Julie Morris, Sr. VP ASPCA National Shelter Outreach
Putting a Roof Over Rover’s Head
The sight of a shivering dog left outdoors in bad weather can be heart wrenching. For Angie Manriquez of West Dallas, Texas, it was a call to action. Manriquez, known for rescuing stray and abandoned animals, called her local shelter in January 2001 to ask how she could obtain houses for five neighborhood dogs who lived outside without cover. The shelter, Operation Kindness (OK), a nonprofit animal welfare organization located in Carrollton, Texas, was happy to help. In response to Manriquez’s call, the shelter began a program called Habitat for Hounds to provide housing for needy animals.
OK, founded in 1976, is a member of both the Metroplex Animal Coalition and Petfinder.com. The shelter cares for up to 200 animals each day, as well as another 60 to 80 who live in temporary foster homes, and places more than 3,000 dogs and cats in permanent homes each year. Like many animal shelters, OK’s volunteers and staff participate in education programs for community, school and youth groups. But it’s the Habitat for Hounds project that sets Operation Kindness apart.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Blueprint for Compassion
The original Habitat for Hounds concept was threefold: collect used doghouses in good condition; accept donations of cash for the purchase of new doghouses; and get volunteers together to build doghouses. Soon, an Eagle Scout candidate asked to do his service project at Operation Kindness, and under the scout leaders’ and OK’s guidance, he built and delivered several houses to dogs in need. Then, Home Depot® donated materials to the Fort Worth Boys and Girls Club to build more houses for Habitat for Hounds. The children built 10 doghouses, which helped the animals and taught the children basic carpentry skills. Nine-year-old Francisca Cerda summed up the children’s feelings when she said, “The best part is, the dogs have a house.”
As the project grew, the Honor Society at J.J. Pearce High School in Richardson, Texas, chose Operation Kindness for its annual service project. The group’s goal was to collect 10,000 pounds of dog food and raise the funds to purchase 50 doghouses. Not only did they reach their goal, they also doubled the amount of food collected and came up with enough money for 60 houses.
Give a Dog a Home
Bob Walton, director of rescue services for OK, is now in charge of the Habitat for Hounds program. One of the perks, he says, is getting to deliver the doghouses himself. Notes Walton, “Sometimes, when a dog is chained up and without shelter, and you set a doghouse down, there’s a little light in his eyes as if he understands that his meager existence just improved a notch. And even in the saddest situations, the dogs give a little tail wag and just a glance of eye contact, and you’re on top of the world for a week.” He recalls one particular rainy, dreary December day. “Cane, a pit bull retired from the fighting ring, was on the end of his chain, curled in a ball, lying in three inches of water because every place his chain could reach was in water. He was shivering so hard from the cold that ripples were moving across the surface of the puddle. And even though he would take my arm off if he had a chance, it
felt good to build him a house where he could get the heavy chain off his neck and curl up in a Dogloo® full of hay.”
In 2001, Habitat for Hounds handed out about 32 houses. This year, they expect to distribute as many as 100. The group also hopes to educate pet owners and provide them with free dog food. As Jonnie England, executive director of Operation Kindness, put it, “It’s not going to change the world, but it has made life a little better for a few dogs.”
Julie Morris is vice president of ASPCA National Shelter Outreach.
© 2002 ASPCA
ASPCA Animal Watch – Winter 2002
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