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Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 8.16.07



GIMME SHELTER

Local animal lovers urge you to rescue a shelter pet

BY CAMILLA MORTENSEN

Wait! Don't buy that puppy in the window! There are hundreds of shelter animals in Eugene that need a home. "Adopting a rescued animal rather than buying one from a breeder or pet store saves lives," says Lori Smith, president of Eugene-based Save the Pets.

Lori Smith and her soulmate Sam
Kelly Beale and her rescue pup, Wyatt

Save the Pets has teamed up with Lane County's animal services and Greenhill Humane society as well as other local rescue groups to find "forever homes" for all of our area's pets. Their longterm goal is to create a storefront adoption center for adoptable animals.

"Nothing is sadder than looking into the eyes of a dog knowing its spirit has been crushed," says Smith of the lost and neglected animals she helps.

And once pets have a home, "they appreciate every bit of love you have to offer them," says Molly Sargent. Sargent is a pet groomer and an appointee to Lane County Commissioner's Save Adoptable Animals Task Force. Smith agrees and says there's nothing more rewarding than giving a shelter pet — which includes everything from dogs to bunnies and hamsters — a home.

But what about those people who really want a purebred animal? Sargent advises looking to one of the purebred rescues. Every breed, even the most exotic, from giant mastiffs to dinky hairless Chinese crested dogs, seems to have one. You can find anything from puppies to adults and seniors, she says.

These adult or senior animals have distinct advantages, according to the animal rescuers. Nicole West, a rescue coordinator for S.A.R.A. (Shelter Animal Resource Alliance), says, "What you see is what you get with an adult cat as far as size, looks and personality. Despite your best efforts, that adorable kitten may grow up to be an aloof loner, not the lap cat you were looking for."

West also points out that an adult animal is often less energetic or destructive than a young one and fits better into a busy lifestyle. Also, adult animals are more at risk of euthanasia than puppies or kittens since they can be harder to place.

But what about that cute puppy in the window of the pet store? The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) cautions that pet store puppies often come from "puppy mills." Puppy mills are often cruel and churn out too many puppies with expensive medical problems, HSUS alleges.

Some stores, like the PetSmart chain, no longer sell dogs or cats but instead team up with local shelters to provide space for animal adoptions.

And purebred doesn't mean without problems, says Sargent. In her 42 years as a pet groomer, she says, "I have seen some of the worst examples of breeds that were purebred and had papers."

"Many times a mixed breed will have a genetically better makeup as far as health and immunity goes," she adds. This phenomenon is known as "hybrid vigor."

There are some good dog breeders out there. "I am not opposed to responsible breeders who do it solely for the love of the breed and not for monetary gain," says Smith.

But she says when you are dealing with rescue animals, "Some of the most amazing treasures are found when taking the time to look for them."

And she adds, "Nothing to me is more stunning than a beautiful soul."

If you can't have a pet at your home, Greenhill, Lane County, Save the Pets and many other local shelters are happy to have volunteers come in and help out with the animals. Interested in adopting a pet? Almost all of Lane County's rescue groups are listed on Pet Finder (www.petfinder.com).

You can also go directly to Greenhill (www.green-hill.org) or Lane County (www.lanecounty.org/animals/impound/).

Save the Pets is having an adoption event Sunday, Aug. 26, at the Key Bank on the corner of Coburg and Cal Young Rd. from 10 am to 3 pm.



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