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.

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.


Kent County Animal Shelter gets out the vote, qualifies for ASPCA/Rachael Ray $100K Challenge

The Kent County Animal Shelter cleared the first hurdle in the ASPCA/Rachael Ray $100K Challenge, finishing 27th in the event’s qualifying heat. KCAS needed to garner enough online votes to make the top 50 and have a shot at the contest’s several monetary rewards, including the $100,000 grand prize.

Pistol Pete, a 4-year-old Jack Russell terrier, is available for adoption at the Kent County Animal Shelter. Pistol Pete, who weighs almost 14 pounds, is a typical Jack Russell, full of energy and intelligence. Pete is a very active dog and will benefit from having an active owner that is willing to crate train and take him to training classes after the adoption. He'll do best in a home without cats. (KCAS photo)

The Grand Rapids-based shelter finished third in its North Central Division with 10,350 votes in the qualifying portion, which ran from April 5-16. The Humane Society of Central Washington, based in Yakima, Wash., was the overall leader with 33,989 online votes.

“I’ll take 27th out of 104 shelters any day,” said Carly Luttmann, program supervisor for KCAS. “It’s awesome. We’re thrilled.”

Now, the real work begins. To earn prize money in the Challenge, shelters must “save” 300 more dogs, puppies, cats and kittens from Aug. 1  to Oct. 31, than it did the previous year. A save, or live exit, according to contest rules, is defined as animals who leave a shelter through adoption (including on-site, mobile, satellite and event adoptions), alternative placements (transfers to other facilities or placements with programs such as law enforcement) and return-to-owner (RTO) from the shelter, including RTO by animal control officers in the field.

Only saved animals that represent an increase over the previous year for that month will count toward the Challenge goal. For KCAS to meet the Challenge goal, it will need to total at least 823 saved animals during the three-month contest, an increase of 300 over those same months last year.

“We’re into the Challenge and now we have to creatively brainstorm to find ways to save an additional 300 animals,” Luttmann said. “That’s a significant increase from 2011, so we have to get busy being creative. If anything, though, the qualifying votes have proven we can get the word out and get the community fired up. That’s great for us. We now have to find other ways to spread the word around.”

Those looking to adopt a pet should keep in mind that  August is quite a ways off, and there are plenty of pets in the shelter who need homes now.

Luttmann said it’s likely KCAS will offer adoption specials during the three-month period and possibly discounts on adoptions if her agency can find funding to support such an effort. Last fall, Vicky’s Pet Connection sponsored half the cost of feline adoptions, allowing KCAS to offer “$5 Feline Fridays,” for cat adoptions.

“We’ll do some brainstorming, and it will be a collaboration between the animal shelter staff, the health department administration and other organizations like Vicky’s,” Luttmann said. “We’re fired up to get their ideas. We figure the more creative energy we have and the more we think outside the box, the chances are we’ll come up with some awesome ideas.”

A simple way for the community to help in the effort, aside from adopting a dog or cat from KCAS during the contest period, is to help the shelter increase its return-to-owner count. Having your pet microchipped (KCAS offers $20 walk-in microchipping) so it can be returned if it gets lost would go a long way toward that goal. Likewise, making sure your dog is licensed, as required by law, can make a big difference.

“We need to get the word out about our microchipping program… that would help a lot with reclaims,” Luttmann said. “And with only 18 percent of our target audience complying as far as dog licenses, we have huge room for improvement there. If a dog is licensed, our animal control officers can get it right back to the owner without having to bring it into the shelter.

“We would much rather make contact with the owner than impound a dog at the shelter.”