Nationwide program finds homes for abandoned pet

By Bob Jackson

Nationwide program finds homes for abandoned pets

Otis is a single male with short, brown hair, an eye for the ladies and a penchant for having his back scratched. He’s looking for a long-term relationship, but he has one problem.

Otis has trust issues.

Some women might call Otis a dog. But that’s OK because, well, he is a dog.

Otis, a Labrador retriever and boxer mix, was one of several animals available for adoption Saturday at the PetSmart store in Boardman. Three area animal rescue organizations, WAGS Canine Rescue, Angels For Animals and Animal Appeal, were on hand with animals waiting for adoption.

It was part of PetSmart Charities’ nationwide Second Chance for Love pet adoption promotion, which continues today at all PetSmart locations.

“What we’re trying to do is get as many animals adopted as we can,” said Tracy Coriston, an assistant manager at the Boardman PetSmart store. “We want to get away from euthanizing them and get them into homes.”

Otis is one of the dogs under care of the WAGS Canine Rescue program, which houses animals in the Youngstown and Columbiana County areas, according to Roxanne Sherman of Youngstown, who trains the dogs for WAGS. The group rescued him from the Columbiana County dog pound, where Otis was about to be put to sleep.

“He was so sweet and so loving. His only problem was a trust issue,” Sherman said.

That’s because Otis was once used as bait to train dogs for dog fighting, which is illegal.

“Otis never knew that hands weren’t for hurting,” Sherman said. “And he was absolutely horrified to go through a door because he never knew what was on the other side.”

But after extensive training, Otis has become a friendly, playful dog who would make an exceptional pet, said Mary Jo Nagy, WAGS director.

That sort of training is key in the WAGS program, Nagy said.

“Let’s face it, who wants to take home a dog who jumps all over you, or who pulls you all over the place every time you try to walk him,” she said. “A trained dog and a fixed dog is more likely to stay in a forever home instead of being moved from place to place.”

All of the organizations said they make sure all animals they adopt out have been spayed or neutered. That’s critical for keeping down the population of unwanted animals, said Yvonne Ces-lak, director of Animal Appeal, based in Hermitage, Pa.

“We try to find responsible homes where the needs of the home match the animal,” she said.

Tammy George of Angels for Animals said the number of animals needing rescue has increased dramatically because of the ongoing economic downturn.

Because people can no longer afford to feed their dogs, or to keep up with the veterinarian bills, dogs are being abandoned.

“We’re getting a lot of that these days,” George said. “We find a lot of dogs left at the shelter with notes attached from their owners, saying they just can’t keep them any longer.”

Dave Deems, manager of the PetSmart store in Boardman, said the same thing happens at the store, where abandoned dogs have been found tied to the front doors. Some were hurt because their owners simply set them loose in the parking lot, and they were hit by cars.

He said that’s why PetSmart regularly holds adoption events like the one this weekend. The chain tries to make sure dogs receive behavioral training before they are adopted.

“The No. 1 reason why dogs end up in shelters is behavior issues,” he said. “The goal here is to make sure these dogs don’t end up back in a shelter again after they’ve been adopted.”

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