Homeless pets find forever homes, despite economic slump

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By Paige Bolen

Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

LANSING – Veronica French stands barefoot on her porch and calls to her dog, Louis Vuitton. The black Labrador mix runs through the bushes and up the steps to sit obediently by the 21-year-old’s side.

As she pets him, French wonders what Louis’ life would be like had they not met that day at the shelter when she had adopted him.

Louis Vuitton

“I will never get a dog from a breeder again,” Michigan State University anthropology major French said. “There are so many amazing adoptable pets that need a home.”

The Capital Area Humane Society, 7095 W. Grand River Ave., in Lansing, has been passionate about finding pets new homes since 1936. In his two years with the society, Director of Development Eric Langdon said adoptions have remained pretty steady, even with the bad economy.

“Over 220,000 animals enter shelters each year, so overpopulation is a huge issue,” Langdon said. “Since I have been here, we have always had a waiting list, and when space does open up, it is usually only for a moment.”

Langdon said there are many reasons pets come to the shelter, ranging anywhere from unfortunate economic situations and unwanted litters of puppies or kittens. He also said some pet owners do not do enough research when looking into a certain type of dog, so they end up being unhappy with the breed.

“If more pet owners did research, there would be way less pets in shelters and more staying in loving homes,” Langdon said.

Michigan State University junior Sara Soderstrom said she knows it’s important to carefully look at all aspects of becoming a pet owner before investing in a pet. Soderstrom and her family did a lot of research before adding their Australian Shepherd, Piper, to their family.

“We got Piper from a breeder, but even if we didn’t, my parents were adamant about finding a good fit for us,” 20-year-old Soderstrom said. “We are thinking about getting another dog and definitely looking into adopting from the Humane Society.”

After getting to know friends’ pets that have come from shelters, Soderstrom is determined to convince her parents to adopt. She said she couldn’t believe how wonderful her friends’ pets are and how much they are like Piper, even though they came from two very different places.

Langdon wishes more people thought like Soderstrom and French, but negative stigmas still exist about Humane Societies.

“A lot of people think that shelter animals are bad animals or unhealthy animals, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth,” said Langdon.

The Capital Area Humane Society has full-time veterinarians on staff to give vaccines and check on the animals. The society has also had a public spay and neuter clinic for more than 10 years, and in February 2011, it expanded to triple the clinic’s capacity.

Langdon acknowledges it is difficult to change perception about Humane Societies, but things like social media have helped. The Capital Area Humane Society Facebook fan page has grown from 600 fans to 5,327 in just two years and grows daily.

“Facebook has really helped the society by allowing the public to take a look at what we do here,” Langdon said. “People think of shelters as dark, depressing places, but it’s the opposite!”

The Capital Area Humane Society also hosts many events to raise money and bring awareness to the shelter. This spring, the ninth annual Furball Formal Dinner will be held at the Eagle Eye Golf Club, April 14, in East Lansing. Langdon said it raised more than $100,000 for the shelter last year.

“The Furball is always an absolute blast because we bring about 50 dogs,” Langdon said. “You have people in suits and ball gowns, but they are crouched down on the floor playing with the dogs because we are all huge pet lovers.”

The Society also holds its annual 5K Run And Walk For The Animals, which has been held at Fitzgerald Park, in Grand Ledge, for more than 20 years. Langdon said this season’s event, hosted on Sept. 17, 2011, had more than 1,000 participants, and 400 of them were shelter dogs.

The society is also involved in PetSmart Charities Rescue Waggin’ program. This program relocates puppies from areas of high homeless-pet overpopulation, where they face almost certain euthanasia, to shelters where adoptable dogs are in demand.

Langdon said the Capital Area Humane Society receives a truck full of puppies about every three weeks.

“Once we get the puppies, we have our vets check them over to make sure they are 100 percent healthy, and then we spay or neuter them if needed,” Langdon said. “Once they are put up for adoption, they usually only stay in the shelter about five days before being adopted by an excited and loving family.”

The Capital Area Humane Society is determined to erase negative stigmas about shelters and increase knowledge of just how great adopting a pet can be. Sitting on her porch with Louis sprawled across her lap, French could not agree more.

“I wish I could explain just how much Louis means to me,” French said. “I guess you could say, I never believed in love at first sight until the day I saw him at the shelter.”

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