The fate of 25 wolves living on an 80-acre private wildlife refuge in rural Columbiana County is in the hands of anyone with an interest in helping wildlife.
The animals, which are hybrid wolf-dogs, have been at the sanctuary run by the Richard E. Flauto Wildlife Foundation since Flauto first set up the site several years ago.
Founder died: Unfortunately, Flauto died of a heart ailment at age 31 in 1999 -- without a will -- bringing the sanctuary and its dedicated volunteers to their present problem.
"Richard had a lot of debt when he died," said Christine Roddy, one of foundation's officers. She said the estate has taken a long time to be probated due to the lack of a will.
Paperwork is still being shuffled on the foundation's 501c.3 tax-exempt status application and there are several liens on the property.
In fact, Christine said, a sheriff's sale on the property has been scheduled for Sept. 4, making the search for funds even more desperate.
Call for funds: The foundation is making a call to anyone who would like to see these animals keep their home here. The 25 hybrid wolf-dogs cannot be released into the wild. Some of the animals were obtained from situations of abuse and neglect and there are even more of these animals out there that the sanctuary has no room for or funds to obtain, she said.
The nonprofit foundation will gladly accept any and all donations, from spare change to folding money. If and when tax-exempt status is conferred upon the group -- hopefully by September, she said -- donations will become even more attractive to prospective donors, but until then, the funds are still needed.
What's needed: The group is looking at about $150,000 to $160,000 to save the property and keep Flauto's dream alive of eventually having an education center at the sanctuary.
Flauto began collecting the animals from various locations around the United States about five years ago after finding the first hybrid at a local kennel.
After getting calls about more of these animals and obtaining a few, he bought the 80-acre site as a home for the creatures.
Improvements, such as an escape-proof enclosure, have been made, but much more is needed to continue Flauto's initial efforts.
However, if the foundation's funding efforts fail, "we will be forced to find other homes for the animals, nearly an impossible task," Ms. Roddy said.
"We knew it would be a struggle when Rich died," she said. "Right now we're looking for any type of donation. Many of us have put our lives on hold and we don't have a lot."
Benefit: The foundation will be host of a benefit concert at 8 p.m. Saturday at Ragni's on State Street in Salem. The Johnsons and Acoustic Lizard will be the featured bands. Tickets are $6 in advance or $7 at the door. More information on the benefit is available from (330) 757-8457 or from the foundation's Web site at www.wolfcountry.net.
Donations can be made at the benefit, or by mailing a check, coffee can full of change or what-have-you to the Richard E. Flauto Wildlife Foundation, P.O. Box 9452, Youngstown 44513.
"We have kept to our goal, which is to provide for the animals," Ms. Roddy said. "We'd like to provide for the education center and we still get calls to take more animals. We can't take them all, but, if we get funding, we have the potential to do much more."