Events hope to change animal shelter perceptions

People have a few misconceptions about animal shelters.

First, there are the three-legged blind dogs with no hair.

That almost laughable description is how Mark Coleman thinks some people imagine the critters at animal shelters.

“We have dogs you wouldn’t expect, sometimes even purebred Jack Russells,” said Coleman, community relations manager at PAWS. The Lynnwood organization rescues homeless pets and orphaned wildlife. “It depends on the day. We have such a wide range of pets. There’s somebody for everyone,” he said.

Then that they are places too sad to visit.

Dee Cordell, shelter operations coordinator at the Everett Animal Shelter, believes that misconception keeps people away from the facility on Smith Island.

“We’re incredibly fortunate the city built this shelter. It’s a beautiful place,” Cordell said. “The animals get great care. Volunteers are walking dogs all day.”

On Saturday, three local shelters will welcome visitors as part of a statewide animal shelter open house sponsored by Pawsitive Alliance. The nonprofit group works with shelters to put on animal-adoption events, and promotes spay-neuter programs.

Open houses will be held during regular hours Saturday at the Everett Animal Shelter, the PAWS Companion Animal Shelter in Lynnwood, and at N.O.A.H. (Northwest Organization for Animal Help) in the Stanwood area. Elsewhere, Regional Animal Services of King County, the Homeward Pet Adoption Center in Woodinville, Grant County Animal Outreach, and the Humane Society of Central Washington will also participate.

“Our vision is a happy and healthy home for every dog and cat in Washington,” said Denise Melton, programs and administrative manager for Pawsitive Alliance. The volunteer organization was founded in 2005. Saturday will be the first of what the group hopes will become an annual open house for shelters statewide.

“No one uses the word ‘pound’ anymore. Part of this initiative is to change the perception of what a shelter is,” said Melton, who lives in Kirkland. “We want the community to go visit and see places of joy. The animals are not just castoffs. They are beautiful, adoptable animals.”

Besides adoptions, Pawsitive Alliance aims to promote volunteering at animal shelters and financially supporting them.

Lani Kurtz is animal welfare director at N.O.A.H., which is next to I-5 near Stanwood. She said the open house comes at a time of year when shelters are packed with kittens. And the struggling economy has brought many fine animals to shelters as pet owners lose homes or just can’t afford to keep dogs and cats.

“We see a lot of that, people having to move to apartments,” Kurtz said. “People have an image of bad pets at shelters, but we have great dogs and cats.”

The N.O.A.H. facility, unlike other shelters, doesn’t take animals from the public. “We go to area shelters and help with their overflow, so no animal has to be euthanized because of space,” she said. “We take transfer animals from all over the state, as far as Spokane.”

This week, Kurtz said, N.O.A.H. has about 50 dogs and more than 100 cats. “We do get a lot of mutts — mutt is my favorite breed,” she added.

Some shelters will have special offers during the open houses. At N.O.A.H., adoptions will be $50 off on Saturday. The Everett Animal Shelter, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., will have face painting and crafts for kids, prizes and pet ID tags available. In Woodinville, the Homeward Pet Adoption Center will have free microchipping until 2 p.m. Saturday, Melton said.

“Even if people aren’t interested in adoption, just come visit us,” said Coleman, the PAWS spokesman. “There’s lots of activity. This lets people see that wonderful volunteers do amazing work.”

“Any event that brings people out here is a good event,” said Cordell, at the Everett shelter. “If they happen to adopt an animal while they’re here, even better.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Open houses

Saturday’s statewide animal shelter open house, sponsored by Pawsitive Alliance, will include these local shelters:

Everett Animal Shelter: 333 Smith Island Road, Everett. Open house 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

N.O.A.H. (Northwest Organization for Animal Help Animal Adoption): 31300 Brandstrom Road, Stanwood. Open House 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

PAWS Companion Animal Shelter: 15305 44th Ave W., Lynnwood. Open house 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

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