By Rick Armon
Beacon Journal staff writer
Jul 02, 2009
Jodie Martin knelt down and got a big sloppy kiss.
She patted Lucky — a three-legged dog — on the head, rubbed her neck and examined her teeth.
''Such a good girl,'' Martin cooed outside the Summit County animal shelter in Akron.
Lucky was one of several local shelter dogs receiving a final examination early this morning before being placed on a truck and heading off to Buffalo, N.Y., as part of the PetSmart Charities Rescue Waggin', the nation's largest pet transportation program.
Dogs are shipped from overcrowded shelters where they likely face euthanasia to areas — sometimes hundreds of miles away — with a shortage of adoptable pets. In most cases, the dogs are then adopted within three days.
''We started the program to save pets' lives,'' said Kim Noetzel, a spokeswoman with PetSmart Charities in Phoenix. ''There are literally millions of dogs and puppies that are put down in shelters every year and it's simply because there aren't enough homes. It's tragic.''
The Rescue Waggin', started in 2004, has saved more than 25,000 dogs, organizers said. This year, it is expected to save more than 8,000 animals.
Summit County was accepted into the program earlier this year after a lengthy application and training process. It is one of only four participating shelters in Ohio.
This morning, the Rescue Waggin' took ten dogs that had been identified and cleared in advance to the Erie County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Aggressive and unhealthy dogs cannot participate. And pit bulls and pit bull mixes are not eligible.
The dogs are examined ahead of time to make sure they are friendly and healthy. County workers had to be trained to conduct strict behavioral tests on the dogs to make sure they qualify for the program, said Christine Fatheree, the animal control manager.
Those tests include seeing how a dog reacts to their food and toys being taken from them.
But Martin, a Buffalo resident with more than 20 years experience in the animal field, looks them over a final time before they are loaded one by one onto the vehicle.
They are placed in cages inside a special, climate-controlled truck. And music is played to soothe them during the ride.
Martin isn't afraid of having her face licked. She knelt with every dog to examine it, placing a blue or pink paper collar around each dog's neck signaling its gender.
She also spoke to each one.
''Hi, beautiful,'' she said to Marvin, a mutt. ''How cute you are.''
Martin rejected a puppy because it growled at her.
Today's shipment was the third for the county.
Officials expect to provide dogs to the program at least once a month. It gives the animals another shot at a home and frees up space inside the shelter for additional dogs, they said.
The shelter has space for about 80 dogs at one time.
''We want to do everything we can do to save every animal that comes into our shelter,'' said Craig Stanley, county director of administrative services.
PetSmart Charities also pays the county $70 per dog.
The county receives an extra benefit for participating in the Rescue Waggin' program, officials said. The shelter is now eligible for PetSmart discounts and grants to expand the facility and spay and neuter services.
''We're so pleased that they are taking advantage of this viable and successful program that is a humane alternative to euthanasia,'' PetSmart's Noetzel said. ''We're thrilled that they want to be part of the program.''
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com.
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