‘Empty the Shelters’ returns for fifth year

GVL / Emily Frye
Ashleigh Fanning plays with her dog Penny on Friday August 4, 2017.

GVL / Emily Frye Ashleigh Fanning plays with her dog Penny on Friday August 4, 2017.

Drew Schertzer

The BISSELL Pet Foundation will pay all fees for pet adoptions Saturday, Oct. 14, at more than 75 locations. Dogs and cats everywhere are currently looking for homes, and many West Michigan shelters are participating in the “Empty the Shelters” event to help encourage pet adoption.

Jen Nuernberg, the executive director for the Al-Van Humane Society in South Haven, Michigan, believes the event will help animals get more exposure to be adopted and will save people money.

“We think of it as people save money, so if something happens, people can have money to help their animals,” Nuernberg said. “This is a great chance for us to open more space for more animals.”

The Al-Van Humane Society currently has 35 dogs and 65 cats. Nuernberg said they are constantly full and have to put many animals on a wait list to get in. She also explained the difficulty of being restricted in terms of how many animals the shelter can hold.

“So many animals are looking for homes, and cats and dogs that aren’t fixed are multiplying very quickly,” she said. “We want to serve those animals and give them a chance.”

Nuernberg said the animals have great personalities and are worth giving a shot to be part of a family. She also said the Empty the Shelters event will have the same vetting process, as applications must be pre-approved and the process can take some time.

Michelle Hocking, owner of Cannonsville Critters in Montcalm County, Michigan, has been running her shelter for four years with her husband. Hocking, whose organization has 140 cats currently, also noted the problem with the shelter’s capacity to hold animals. She said half of the cats they hold are sanctuary cats, meaning the cats are older or suffer from a deformity and will live their lives at the shelter.

According to Hocking, Cannonsville Critters’ mission is to reduce the euthanasia rate of cats, as they try to take in cats that families or other shelters can no longer care for. The sanctuary cats that Hocking and her team care for are unadoptable older cats, many of which have dental issues or other medical issues. Hocking hopes Empty the Shelter will lead to a large amount of cat adoptions for the shelter.

“Because people don’t get animals fixed, there is an overabundance of animals,” Hocking said. “If cats can’t get adopted or rescued, they have to be put down. It’s a tragedy.”

Cober’s Canine Rescue is another West Michigan shelter sharing in a common goal. To be able to assist more dogs, they are looking to have all of their current dogs adopted. Lisa Cober, owner of the shelter, said they are trying to alleviate the number of stray dogs, as well as stop the killing of animals that shelters can no longer hold. 

The BISSELL Pet Foundation created the Empty the Shelters event with the goal of helping as many animals as possible get homes. To find out more information on which shelters are participating, visit www.bissellpetfoundation.org/events/empty-the-shelters/.