BISSELL Pet Foundation, Kent County Animal Shelter Team Up To Offer Free Adoptions

Did you happen to catch Good Morning America today? The popular morning program featured pets from the North Shore Animal League in New York to help promote pet adoption.

This family got a new addition during last year's free adoption event at the Kent County Animal Shelter.

This family got a new addition during last year’s free adoption event at the Kent County Animal Shelter.

By reaching oh, a few million viewers, it’s likely many animals at North Shore will find a home for the holidays.

A couple of weeks ago, a story aired in Chicago about an animal shelter in Akron, Ohio, that apparently adopted out all its animals – 93 dogs and cats in total – within the first 90 minutes of the shelter’s sixth annual adoptathon. More homes for the holidays for animals in need.

Now, thanks to a grant from the BISSELL Pet Foundation, pets in the West Michigan area can find their forever homes in time for the holidays, too. BPF has partnered with the Kent Count Animal Shelter for its second “Home for the Holidays” campaign.

To help the animals get home, 100 percent of adoption fees for pets at KCAS are covered. The only cost is $12 for a dog license. The pets come spayed and neutered, microchipped and up-to-date on vaccines.

Talk about paying it forward. The BISSELL Pet Foundation and KCAS are giving you a beloved family member. All you have to do is show up (well, OK, you have to fill out an application) and open your heart.

Animal shelter supervisor Carly Luttmann said 22 pets found new homes on Monday, the first day of the event. Last year, 270 pets were adopted through “Home for the Holidays.” That helped KCAS reach a record 1,028 adoptions for 2014. The animal shelter is zeroing in on that record, with 931 adoptions through the end of business Monday.

“We are looking forward to the second year of the adoption program because last year was so successful,” Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, said in a news release. “Last year, twice as many cats than the average per month were adopted. With the free adoption program, we’re helping to save two lives – your pet and the pet who gets that open spot in the shelter, out of the cold and elements. We hope our community will rally around this important cause by visiting the KCAS and help a lucky pet find a forever home.”

The free adoption campaign runs through the end of 2015, so if you don’t find the pet of your dreams on your first visit, check back. KCAS is available to take in a limited amount of transfers from other shelters in the area, but many of those shelters also are holding adoption specials.

“If every shelter around running adoption specials finds homes for all their animals and it gets to a point where we don’t have any transfers to take, I’m fine with that,” Luttmann said. “If we all adopt out all our animals, that’s a good thing.”

To expedite the adoption process, be sure to fill out a dog or cat adoption application and get pre-approved. KCAS requires a pre-adoption counsel and application. In lieu of the regular adoption fee, potential adopters are encouraged to donate canned pet food or new blankets.

The animal shelter is located at 740 Fuller Ave NE, Grand Rapids and can be reached at (616) 632-7300. Shelter hours are Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 2-6:30 p.m. Adoptions are processed from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 2-5:30 p.m. KCAS will be closed for Thanksgiving through Sunday this week.


BISSELL Blocktail Party smashes previous fundraising record

There were an estimated 300 to 400 dogs at this year's BISSELL Blocktail Party, including this happy pup. (Photo by Jennifer Waters/Grumpy Pups Pet Photography)

There were an estimated 300 to 400 dogs at this year’s BISSELL Blocktail Party, including this happy pup. (Photos by Jennifer Waters/Grumpy Pups Pet Photography)

Just approaching the beautiful grounds of Mangiamo! restaurant in East Grand Rapids on Tuesday night, there was a sense the night would be special. The weather was perfect … 80ish degrees and blue sky, and the outdoor area of the restaurant, as well as the check-in area in the parking lot, already were abuzz.

To say the 10th anniversary of the BISSELL Blocktail Party was a success is a gross understatement. This year’s event for the BISSELL Pet Foundation that provides grants to West Michigan animal advocacy organizations not only broke last year’s fundraising mark of $250,000, it obliterated it.

When the early numbers were crunched on Wednesday, the day after the party, Blocktail had raised an amazing $500,000. An estimated 900 people and 300 to 400 dogs attended the event, with a private sponsors party the previous evening raising additional funds.

