Leyland.

“Our marketing and media manager, Lisa LaPlante, came up with Tigers’ players names,” Luttmann said. “It’s always a challenge to name a big group of dogs that comes in at once.”

Because there was just one male dog in the group of 15 at KCAS, Luttmann’s staff had to come up with solutions for the females.

“(The Tigers) have masculine names, so we had a to change a few things,” she said. “For instance, we changed Victor Martinez to Victoria M. We had to get a little creative.”

The dogs at HSWM will undergo behavioral testing before going up for adoption. Nicole Cook, marketing director at HSWM, said the dogs appear to have better temperaments than her staff expected, but they definitely are a bit fearful.

In addition, one HSWM dog is heartworm positive and another has a heart murmur. Cook said a grant from ASPCA will be used for medical treatment on those dogs, and said they should be fine with treatment. There’s no timetable for the adoption availability of the dogs in HSWM’s care.






Adopt Kent Co. Animal Shelter dogs and cats at a much reduced fee, by George

When George Lewis passed away in Grand Rapids last Halloween, there was a small obituary in the local newspaper and online. It was a typical obit — it listed family members who preceded the 64-year-old in death as well as survivors.

George Lewis and his dog, Sheba.

George Lewis and his dog, Sheba.

It told readers the native of Port Washington, N.Y., was a veteran of US Navy, Vietnam Era. It gave the usual details of funeral services, and said he would be buried in Westbury, N.Y.

What Lewis’ obituary didn’t say was that he had a soft spot for animals, particularly dogs. It didn’t say that when he died, he would leave behind a $9,000 gift to help hundreds of animals in Kent County.

Lewis’ brother, Brett, contacted Kent County Animal Shelter program supervisor Carly Luttmann not long after George’s death. He explained that he had a donation he wanted to give to KCAS on behalf of his brother. But he wanted to make sure the gift would go to help animals. Luttmann assured him it would.

“When I found out how much the donation was, I was blown away,” Luttmann said. “It was a very generous donation, more than we generally get.”

Starting Monday, because of “George’s Fund” and a $9,956 grant from Michigan’s Animal Welfare Fund, KCAS will kick off a campaign that offers adoptions of dogs and cats at a reduced fee.

Dogs can be adopted from KCAS for just $50, plus the $12 licensing fee, and cats will be just $5. All animals will be spayed or neutered and up to date on all vaccines prior to adoption.

Mouse has been at Kent County Animal Shelter for two months and is available for adoption.

Mouse has been at Kent County Animal Shelter for two months and is available for adoption.

“I talked to Brett about how we used our grant from the Bissell Blocktail Party last year to offset the cost of adoptions and how much it helped us and the animals,” Luttmann said. KCAS was able to offer the same reduced adoption fees last fall during the ASPCA/Rachael Ray Challenge and ended up with hundreds of animals finding forever homes during the three-month challenge.

“I told him we could use the donation toward reducing the fees in the spring, when animal intake rises,” Luttmann said. “He said that sounded like a good way to use the money and that he’d be in touch in the spring. He called me back a couple weeks ago.”

Luttmann said she could hear Brett Lewis get a bit choked up over the telephone when she suggested the name “George’s Fund” for the donation and adoption drive.

“We’re estimating George’s Fund will cover the balance of the adoption fees for at least 150 animals,” Luttmann said. “Our goal is to encourage people looking for a pet to think about adoption first, before going to an alternate source. And we’re trying to make sure the animals in Kent County are vaccinated and spayed or neutered right off the bat.”

The reduced fees will be in place until the fund runs out, Luttmann said.






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?



Animal shelter saves 14 pets, including 10 dogs, from unsanitary conditions

Dogs living in their own waste led Kent County Animal Control officers to remove 14 animals, including 10 dogs, from a Grand Rapids home.

One of the dogs, and her puppy, taken from a home on Grand Rapids northeast side. (Photo/Kent County Health Department)

During last week’s heat wave, when the temperature consistently was in the 100s, a neighbor called to report the condition of the northeast side home, which had three cats and a chinchilla in addition to the dogs.

The complaint came during one of hottest days of year,” Lisa LaPlante, marketing and communications manager of the Kent County Health Department, said. “The call reported the dogs were living in their own waste. What we found were completely unsanitary conditions and we were concerned of welfare of the animals and of people nearby.”

The city of Grand Rapids has no restrictions on the number of dogs one can own, LaPlante said, as long as they all are properly licensed and living in sanitary conditions.

The owner of the home, whose name has not been released, didn’t want to cooperate, according to a news release sent by the health department. Animal control has charged her with misdemeanor animal cruelty and neglect. LaPlante said the woman’s arraignment will be next week.

When animal control asked the woman to sign over the animals to their custody, she declined.

