By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- A sanctuary dedicated to sheltering and caring for hybrid wolves is finding itself in need of aid.
The land occupied by the nearly 80-acre preserve, amid remote Columbiana County hills, will be up for grabs during a sheriff's sale set for 1 p.m. Tuesday at the county courthouse.
Volunteers for the Youngstown-based Richard E. Flauto Wildlife Foundation, which operates the sanctuary, have tried for months to raise the nearly $140,000 needed to buy the property.
Through several fund-raisers and appeals for help, the private group has been able to gather about $5,000.
Despite the nearly $135,000 shortfall, there's optimism the property can be saved, said Christine Roddy of Boardman. Roddy is foundation secretary and one of more than a dozen volunteers who care for the animals.
"I think there's a lot of hope," said Roddy. "We've made a lot of contacts. We've managed to raise interest" in the sanctuary.
Shelter: The preserve shelters nearly 25 hybrid wolves, fenced in on about 14 acres. The animals have been bred from gray wolves and various dog breeds, generally malamute, husky or German shepherd.
Although the animals are part dog, most of them largely resemble wolves.
Roddy and Tiffany Poulton, a caretaker at the sanctuary, said the hybrids' wild lineage makes them unsuitable as house pets.
"They still have wildness in them," Poulton observed. You never know "when the wolf will come out," she added.
The animals were brought to the sanctuary from petting zoos, a fur farm and from private owners who decided they didn't want them.
Dream: The preserve was the dream of Flauto, of Boardman, who founded it in 1997. Flauto, 31, died in 1999 of a heart ailment before he could pay off the mortgage on the property.
Faced now with losing the sanctuary at the sheriff's sale, Roddy and Poulton said it's difficult to contemplate what will happen to the animals should they be forced to close the preserve.
"We know that we have to realistically think about that," Poulton said. "But at this point, I'm not giving up."
Because of their wild nature, moving the animals could prove so stressful that it might kill them.
Educational center: Before the sanctuary's money problems arose, the foundation had dreams of creating an educational center at the facility, which has not been open to the public.
Foundation members hope a center would allow visitors to be brought to the sanctuary, where they could see and learn about the animals.
"We could really turn this into something great for the community," Poulton said as she gazed at the creatures to whom she and others have dedicated so much effort.
But dreams of the future are on hold now as the sanctuary struggles to survive.
Anyone wishing to help the group can contact Roddy at (330) 629-8281, or Poulton at (330) 757-8457.
The group's mailing address is: Richard E. Flauto Wildlife Foundation, P.O. Box 9452, Youngstown, 44513.
The foundation's Web site address is www.wolfcountry.net.