EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — About a year ago, Alex Johnston noticed that two dogs living in pens in his neighborhood needed better shelter.
Johnston, a board member for the Humane Society of the Flint Hills, thought he might be able to build doghouses for the pets and went online to find information or instructions on how to construct them.
He saw a video at YouTube about a Michigan community that built doghouses for pet owners who couldn't afford to buy them.
"I thought it was a good idea, so I brought it to the board," he said.
Johnston's idea evolved into a humane society-sponsored community doghouse build at the Lyon County Fairgrounds, during which 11 doghouses were constructed.
Emporia doesn't have a law limiting the time an animal can be tethered outside, so animals can be on a chain or in a backyard round-the-clock without shelter.
"We have no control of that," said Judy Dieker, executive director of the humane society, who was manning the registration table at the event. "So, today we're offering shelter (for the animals) of those who can't afford it on their own."
Dieker said about 60 volunteers, including 15 players from the Emporia State University women's basketball team, showed up to build the doghouses.
"Really, when I thought of this idea, I didn't realize how much work it would take to pull it off," Johnston said.
Cassondra Boston, a basketball player from Des Moines, Iowa, said the team participates in community service events each year and decided the doghouse build would be fun and provide an opportunity for the team to bond off the court.
The team members helped paint and nail shingles to the roofs of the doghouses.
"It's definitely something different," said Boston, who had never attempted to build a doghouse before. "We messed up a couple of times on the shingles, but some other people helped us out."
Dieker said all of the doghouses — six flat-roofed and five peaked-roofed — had been assigned owners even before they were finished.
Johnston said from $60 to $70 worth of raw materials were used to construct each doghouse. He estimated the market value of each doghouse at $150.
The agency's mission
The Humane Society of the Flint Hills, established in May 1971, is a not-for-profit organization that serves Lyon, Chase, Coffey, Greenwood, Morris, Osage and Wabaunsee counties. The agency receives no government money and is funded primarily through individual memberships and donations.
Rather than operating an animal shelter, Dieker said the agency focuses on education and "getting people to recognize the importance animals play in our lives."
The agency supports area shelters that provide temporary care and adoption of animals, as well as programs providing adequate care and treatment of animals.
Dieker said the humane society has a cruelty/abuse officer who investigates reports of neglect or abuse of animals in the outlying counties of its service area. She said the Emporia police department and the city's animal control department handle complaints within Emporia's city limits, while the county's animal control officer investigates other complaints in Lyon County.
Dieker said the humane society — in cooperation with area veterinarians — offers a discount program in February and October to encourage people to spay and neuter their pets. The program offers a $10 rebate for each pet spayed or neutered, with a two-pet limit per household.
In November, the agency gives away hay, which can be used as bedding for outdoor pets to keep them warm during the winter months. In December, the agency sponsors Santa Paws at L&L Pets, during which people can have photos taken of their pets with Santa.
Back next year?
Dieker said the humane society may sponsor the doghouse build again next year.
"If we see there's a need next year, we will do it again," she said.
Johnston said a repeat of the event also will depend on whether raw materials are donated again.
This year, building supplies were donated by Mark II Lumber, Sutherlands Lumber Company and Waters True Value Hardware. Glendo Corporation provided placards engraved with the humane society's name that were secured to the outside of doghouses. Mark II also prebuilt five of the doghouses, which were painted and shingled by volunteers.
"Unless we have the donors, the board won't be able to absorb the cost," he said. "So the donors are what really made this possible."
While he was more than happy to see the turnout of volunteers for the doghouse build, Johnston, who has a corgi/dachshund named C.J. and a Jack Russell/corgi called Jack, said the real treat would be seeing the doghouses in use by their new owners and their pets.
"That's what will tug the heart strings," he said, "and give you butterflies in the tummy."
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