“The stars aligned for us this year,” said Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation and creator of the BISSELL Blocktail Party. “We had the perfect storm without the storm. We knew we wanted to raise more money, but never imagined we would double funds raised from last year.  We could not have done it without the amazing support from our volunteers and most importantly our community.”

it was a family affair for BISSELL Pet Foundation founder Cathy Bissell (right), who welcomed her daughter, Alissandra Kruer (center) and mother, Mary Jane McDonald (left) to the party.

It was a family affair for BISSELL Pet Foundation founder Cathy Bissell (right), who welcomed her daughter, Alissandra Kruer (center) and mother, Mary Jane McDonald (left) to the party.

Bissell said when online ticket sales stopped, 290 had been purchased. The event drew 100 walk-up ticket sales, and the rest were included in the sponsorship packets. If you’re interested in sponsoring the event next year, and attending the private sponsorship event, check out the Blocktail website for information.

Because it was the 10th anniversary of the event, Bissell opted to take a risk and add a private sponsorship event, including a concert by Kenny Loggins and his new band, Blue Sky Riders, the night before Blocktail. That event was a huge success as well, and something Bissell plans to incorporate into future Blocktails.

“We thought we might lose money on that part but we knew we had to so something special for the 10th anniversary, and we ended up making money,” Bissell said.

A live auction at the private event generated $60,000, and Loggins and his band played well beyond the hour and 15 minutes required in the contract. Bissell said she spent a year trying to find the right sound for the event, and fell in love with the band’s CD (the only one currently available). The name of the CD — “Finally Home” — was a sure sign Bissell had found the right band to play the event. The BISSELL Pet Foundation’s motto is “Until every pet has a home.”

“I worked all year to find the right sound, and Kenny Loggins loves animals,” Bissell said. “His new band has an amazing female vocalist, Georgia Middleman, and she and her husband, Gary Burr, are songwriters. … I started listening to their sound and I loved it. By the time I finished listening to the disk I was waking up and singing their songs and saying to myself, ‘They’re good. They’re really good.’ We decided to book them, and they were fantastic.

“When I talked to Shannon Reincke and Heather Garbaty, (committee co-chairs for Blocktail), they listened to the CD and came back with the same thought. And they loved the fact it was ‘Finally Home,’ because that’s our mission.”

Bissell said the band played for two hours, something Loggins himself said was unprecedented.

“They were just having fun watching people dance and kept playing,” Bissell said.

The lead-up to the Blocktail Party was a hit and the main event itself was spectacular. In addition to the cocktails for people and “yappitzers” for the four-legged guests, several local food vendors were on hand, offering guests a variety (yes, including vegan) of selections, all included in the price of a ticket. Bissell said by the time it was said and done, the vendors ran out of food — and that’s a good thing.

“It’s great for them because they don’t want to have to pack up leftover food, and it just shows the people loved their food,” Bissell said.

Chris LaPorte, grand prize winner at ArtPrize 2010, was on hand to draw caricatures of guests' dogs.

Chris LaPorte, grand prize winner at ArtPrize 2010, was on hand to sketch caricatures of party-goers’ canine family members.

Also on hand for the event was ArtPrize winning artist Chris LaPorte, he of the famed “Cavalry, American Officers, 1921” mural that won the grand prize at the 2010 event. LaPorte offered himself for a different type of work … he drew caricatures of guests’ dogs on site.

“For him to come and do caricatures, how cool is that?” Bissell asked. “It was his suggestion. And he offered a ‘Cavalry’ print that we auctioned off the night before at the live auction.”

As Blocktail continues to grow in popularity, the atmosphere at Mangiamo! remains fun and relaxed for people and their pets. With so many dogs on hand, that’s not easy to pull off.

“I think people are pretty careful,” Bissell said. “If their dogs aren’t going to mingle in a crowd, they don’t bring them. If they know if they have a dog that likes people, that’s how they play it out. Why stress out your dog?

