By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – Holiday spirit reigned at the festively decorated Victorian house at 266 Oak St. Dec. 3 and 4 as supporters attended Shelter to Home’s annual Santa Paws Stop and Shop fundraiser.
Shelter to Home’s volunteers rescue and foster mostly cats, and a few dogs, from city and county animal control shelters that otherwise would be euthanized. They do not take strays, wild animals and owner surrenders directly from the public.
Volunteer Lori Wend of Riverview said the fundraiser supports the animals, especially the cost of veterinary care, which is one of the group’s major expenses.
“We take on the hard-to-adopt cases, with lots of extra vetting,” she said.
Wend said vendors attending the fundraiser give the group a percentage of their proceeds, and select crafters donate their proceeds from the sale to the group. Shelter to Home also sells donated items from businesses at the annual event.
She said its bake sale is a major draw.
“We are trying to make it the best bake sale Downriver,” Wend said. “Right now it consumes one full room, plus we are spilling out. Next year we plan to be bigger and better, because people come for the bake sale. They really are excited about it.”
Wend said when pounds and shelters get overcrowded, and they need help so they don’t have to euthanize animals, the group’s volunteers foster animals in their homes, and fully evaluate them.
“We judge them on their behaviors and such, and (if) we find them adoptable, then we find them loving homes,” Wend said.
She said adoptable animals and their individual needs are listed on the group’s website, sheltertohome.com; its Facebook page; at Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet; and they partner with the Petsmart retail chain, where cats visit an in-store habitat for short periods of time. It also holds monthly adoption events.
She said people considering animal adoption during the holidays or any time of year go through an application process so the group can find the best home for an animal, and adopters know the animal’s needs, like a fenced yard for a dog, and know veterinary care must be a part of their budget.
Wend said they also make sure parents are committed to a pet before children are introduced to an animal.
“The best thing to do is meet with the owners, not the kids,” she said. “I would make sure that everybody is happy and you have the right spot for that, and then I would bring the kids in.
“The kids are all like, ‘Yeah. We gotta have him. We gotta have him,’ pressuring. I want to make sure that my animal is going to the right home.”
Wend said they are predominately a cat rescue, but they do have five to 10 dogs being fostered through their volunteers at a given time.
“We would love to have more dogs, but it is a little bit harder because we don’t have backup,” she said. “We only have four or five people that are fostering dogs, and if we get a new foster home and something goes wrong, we don’t want that dog to go back to the pound. We want to be able to absorb that. We try to really work with our (dog) foster homes to make sure they are in it for good.”
The group was founded in 2007, and acquired the adoption center, at 266 Oak St., in 2011. She said the group is approaching 4,000 rescues.
Wend said animals with medical issues and senior animals are hardest to place.
“Seniors animals are hard, because people have to open their hearts for five, six, seven, eight years and then be ready for a heartbreak, which is tough,” she said.
Shelter to Home president Shelley Bawol of Wyandotte said in addition to their mission of rescuing shelter and pound animals, their unique Victorian house adoption center, which they rent, sets them apart.
“I don’t think there is any other rescue that maintains its headquarters in a beautiful or historic home, and allows cats to free roam,” Bawol said. “We think we are a pretty special rescue for having a pretty special place.”
Bawol said one of their goals is to purchase the Victorian house they now lease.
Animal foster volunteer Deb McFall of Lincoln Park said it is comforting to know that so many people want to help animals.
“There is nothing more joyful than finding a good home for one of the cats that I have raised,” she said. “I get very attached to them, especially when they are the little ones, you bottle fed them and everything, yet to know that they have found a good home and that you helped socialize them and (to) be a loving cat, (there’s) nothing better in the world.”
For more information or to make a donation, call 734-566-3135, email [email protected], or go to sheltertohome.com.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])