Event turns Eastwood Expo Center into veritable zoo

By Jordan Cohen



Rick Scofinsky of Youngstown cradled Sara Rose, a 3-month old black lab/Rottweiler mix in his arms as the contented dog licked his face.

Welcome to the Scofinsky family, Sara Rose. Rick and his wife, Laurie, spotted the 15-pound puppy at this weekend’s Northeast Ohio Pet Expo Show at the Eastwood Expo Center on Saturday, adopted and promptly named her.

“We didn’t know we were going to adopt, said Scofinsky, 56, owner of two other dogs, “but when we saw her, we knew we had to.” The couple discovered Sara Rose at a booth operated by New Lease on Life Rescue, a nonprofit group based in Struthers offering dogs and cats for adoption. Like many of the shelters, the group needs financial help.

“We pay $3,000 to $5,000 a month on veterinary bills,” said Darla Donahue, a full-time volunteer. “We did well at the Pet Expo last year, and we hope people will respond again.”

New Lease animals are spayed or neutered and have all their shots. The group, like the other shelters, charges adoption fees to cover costs. The Scofinskys paid a $200 adoption fee for Sara Rose.

An older dog of theirs of the same mix is in the late stages of cancer, and the family hopes Sara Rose can help cheer her up. “I love these mixes, and she’ll have a good home,” Scofinsky said.

Another organization, Shelter Puppies, based in Cortland, offers similar services, but implants identification microchips in all of its puppies and trains them before making them available for adoption. Shelter Puppies charges $275 in adoption fees.

“Too often, people adopt and realize soon after that they can’t take care of the dog properly, so we work to make sure that doesn’t happen with our dogs,” said Randy Wilson, adoption coordinator. Wilson said that around 100 puppies have been adopted from the organization since its founding in 2010.

The public response does not surprise Judi Henninger, show coordinator since its inception six years ago. “It’s amazing how many people care,” she said. “We’ve got real pet-lovers in this area.”

One of the best-known of the organizations, the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County, is opening its new shelter in Vienna and will close the current shelter on Brunstetter Road in Lordstown when the new facility opens Sept. 1.

Jeff Williams, Kinsman, AWL president, said the organization already has raised $2 million and is hoping to raise $400,000 by the opening date to match a challenge grant.

“If we can do that, it will allow us to be debt-free,” Williams said.

West Side Cats of Youngstown brought along its best-known feline, Smoochie, a para-plegic cat that has become the group’s mascot and has its own Facebook page with 700 “likes.”

“We take care of special-needs cats like Smoochie, besides our other rescues,” said volunteer Dave Childers of Austintown. “People volunteer to help us out of the goodness of their hearts.” Childers, a motorcycle enthusiast who parked his sleek Harley-Davidson with the display, said West Side Cats hopes to raise money with a bike show in July. Its theme: “Support Your Local Cat House.”

The Pet Expo features more than 50 vendors offering pet foods, training, assorted pet products and a petting zoo. The show resumes at 10 a.m. today and closes at 5 p.m.

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