One woman traveled from Virginia to adopt a dog.
By AMANDA GARRETT
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
HOWLAND -- Cages at the Trumbull County Dog Shelter are full of loving Labradors, goofy goldens and playful pit bulls.
Several of the 14 dogs on Friday were waiting to be picked up by their new owners, headed for new homes and futures.
Just weeks ago, the dogs would have been killed by lethal gas.
But the power of the Internet and help from area animal rescue agencies have brought new hope for the dogs and dog warden Robert Campana.
Combined efforts of the shelter and the volunteers to advertise its dogs on the Internet are taking dogs off death row and placing them in loving homes.
"It's like a miracle," Campana said. "I didn't think it would work, but it has -- well beyond my expectations."
In the three weeks since the shelter began offering dogs for adoption on petfinder.com, the shelter has adopted out 33 dogs, which is almost half of the total number of adoptions for 2006, Campana said.
In 2006, the shelter handled 1,087 dogs; 148 were either adopted or returned to their owners. The rest -- 939 -- were euthanized.
Resha Dykes of Huntsburg found out about the shelter on the Internet and decided to help. Dykes set up the shelter's Web page on petfinder.com. She and other volunteers take all the photographs of the dogs featured on the site.
High euthanasia numbers
Dykes, who runs a rescue group called Max and Me and also works with the Geauga County Dog Shelter, said Trumbull County's euthanasia numbers are unusually high.
"In Geauga County we have a 97 percent adoption rate," she said. "Theirs is somewhere around 5 or 10 percent. There are so many adoptable dogs at that shelter that would have been snapped up in Geauga in a minute."
Jill Rhoton of North Lima, executive director of It's a Ruff Life Rescue, called the kill rate at the shelter "disgusting."
"Many people went to the Animal Welfare League in Warren and didn't even know the shelter existed," she said. "It was a like a secret that nobody ever knew about."
Connie Wylie of Manassas, Va., drove more than 12 hours to the Trumbull shelter to pick up her new Newfoundland-Labrador retriever mix, Wolfie.
"It was a long drive, but it was worth every second," Wylie said. "If you love animals, they become part of your family. Wolfie was supposed to be put down three days ago. It's a good feeling to look at him enjoying life -- and realize that without all of this effort, he wouldn't be breathing."
Since the Web site went up three weeks ago, the shelter has fielded calls from New York, New Jersey and even Canada, said Kim Smith, who works in the shelter office on Anderson Avenue.
Smith said she has learned a whole new style of office work in past few weeks.
"The phone is ringing all the time now and I'm getting used to doing more adoption paperwork," she said. "It's an adjustment, but it's a good adjustment."
The shelter has also received donations of food, blankets and dog bowls in recent weeks, Campana said.
"The amount of things that's happened in a short amount of time is unbelievable," he said.
Once the shelter gets its adoptions on track, Rhoton and Dykes said they would like to work with area veterinarians to provide shots and spaying and neutering for the dogs.
Anyone wanting to help Resha Dykes and Jill Rhoton work at the shelter can visit www.groups.yahoo.com and search for trumbullcountydogs.
Campana, who has been the warden for 35 years, said he now enjoys coming to work each day.
"I like doing it this way a whole lot better than the other way," he said. "You're giving the dogs a second chance. There's hope now. It's a good feeling."
The fees for adopting a dog at the shelter are 10 for Trumbull County residents and 20 for everyone else.
Petfinder is an online, searchable database of animals that need homes, according to its own Web site. It is also a directory of more than 9,000 animal shelters and adoption organizations across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Organizations maintain their own home pages and available pet database.
Its mission is "to use Internet technology and the resources it can generate to (1) increase public awareness of the availability of high-quality adoptable pets and to (2) increase the overall effectiveness of pet adoption programs across North America to the extent that the euthanasia of adoptable pets is eliminated."