“We haven’t had any issues, and you never know, because dogs on leashes can be more aggressive in that situation. But if you see a dog and yours doesn’t like it, you go to a different area. Thank god Mangiamo! is so big and beautiful.”

The best part of Blocktail is what it does for West Michigan pets in need. Grants from the event help organizations like C-SNIP, a low-cost spay and neuter services for low-income families, to animal rescue organizations large and small.

“This event has been part of our community for 10 years and we hope we can show a significant reduction in the number of pets in need of homes in the next 10 years,” said Blocktail co-chair Garbaty. “Everyone who attended the party or supported our cause came through to make a difference for pets. That’s why this party is so special.”



BISSELL Pet Foundation, Humane Society of West Michigan team up to expand cattery

This cat and all the cats and kittens at HSWM are about to get a huge upgrade in their temporary living conditions.

This cat and all the cats and kittens at HSWM are about to get a huge upgrade in their temporary living conditions.

The cats and kittens in the care of Humane Society of West Michigan are about to get a huge upgrade on their digs.

If you’ve been to HSWM, you know the cattery there is filled with felines awaiting adoption into their forever home. Unfortunately, the cat population there has outgrown the current space (spay and neuter, people!) and cats are being housed in areas of the facility, not an ideal situation for the cats or the staff at HSWM.

Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, scoops up the first shovel of dirt at HSWM where the cattery expansion will take place.

Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, scoops up the first shovel of dirt at HSWM where the cattery expansion will take place.

Tuesday, HSWM held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the BISSELL Cattery Expansion Project. Cathy Bissell, director of corporate affairs at BISSELL Inc. and founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, was on hand to celebrate the event.

She even dug out the first shovel of dirt where the expansion will take place, heels and all.

“If I can vacuum in these, I can dig dirt in these,” Bissell said, laughing, as she dug in her heels to break ground on the cattery.

Mark and Cathy Bissell created a matching gift challenge for the cattery expansion, calling for $25,000 to be raised by HSWM donations. So far, HSWM has raised $20,500, less than $5,000 away from the goal set by the Bissells.

When complete in the fall of 2014, the cattery expansion will create spacious and low-stress environments for the kittens and cats in HSWM’s care.

In addition to the BISSELL Cattery Expansion, funds raised through the campaign will:

  • Create a window in the cat holding area to provide natural light
  • Construct cat meet and greet rooms (currently, these rooms are right next to the dog kennels, where barking dogs can put stress on the cats meeting their potential adopters)
  • ·Purchase Crijo climbing structures for cat enrichment
  • Expand cat housing in the medical room
(left to right) HSWM's Andrew Aulgur, HSWM executive director Trudy Ender, BISSELL Pet Foundation's Cathy Bissell, Vander Kodde Construction's Jack Jolman and Walker Mayor Mark Huizenga were on hand for the cattery ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday.

(left to right) Architect Andrew Aulgur, HSWM executive director Trudy Ender, BISSELL Pet Foundation’s Cathy Bissell, Vander Kodde Construction’s Jack Jolman and Walker Mayor Mark Huizenga were on hand for the cattery ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday.

The campaign’s completion will provide cats and kittens with more space, which reduces stress and enriches their lives until they are adopted, HSWM said in a press release. The expansion also allows adopters to better interact with the cats and kittens in a more natural state as they will have room to climb, jump and play.

Also on hand for Tuesday’s groundbreaking were representatives from Vander Kodde Construction, which is providing the work on the expansion, Walker Mayor Mark Huizenga and board members, volunteers and staff from HSWM.

Several naming and donations opportunities are still available if you’d like to contribute to the fund and help match the Bissell’s generous offer. If you’re interested in helping out, get in touch with Tammy Hagedorn, HSWM Director of Development, at (616) 791-8138 or

Congratulations to HSWM Executive Director Trudy Ender and her staff on this wonderful news, and a big thank you, once again, to Cathy Bissell and the BISSELL Pet Foundation.


