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Letter to the Editor

All dogs deserve a fair chance

Thanks to The Blade for its continuing efforts to educate their readers on the plight of Lucas County dogs.

As executive director of the Toledo area all-breed rescue Planned Pethood, I would like to respond to Tom Skeldon's quote in Sunday's Blade, where he said he is unwilling to work with all-breed rescues because they will "cherry pick the "sweet, small dogs.

Yes, those dogs are generally adopted out very quickly and so they should never be euthanized as unwanted. Planned Pethood's rescue efforts are by no means limited to only small, high-demand dogs, however.

As our Web site shows, every week we find homes for big dogs, mixed breed dogs, older dogs, dogs with health problems, even dogs with behavioral problems short of aggression, all of which come from local pounds, with the exception of Lucas County.

While other Toledo-area rescues (including the Toledo Area Humane Society) bring in dogs from other parts of the state and even farther away, our efforts are completely focused on northwest Ohio dogs.

We believe that as long as even one nice northwest Ohio dog is being put down because there is no rescue or shelter space available to save its life, there is no reason to look elsewhere for dogs to save.

We look forward to a time when everyone's efforts on behalf of the dogs in our county pay off in the way that matters most: by giving as many dogs as possible the second chance they deserve.

Nikki Morey

Executive Director for Planned Pethood, Inc.

Toledo Free Press: Article published October 2, 2009
Planned Pethood fights growing feral cat population
Written by Allison Wingate | |

The growing feral cat population in Lucas County is a major concern for Planned Pethood. Executive director Nikki Morey said she is determined to fight it with or without the support of tax dollars.

Planned Pethood, a nonprofit organization with the mission of reducing overpopulation of cats and dogs, aims to get a handle on this growing pet population by providing the community with low-cost spay and neutering.

The organization has been implementing programs like these for the past 30 years.

"There are currently 71,000 free roaming feral cats in Lucas County alone," Morey said. "And, unfortunately, our tax dollars aren’t spent on cats, only dogs."

According to the Lucas County dog warden's Web site, cats are not permitted in the facility due to "health concerns."

Morey said there are many benefits beyond population control for their spaying and neutering program.

"We trap them neuter them and then release them to the areas where they came from. If you release the cats, it stops fighting and spraying. Then, you have our rodent population under control and no new cats." she said.

Planned Pethood stresses that it works toward alleviating pet overpopulation in our area only.

"Planned Pethood only focuses on our own backyard; every cat is from the Toledo area, every dog is from Lucas or a surrounding county."

Working alongside Humane Ohio, Planned Pethood uses grant money and donations to offer low-cost spay and neutering to specific ZIP codes.

"If someone can only afford to reimburse us $5, we’ll accept that." Morey said. "People have given to us for 30 years and we’re going to try to give back to them."

For more information on Planned Pethood’s services or membership, visit

Toledo Blade: Article published April 05, 2009
Recession hurts pets too
Groups struggle to help animals whose owners can’t afford to keep them


Mattie looks expectantly down the aisle at the Petco store in Bowling Green. Her tail wags.

Yes! A young couple is walking her way. Oh boy, oh boy! To fuss over her, to stroke her velvet ears, maybe to take her home?


They disappear down a side aisle.

Of course, the black-and-white 6-year-old greyhound doesn't understand why she's here at this Saturday "meet and greet" sponsored by G.R.A.C.E. (Greyhound Retirement Adoption Care and Education), a nonprofit organization that operates in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana to foster and find homes for retired racing greyhounds.

So vice president Marsha Serio explains: "She was returned to us in December along with her housemate, Moses. The family was foreclosed upon and moved into a place that didn't allow dogs. ... She was in the home for three years."

Add Mattie, Moses, and many other family pets to the long list of victims of this heartless economy. Add another source of misery for people who feel they have no choice but to give up beloved dogs and cats because of financial hardship.

"The economic downtrend affects all the family members, including the four-legged ones," observed Lori Friedes, a board member for Maumee Valley Save-A-Pet.

A "foreclosure" category has been added to the list of reasons why animals come to the Wood County Humane Society in Bowling Green, said Jamie Fairbanks, assistant manager. "We never used to have a spot for it on our report," he added.

But foreclosure isn't the only reason why people give up pets. Some families can't afford to feed them. Some can't afford medical expenses — like the owner who took an adult boxer mix to the Wood County Humane Society at the end of January because the dog had a broken leg.

At the Toledo Area Humane Society, an analysis of the recession's impact on finances and animals from September, 2008, through February, 2009, found that animal surrenders were down 19 percent from the same period a year earlier, but that the number of people saying they were giving up their pets for economic reasons was up 50 percent. Abandoned animals went from zero to 50, and cruelty confiscations - an economic issue because most are cases of pets that are not being fed or given veterinary care - increased 42.6 percent.

And in the case of greyhounds, more racing dogs are looking for homes nationwide as tracks have closed because of financial problems and some state bans on the sport. A ban approved in Massachusetts last fall will lead to the closing of two tracks there by Jan. 1, 2010.

Meanwhile, adoptions and donations are slowing at some humane societies, shelters, and rescue groups, and operating expenses are up.

"This is happening all across the United States. This is a national problem," said Helen Bensch, executive director of the Toledo Animal Shelter.

Her heart breaks for people who feel they have no choice but to give up the family pet for economic reasons. Some have tried to find homes for them with friends or relatives and come to an agency as the last resort.

