PAWS Gala to benefit Elk County Humane Society

ST. MARYS – The Elk County Humane Society is hosting a PAWS Gala on Saturday, April 28 in an effort to raise funds for a new medical room at their shelter.This is the organization's third gala, with its inaugural gala taking place in 2004 and a smaller gala held in 2007. All proceeds will benefit the society will be used for the medical room and general upkeep of the shelter, located on E. Eschbach Road in St. Marys."We've been planning the medical room since the building was built in 2007, but never had the funding for it," said JoAnne Smith, shelter medical manager and humane officer. "There's such a huge need in the community for a low-cost, spay-neuter clinic and trap neuter return program."The gala, being held at the Red Fern in St. Marys, is featuring a menu inspired by local author John Schlimm's cookbooks, "The Ultimate Beer Lovers Cookbook" and "The Tipsy Vegan." The buffet-style meal, chosen to allow everyone to sample each dish, includes garlic beef tips, Drunken Chicken, beer dressing over greens, Rockin' Roasted Potatoes, wild rice, glazed carrots and dessert. All menu items will be prepared with beer or liquor. Salsa, bean dip and vegetarian lasagna that do not contain any beer or liquor are also being offered, as well as non-alcoholic punch. Appetizers will be served along with a cash bar.Games and door prizes, as well as silent, vocal and ticket auctions are also on schedule for the event, with doors opening at 4:30 p.m.Among the auction pieces are an 14K gold heirloom ring featuring a 1K emerald ring with 24 diamonds; a hot air balloon ride; an airplane ride; two tickets to "Wicked" on Broadway and a handmade hutch. Tickets are available by contacting June Glass at 594-5474 or Mary Anne McCluskey at 594-4490. Tickets may be purchased until April 23. Veronica Conrad, humane society board member and fundraising committee member, said the 18-member group has been planning the gala since November."Be PAWSitive, come out and have a great time at the gala," Conrad said.According to Smith, a minimum amount of $15,000 is needed in order to outfit the shelter with the bare necessities for a medical room where spay and neutering procedures will be performed by area veterinarians. This cost will increase with the addition of more equipment in order to allow for multiple surgeries simultaneously.Eventually, all of the shelter's animals will be spayed or neutered on-site, rather than transporting them to area veterinary clinics for the procedures or for any additional medical attention they require.The medical room will be located at the back of the shelter. It is currently being utilized as a feline isolation area with 10 pens."As funding increases, if it ever does, it would be our dream to have a vet on staff," Smith added.Smith, who has been with the organization since 2006, is joined at the shelter by fellow humane officer and shelter operations manager Karen Cappiello and Samantha Gnan, kennel manager.The shelter can accommodate a population of 60 dogs in their 24 pens and runs and a maximum of 60 cats, which will decrease to 50 cats once the medical room opens. Currently there are 29 cats housed at the shelter.A separate puppy area consists of a small room located next to the office where visitors can socialize with an animal prior to adopting it. Occasionally puppies and cats may be housed in the office area as well."If an animal is adoptable, it will stay here until it is placed in a home. We constantly run specials on our cats so that we can move them out and bring new ones in. We will not euthanize a healthy, adoptable animal to bring another one in," Smith said. She stated that people are often under the impression there is a time limit as to how long an animal remains at the shelter and referenced one dog who was housed there for two years before being adopted.Also inside the puppy room are several exotic animals rescued by the shelter: a two-foot ball python, a red ear slider turtle and a pet rat. In the past, they have also housed rabbits, ferrets, geese, ducks, iguanas, birds, cockatiels, a dove and a pot-bellied pig prior to the opening of the shelter."Exotic animals take a while to find the right home," Smith said. "I honestly believe that if someone told me six years ago that I would be handling reptiles I would have laughed at them. Now I'm pretty comfortable handling a snake. It's on-the-job training and being fortunate enough to have the resources to reach out to with different organizations, whether local, state or national, whatever. I can pick up the phone and request info on proper animal handling, etc. I can usually get that information within hours."Pick up a copy of the Friday, April 20, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.