BISSELL Blocktail Party continues to set records

Among the activities at this year's Blocktail Party was a temporary color treatment that turned dogs into walking works of art. (Photo courtesy of Grumpy Pups Pet Photography)

Among the activities at this year’s Blocktail Party was a temporary color treatment that turned dogs into walking works of art. (Photo courtesy of Grumpy Pups Pet Photography)

The numbers are in, and the annual BISSELL Blocktail Party once again has broken its previous fundraising records.

The annual event celebrated its ninth anniversary on June 11 on the lawn at Mangiamo! restaurant in Grand Rapids. Despite rainy weather much of the day, the party drew nearly 700 guests, many of whom were accompanied by their dogs.

Armed with a new silent auction app in which guests – and even those who couldn’t make it to the party – could wander about the event and make bids on items via their mobile device, this year’s BISSELL Blocktail party raised more than $250,000 to help West Michigan animal advocacy organizations.

Bidders were able to make and track their bids via their devices without having to circle back to crowded auction tables. The convenient app also meant non-party goers could get in on the bidding for great auction items or simply make a donation for the event.

While we weren’t able to attend this year – our Jack Russell terrier, who is deathly afraid of thunderstorms, kept us at home – we were able to make a donation to Blocktail from home thanks to the new system. Since we usually come home from Blocktail armed with artwork, local services or other goodies we “won” in the silent auction (including the computer on which this blog is written), we figured we would at least donate an amount we’d normally spend at Blocktail. It was our way of contributing to such a wonderful event from 25 miles away!

And we know our contribution will be well spent. Monday, the event’s committee announced the recipients of Blocktail grants through the BISSELL Pet Foundation. The organizations help West Michigan pets in a variety of ways, from spay/neuter programs to microchipping, adoption and rescue, care for senior pets and medical care of victims of cruelty and neglect.

“The BISSELL Pet Foundation exists to provide support to shelters and rescues so that they can ultimately find a loving family for the millions of homeless pets in our country,” Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, said in a news release. “We are very proud to support these 14 local organizations with funds from this year’s party and have been thrilled to see how collaboration between many of these groups is changing the face of animal welfare in our community. I am so thankful that through the BISSELL Blocktail Party our community can show their support for these progressive and compassionate groups. Together, we are working to save lives!”

We’ll be back for next year’s Blocktail Party – we missed seeing all the dogs and people and, of course, the food. And we can take comfort in knowing we were able to contribute to this year’s event and help those who help animals in our community.

A list of the BISSELL Blocktail grant recipients from this year’s event (“Blocktail Buddies” each received an additional $1,000 gift earlier in 2014 to recognize their dedication to animal welfare):

• Community Spay Neuter Initiative Partnership (C-SNIP): $45,000
• Humane Society of West Michigan: $40,000
• Vicky’s Pet Connection: $27,000
• Pound Buddies (Volunteers for Muskegon County Animal Control): $19,500
• Kent County Animal Shelter: $18,845
• West Michigan Spay & Neuter Clinic: $18,000
• Crash’s Landing & Big Sid’s Sanctuary: $12,500
• Safe Haven Humane Society: $10,000
• Lake Haven Rescue: $10,000
• Reuben’s Room Cat Rescue: $6,750
• Carol’s Ferals: $5,000
• Kelley’s Heart to Heart: $5,000
• Focus on Ferals: $5,000

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?



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.


Cathy Bissell: Blocktail Party’s success will make a difference

Cathy Bissell is convinced the effects of this year’s BISSELL Blocktail Party will be felt for years to come.

Louie, an English bulldog puppy, attended his first Blocktail Party on Wednesday. (Yvonne Reames photo)

Blocktail 2012, held Wednesday on the grounds of Mangiamo! restaurant, set records for both attendance and fundraising, with 800 guests, half as many dogs and close to $200,000 raised for area organizations promoting the prevention of pet overpopulation and adoption from shelters and rescues.

Proceeds of the event benefit the organizations, including the 10 “Party Partners” who already have received $1,000 each, that applied for grants through the BISSELL Pet Foundation.

