Volunteers are the heartbeat of many an animal welfare organization, and Kansas City Pet Project’s volunteers proved their mettle during the organization’s efforts in the 2014 ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge.
KCPP, a nonprofit, open admission shelter in Kansas City, Missouri, won the Challenge’s “Community Engagement Award”—a $25,000 grant, plus an additional $5,000—for a total of $30,000, for doing the best job of getting its community involved in saving more animals: 1,989 cats and dogs were saved during the three-month contest, an increase of 491 animals over the same period in 2013.
The prize was presented October 7 in person—to KCPP shelter executives, staff and more than 50 volunteers—by ASPCA representatives.
“We could never have done this without our volunteers,” said Kelly Walsh, KCPP’s volunteer coordinator, beaming with pride and recalling how volunteers promoted KPCC’s initiatives non-stop during June, July and August.
KCPP took in more than 1,000 pets per month during June and July, coinciding with the shelter’s busiest intake months of the year. “We then broke adoption records in July and again in August,” said Tori Fugate, KCPP’s manager of marketing and development.
“We hardly have any advertising budget, so we rely heavily on social media,” she continued, explaining that KCPP’s public Facebook page increased its members by 86 percent (17,000) during the contest. KPCC also has private Facebook pages for each of its adoption locations so volunteers may spread the word about foster opportunities, the need for drivers, or shelter wish lists. “We post adoption and intake numbers daily,” Tori added. “We keep our volunteers informed and updated all the time.”
Tori also credits large organizations like the Kansas City Royals—current World Series contenders—who supported KCPP during the Challenge. “They were huge; one of their staff even adopted a dog from us,” she said. Other major organizational support came from Sprint, the Kansas City Visitors Association, and Boulevard Brewing Company, among others. KCPP also ran cross promotions with other shelters, elementary schools and local businesses.
All the while, volunteers continued their groundswell of buzz and heavy lifting. The result: Newsletter subscribers increased 67 percent (4,000), and volunteers multiplied. By the end of the Challenge, 296 new volunteers had signed on.
Chad Ackerman, director of institutional research at Park University, serves as volunteer community outreach coordinator for KCPP. “We worked hard expanding our presence, especially north of the river,” explained Chad, who organizes adoption efforts at KCPP’s 4,400-sq.-ft. storefront center in Zona Rosa, north of town, where 533 animals were adopted during the Challenge.
Volunteers also helped drum up the 13,695 votes that helped clinch the shelter’s award. A gigantic sheet cake, complete with those seven digits squiggled in orange frosting, was presented to KCPP by the ASPCA before being cut and distributed by Teresa Johnson, KCPP’s CEO/executive director, who explained how the much-needed funding would be put to use.
“Our medical fund always needs money,” she said. “Saving lives is expensive. We treat parvo, heartworm, animals with broken legs and other injuries; everything that’s treatable.”
“This is a big city and we’re a new organization—we’ve had to change our image,” added KCPP board president Brent Toellner, who founded KCPP with his wife, Michelle Davis, in January 2012. “We showed our community that we care about animals, and it’s been great to have volunteers and others involved and be part of our progress.”
Beth Rice, who has volunteered at KCPP for just over a year, told how the sheer number of kittens coming in during the summer months convinced her to foster. She recalled how KCPP took in one to two litters of kittens per day—1,200 under the age of three months—during the Challenge.
“We were bottle feeding all summer long,” said Beth, as she monitored her Facebook feed closely before KCPP’s award was announced. A message appeared—from another volunteer: “Still waiting to hear the news! Did we win???” it read. “Yes!!!” Beth excitedly typed back.
“I’m just a volunteer, but I say that with pride,” she said.
In May, the ASPCA assisted in the rescue, removal and sheltering of more than 550 birds from properties associated with cockfighting in Virginia. Five people charged in conjunction with the case have now received sentencing, and today we have an update on their status.
On Thursday, a federal judge sentenced Kentucky man Walter Stumbo, 51, to 18 months in prison. His wife, Sonya Stumbo, 51, and their son, Joshua Stumbo, 33, each received ten months. Sonya Stumbo was convicted at trial and the other two pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including possession of an animal for use in animal fighting.
In addition, Wesley Robinson, 57, and his son Jonathan Robinson, 33, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to operate an illegal gambling enterprise and illegally conducting cockfights; one count of transporting fighting roosters across state lines; one count of transporting bird fighting knives across state lines; and one count of illegally distributing oxycodone.
On August 27, Wesley Robinson was sentenced to six months in prison. On October 8, Jonathan Robinson was sentenced to join his father in prison for a sentence of one year and one day.
“The cruel and inhumane practice of cockfighting has no place in civilized society and is against federal law,” U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said in a written statement. “We will vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals who attend, facilitate, or profit from the misery inflicted on animals during these barbaric fights.”
In the aftermath of the raid, the ASPCA has learned more about the illegal cockfighting operation. Known as the “Big Blue” Cock Fighting Pit, the enterprise in McDowell, Kentucky, featured arena-style seating, multiple fighting pits and a restaurant. The Robinsons reportedly brought the birds from Wise County, Virginia, to Big Blue on weekends, and spectators allegedly travelled from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, and other states to attend fights at Big Blue.
“Big Blue” had approximately 5,000 members. Entrance fees ranged from $250 to $2,500, and over $90,000 in cash was seized at the Stumbos' home.
As you can probably guess, we’re pretty big on shelter dogs. That’s why we’re thrilled that October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month (ASDM)!
Join us, along with co-hosts The Dodo (@dodo) and Domo (@domo), on Wednesday, October 15 from 7:00-8:00 P.M. EST to celebrate all things shelter dog during our ASDM Twitter Party and Giveaway!
This fun trivia contest will focus on famous dogs from pop culture (think Lassie and Rin Tin Tin) and we’ll be giving away prize packs every six minutes with a grand prize from Swiffer (@swiffer) and Alex and Ani (@alexandani)!
Don’t forget to RSVP here so you’ll be eligible to win prizes, and follow the hashtag #ASDMparty on Twitter to join the fun. See you there!
On September 18, the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Team assisted in the rescue of over a dozen dogs from a poorly ventilated mobile home in Madison, Wisconsin. The dogs were found living amongst feces, trash, and rotting food, and many exhibited signs of dehydration and neglect.
After their rescue, the dogs were transported to a temporary shelter established by the ASPCA where they received medical care and behavior assessments. Additionally, ASPCA behaviorists provided enrichment and socialization to reduce stress and improve mental health. Nine of the dogs will now be transferred to Dane County Humane Society in Madison, Wisconsin to be made available for adoption.
“Today is a big step forward for these dogs,” said Jessica Rushin, Senior Partnerships Manager for ASPCA Field Investigations and Response. “We hope the residents of Madison will open up their homes to give these animals a chance to be someone’s pet.”
The remaining dogs will require behavioral rehabilitation for extreme fear and undersocialization. They will be transported to the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Madison, New Jersey, where animal behavior experts will provide ongoing treatment to improve their well-being and help them become suitable for adoption. “Our goal is to help these dogs overcome their fears and become ready for the next chapter of their lives,” said Kristen Collins, Director of the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center.
If you are interested in adopting one of the nine dogs at Dane County Humane Society, visit www.giveshelter.org/adopt for more information.