NIMISHILLEN TWP. — A Stark County company that sells shirts and accessories for dog lovers is donating $200,000 to the Stark County Humane Society so it can build an addition and accept more abandoned dogs and cats.
Pawz, based in Jackson Township, also is covering half of adoption fees for animals adopted from the Humane Society between 5 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Monday. In the first hour of the "Clear the Shelter" event Friday evening, numerous pets were adopted. Last year, the event resulted in about 58 animals finding new homes.
The adoption fees normally are $60 to $90. The younger the animal, the higher the fee.
Christian Campisi, a 2013 Jackson High School graduate, founded Pawz in 2015, which once was PawzShop.com. He pledged to donate 10 percent of his company's profits to the Humane Society.
Last year, the company contributed $110,000, which covered the cost of a play area for dogs outside the Humane Society as well as heartworm testing of animals, some remodeling and installation of air conditioning. Campisi attended the adoption event Friday.
Jackie Godbey, the Humane Society's executive director, said this year's $200,000 gift will pay to add a wing to the facility, which often operates at its capacity of about 100 dogs and 250 cats.
While the organization has reconfigured its space to separate cats from dogs, she said one wing still has both. The donation may allow them to keep the barking dogs and cats apart in addition to facilitating more adoptions. She expects additional adoption fees will cover the cost of adding staff to oversee the new wing.
"I was speechless. They're just so generous," Godbey said on hearing the size of the gift, which is larger than her organization's annual budget.
She met Friday with an architect volunteering to plan the construction. Godbey said it's not yet clear how many animals it would hold, the cost or when it would be completed.
April Zahner of Lawrence Township in Tuscarawas County adopted a male black cat named Olson, who will be a Christmas surprise for her 5-year-old daughter. Humane Society staff estimate the formerly stray feline is under a year old. Zahner already has an 8-year-old female cat.
"He's just sweet and playful," she said. "Hopefully, a lot of animals find a home today."
Janice Mishler of Alliance was about to leave the lobby with her new 2½-year-old male cat.
"I'm 68 and my husband's divorcing me," she said. "I'm going to have a friend. He's going to be my companion. ... He looked like he needed me, and I needed him."
Volunteer veterinarians spay and neuter all the animals, provide vaccinations and microchip the new pets.
The adoption event coincided with a donation of pet food, pet supplies and cleaning supplies by Watson Elementary School special-needs class in the Perry school district. Teacher Megan Frantz, whose students range from kindergarten through fourth grade, left about 600 donated items.