“I think the organizations are going to feel it (the influx of funding) this year, and the community is going to feel it next year and in the next couple years because there won’t be so many animals in need,” said Bissell, director of corporate affairs for BISSELL Inc. and founder of BPF. “We won’t have quite the stray population because so many of the organizations plan to use the grant for spay and neuter programs. The population will be down.” Continue reading

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

BISSELL Blocktail 2012 sure to be a howling good time

Dogs of all shapes and sizes can be found at the annual BISSELL Blocktail Party. (All photos courtesy of

The Bissell Blocktail Party bills itself as the “best dog-gone party in town.” It’s hard to argue with that statement.

The annual event, held at Mangiamo! in Grand Rapids, raised more than $150,000 last year via ticket sales, sponsors and a silent auction. And this year’s party promises to be even bigger and better.

Tickets for this year’s event, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on June 13, are $50 if purchased online in advance (highly encouraged) or $60 at the door.

Blocktail 2012 has welcomed 10 “party partners,” organizations in the Grand Rapids area whose mission is to reduce the number of homeless pets and put a stop to pet overpopulation. The non-profits each received a $1,000 donation for their efforts and each of them, along with any other area non-profit organization with the same mission, can apply for grants to receive a share of the proceeds of this year’s event.

Applications for the grants, courtesy of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, are due June 1 and a packet and application can be found on the Blocktail website or by clicking here. Given the success of last year’s event, held in less-than ideal weather conditions, those approved for grants stand to receive some much-needed funding for their causes.

Yes, dogs often get wiped out from the excitement and fun at Blocktail. This Basset hound is proof.

Carly Luttmann, program supervisor at the Kent County Animal Shelter, will be attending her first Blocktail. Luttmann is making strides to promote the adoption of animals through KCAS, one of this year’s party partners.

“I’m really excited,” Luttmann said. “We’ll have lots of people there and we’re looking forward to the opportunity. It think it’s a big step forward for our organization. The grant opportunities are great because they don’t exclude anyone as long as the organization goes to reducing pet overpopulation, promoting awareness and promoting adoptions.”

Other party partners this year are Carol’s Ferals, Crash’s Landing & Big Sid’s Sanctuary, C-SNIP, Focus on Ferals, Humane Society of West Michigan, Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary, Reuben’s Room, Safe Haven Humane Society and Vicky’s Pet Connection.

Not only does Blocktail 2012 feature new partners and new way to distribute proceeds (previously, proceeds benefited only the HSWM), it also will deliver new features to the event itself. The Gillmore Collection, which provides food for Blocktail, this year will offer vegetarian and vegan cuisine in addition to its usual fare.

Also new to Blocktail this year will be a photo booth from Dan Terpstra of Terpstra Photography, featuring props and fun backdrops so the many attendees who bring their dogs can bring home a keepsake. Those who have attended Blocktail in the past know that many guests choose to bring their furry family members, providing party-goers with a glimpse of a wide variety of dogs, from rare breeds to mixed breeds.

“People are encouraged to bring their dogs,” said Laurel Pruski, co-chair of this year’s event along with Cathy Bissell. “Dogs should be friendly with other dogs and with strangers. We’ll have plenty of treats and water on hand for the dogs, and the event is outdoors on the grass.”

There are plenty of treats available for the furry Blocktail attendees.

Pruski added that dogs should be on non-flexible leashes (if you’ve ever seen the crowd at Blocktail, you’d understand why) and that any dog adopted from a shelter will receive an orange bandana at the event to let everyone know they’re a rescue. Dogs available for adoption at the event will be featuring pink bandanas.

A fabulous new auction item this year, Pruski said, is a one-week stay in a condominium in Jaco, Costa Rica. Also among the auction items is the ever-popular dinner in your home prepared by Grand Rapids chef Tommy Fitzgerald, a wakeboard and wakeboard lessons, Schwinn bicycles, spa packages and, of course, incredible artwork.

An item sure to fetch big bucks is the chance for a guest’s dog to be next year’s “Blockstar.” The winning bidder will have their dog featured on all Blocktail promotional material, including the website and billboards in the Grand Rapids area.

For more information on Blocktail 2012, check out the event’s website or Facebook page.