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Open house at Summit Animal Control's new facility nets 50 people willing to help out homeless cats and dogs

By jim Published: October 25, 2010

By Kathy Antoniotti
Beacon Journal staff writer

More than 50 of the approximately 100 people who visited Summit County's new animal control facility Sunday volunteered to help care for homeless pets awaiting adoption.

Retiree Joe Shumaker of Akron, who toured the facility with his wife, Sandy, said he welcomed the opportunity to help wherever he could because of a lifelong love of animals.

''When I was young, every time I'd go somewhere alone, I'd bring a dog home with me. After a while, they quit letting me go anywhere alone,'' he joked.

For people who love animals and animals in dire need of love and attention, the county-sponsored program is a win-win situation, said Christine Fatheree, animal control manager for the county.

She said she wants to encourage residents to see the facility as a destination they can feel comfortable visiting, and thinks bringing in volunteers is a way to accomplish her goals.

''I want this to be a family place, a family-friendly environment where people feel they can welcome a new member into their family,'' she said.

The county's $2.96 million state-of-the-art shelter — 19,494 square feet of space in a converted warehouse at 250 Opportunity Parkway in Akron — opened in August. It features bright, glassed-in rooms that allow prospective owners to view adoptable animals. It can't compare to the cramped, dungeon-like dark quarters that formerly housed animals and employees.

On Sunday, dozens of people at an open house visited with dogs and cats after filling out volunteer applications. They were told they would be welcome to come back today or any other the facility is open and can do almost any task they feel comfortable doing, including playing or walking animals to help with socialization and showing them to prospective owners.

''Everyone here is so busy they don't have time to do everything,'' said Jen D'Aurelio, executive director of Paws & Prayers animal rescue, who helped coordinate the event.

''As a rescue, we just want the dogs and cats to find homes. We don't care if they get adopted by us or by the pound directly. We're here to support the pound.''

Besides Fatheree, the county employs six pound keepers who clean and maintain the facility and take care of the medical needs of the animals; one veterinary technician; and one secretary. There are also two dog wardens who, when not responding to calls, work inside the building, cleaning and maintaining animals.

Jeanette and Jim Michel were typical of the people who responded to the call for volunteers Sunday. Owners of a Great Pyrenees-mix rescue dog that is a member of Akron Children's Hospital Doggie Brigade, the Akron couple doesn't feel it is in the dog's best interest to bring another animal into their home. Volunteering at the shelter is a way to help get their ''fix'' when it comes to helping animals in need.

''He'll be a walker. I'll be a groomer,'' Jeanette Michel said.

Shelter volunteers can work as much or as little as they prefer, but are asked to make a regular commitment. Volunteers are needed from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Although the pound is closed on Sundays, volunteers may eventually be able to work Sundays, too.

Anyone interested in volunteering can call the main phone at 330-643-2845 or Paws and Prayers at 330-475-8300 for information.

Sunday's event was so successful, coordinators decided they will do it again, D'Aurelio said.

''We are already planning to hold another open house in January,'' she said.

Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or kantoniotti@thebeaconjournal.com.

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