The animals are being held and rehabilitated at the Kent County Animal Shelter, where they’re undergoing medical treatment and grooming. Eventually, they’ll be evaluated, trained and put up for adoption.The dogs, mixes of terrier, Pomeranian and Chihuahua, are being treated for parasites as well as sores from flea infestation.

Some also had dental issues, which could come from not eating proper food or from not receiving veterinary care on a regular basis,” LaPlante said. “I don’t know the specifics of why these dogs have issues, but generally those are reasons.”

LaPlante said animal shelter staff will work to socialize and train the dogs once they’re evaluated and healthy. LaPlante said she observed the dogs when she walked through the holding area Wednesday afternoon.

Some just cowered in the corner of the cage because they were so frightened,” LaPlante said. “It just breaks your heart to see that. We’re just trying to give them love and attention, get them washed and groomed and treated.”

Carly Luttmann, animal shelter supervisor, and Dr. Laurie Wright, the staff veterinarian, will continue evaluating the dogs to determine when they would be available for adoption. 

“A few are a little shy but they’ve shown improvement in socialization since they’ve been in our care,” Luttmann said. “It seems like all of them will be candidates. They did well through the grooming and cleaning and treatment for parasites.”

Luttmann said none of the dogs, three males and seven females, are licensed, nor are they spayed or neutered. One female has a weeks-old puppy.


Give a daily click to help Kent County Animal Shelter in ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge

Want to help shelter animals in Kent County but don’t have the time to volunteer or the money to donate? Don’t let that stop you.

A simple click of the mouse over the next 11 days can do a world of good for the dogs and cats at the Kent County Animal Shelter. From noon today until April 16, KCAS is participating in the first round of the ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge.

KCAS, one of 108 shelters nationwide participating and one of only three in Michigan, needs the support — make that votes — of West Michigan in the qualifying round to advance to the Challenge. To help get KCAS make the top 50 in the qualifying heat and get to the Challenge, click here or go to and scroll down to Kent County Animal Shelter. Voting started at noon today and continues through April 16.

Please note that you will need to enter your email address ONCE and will be sent a confirmation email. You’ll need to click on the confirmation in order to vote. Once you do that, you are set to vote once per day until April 16 without having to be confirmed each time.

If KCAS gets enough votes to make it into the top 50 in the qualifying heat, it will then be “challenged” to save at least 300 more cats, kittens, dogs and puppies from August to October this year than in those same three months of 2011.

The shelter that shows the biggest increase in the number of lives saved will win the $100,000 grand prize, courtesy of the ASPCA and philanthropist/animal advocate/television star Rachael Ray.

Even if it doesn’t win the grand prize, KCAS will have a shot to win other much-needed monetary prizes:

  • $25,000 to the shelter with the second greatest increase in lives saved
  • $25,000 to the shelter that does the best job of engaging its community
  • $20,000 to the contestants that increase lives saved the most in their divisions
  • $10,000 to the contestants that increase percentage of lives saved the most in their divisions
  • $5,000 to every contestant that increases lives saved by at least 300 animals.

Carly Luttmann, KCAS program supervisor, said “saving” an animal by $100K Challenge definition can be done in several ways. If an animal is adopted from KCAS, transferred to another facility (and adopted from there), reclaimed by their owner or reclaimed in the field (returned to owners by animal control officers), it will be considered a “saved” animal.

Chow is a 2-year-old neutered male and he's available for adoption at the Kent County Animal Shelter. And, he's trained! Thanks to clicker training, he can give a "high five" on command and is learning to sit and "sit pretty." (KCAS photo)

Only saved animals that represent an increase over the previous year for that month will count toward the Challenge goal. KCAS last August had 37 adoptions, 43 reclaimed animals and 70 transfers (150 total). This August, 151 saved animals would count as only 1 on the Challenge dashboard (the increase over August 2011).

The total saved animals at KCAS for September last year was 189, while October was 184. To meet the Challenge goal of increasing by 300 saved animals, the animal shelter will need to total at least 823 saved animals from August through October.

Luttmann said she is confident her staff will come up with some innovative ways to get people in the doors and increase their saved animal numbers. But, first things first, she warned.

“We have to get in first … we have to get the votes,” Luttmann said. “People can vote every day, and it’s important they understand they’ll get that email from ASPCA to validate their email address. They have to reply to that in order to vote.”

While Luttmann would love to win $100,000 — or any amount — for KCAS, she sees the bigger picture.

“To me, it’s more about getting the word out about our adoption program so people realize they can adopt pets from the animal shelter,” Luttmann said. “This is something fun and exciting, to utilize social media to get the word out a little more. It’s super easy, and any money we do win will be used to bolster the programs we have — adoption, spay/neuter and community awareness of responsible pet ownership — to make things better.

“The real winners will be the critters. We can get more people to know that we’re seriously committed to placing animals in new homes.”


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.”