She and Nikki Morey, executive director of Planned Pethood, advise people not to wait too long to figure out what to do with their pet.

"The sooner that you start working toward a solution, the better the outcome's going to be," Ms. Morey said. "If you call on Friday and say I have to move on Monday, that really limits your options."

Don't just walk away from the problem.

"Don't abandon them," Ms. Bensch said. "That is the worst thing that can happen to the pets."

Some animals that have been left behind in empty houses have been near starvation — or have died — by the time they have been found, said John Dinon, executive director of the Toledo Area Humane Society.

"If you're having a hard time, call us and we'll see what we can do to help you keep your pet," he said. "If you can't keep it, the best option is to turn it over to the humane society or another animal agency that will find it a new home."

Some organizations will share their extra dog or cat food to help owners feed their pets over a rough patch — when payday is a week away and the bag of kibbles is empty.

"If that's what it would take, we certainly would rather the animal stay in the home," said Renee Valtin, shelter manager at the Wood County Humane Society. Sometimes the owners return the favor by volunteering for a morning or two at the facility.

The Paws and Whiskers cat shelter in South Toledo started seeing an increase in animal returns in mid-2008, "and the beginning of this year has been pretty bad," said Kim Ferguson, kennel supervisor. Checking her roster one day in March, she counted 23 cats out of a population of 45 that had been returned.

One man who had adopted a cat from Paws and Whiskers in 2002 had to return it recently because he was unemployed, lost his home, and moving into a homeless shelter,

"He was crying hysterically," she said. "He comes in every day to visit his cat."

Like many other rescue organizations, the shelter's policy is that any animal it places for adoption can be returned. Because of the surge in those numbers — and expecting that more are on the way - she's keeping the shelter population lower than normal.

"We're not filling spots as cats are adopted," Miss Ferguson said. So someone who finds a stray and calls looking for a place to take the animal is being turned away.

Adoptions are roughly half of what they were two years ago.

Thirty cats were adopted in January, she said, compared with 35 in January, 2008, and 57 in January, 2007. In February, 25 cats were adopted, down from 48 in February a year ago, and 52 in February, 2007.

Ms. Serio of G.R.A.C.E. said their adoptions picked up in January after being at a standstill in December. To help generate interest and educate people about the gentle, laid-back greyhounds, volunteers regularly take foster dogs to area pet stores for meet-and-greets.

Other groups hold animal "adoptathons" every weekend around the area.

"The cat program has minimally three adoption events every weekend," said Ms. Morey of Planned Pethood. "The dog program does one adoption event every Saturday, sometimes also on Friday and Sunday."

The Wood County Humane Society has started a year-long "special of the month" to encourage cat adoptions. Each month a half-price adoption fee is offered on certain types of cats. In March, the deal was good on cats with orange, calico, or tortoiseshell marking.

The recession is tough on pet rescue organizations, too, not just on the animals.

"We impress on volunteers and staff that we have to stretch our resources to their fullest potential to make sure we can get through on this," said Mrs. Valtin of the Wood County Humane Society.

About a month ago the shelter received a kitten with a badly broken leg. In the past, the staff would have arranged for surgery, but this time they considered amputation instead — an option that would save money while still allowing the kitten to be healthy and mobile.

"Fortunately one of our volunteers stepped forward and offered to pay for the surgery," Mrs. Valtin said. "In some cases, you don't have any choice."

Other financial pressure comes from taking in sicker animals. Many have parasites, ear infections, and other medical problems, and most are not current on their vaccinations, said Ms. Bensch of the Toledo Animal Shelter. "Almost every animal coming through the door we are treating medically. We've always done that in the past, but I don't think to this degree."

Donations to Maumee Save-A-Pet are down almost 50 percent in the first quarter of 2009, said Mrs. Friedes, the board member.

The biggest financial hit for the Toledo Area Humane Society stems from a 35 percent drop in the value of its endowment fund since February, 2008. Endowment income makes up about one-third of the society’s operating revenue, Mr. Dinon said.

Donations that come from direct-mail and newsletter appeals are about the same, although the amount of the average donation is down slightly. Donations that people drop into collection boxes at local businesses are down, but donations of goods such as cleaning supplies are up significantly.

"Our resources are squeezed, but the need for our services is not going away," Mr. Dinon said, urging people who are staying afloat in these tough times to "please help us out."
'Love to be loved'

Despite the grim picture overall, there are happy endings for some pets and people.

Ms. Bensch said a couple times families have surrendered their dogs because of evictions, only to call back a few days later saying they’d found a place that allows them to have dogs. "So we just give them back to them. We don’t charge them anything. We waive the adoption fee."

Here's another:

Jeri Gilbert of Findlay adopted two female greyhounds from G.R.A.C.E. in January - 4-year-old Messa, who was returned to the organization six months after her first adoption because of a job loss in that family, and 3-year-old Pandy, who retired from racing in October.

She didn't plan on adopting two greyhounds, "but when they brought them to me I couldn't resist either one," Mrs. Gilbert said.

"I just love these girls. They just love to be loved, and we love to love them."

And Mattie - the retired racing greyhound who was looking for a new home after her first family had to return her - has found one in Temperance. Her adoption was finalized about a week ago.

Contact Ann Weber at: aweber@theblade.comor 419-724-6126.