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September 6, 2012

Fundraiser will aid Noah's Ark

Lake Kiowa — Despite government funding and the generosity of private donors, Noah’s Ark Animal Shelter in Gainesville regularly struggles to meet its annual budget.

But shelter officials said an upcoming fundraiser, featuring acclaimed country singer Kelly McGuire, is one of several designed to keep the facility in a status beneficial to stray animals.

The event is set for 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, at Lake Kiowa Pavilion. Tickets are $20 per person, with free admission for children ages 5 and under. The fundraiser will include burgers, a cash bar, raffles and door prizes.

Organizer Donna Allen said this concert is the organization’s fourth annual Lake Kiowa benefit, offering McGuire as a repeat performer, and it generally garners Noah’s Ark around $10,000.

“People open up their hearts,” Allen said. “People open up their hearts to the shelter.”

But that profit amounts only to trickles into the bucket. The shelter has five employees and costs $250,000 to operate annually — roughly a quarter of which comes from animal medicine and maintenance costs — and the county’s $2,000 yearly allowance and the city’s $1,100 monthly stipend fail to foot these bills, even though the city also pays property utilities.

“They do a very good job, but the shelter runs mostly on donations,” Allen said.

And facility costs run even higher when Noah’s Ark holds more animals than intended.

“We have a maximum capacity of 120, and it’s even more in the summer, because summertime is ‘kitten-time,’” said Shelly Gomulak, shelter board president. “Cats breed in the warm time of year and this year, we’re swamped.”

The Noah’s Ark shelter operates primarily, officials admit, to care for stray animals that pet owners have mismanaged. Gomulak said many Gainesville residents take hold of dogs and cats as pets and then fail to conduct proper maintenance.

“I think we wouldn’t need the shelter if people spayed and neutered their pets,” she said. “Most of the animals we get are the result of unwanted pregnancies. And maybe there would still be a need for it, on a very low level.

“A lot of the animals we take in are dumped.”

Gomulak added that local pet owners seemingly fail to consider that puppies and kittens become dogs and cats with long fingernails and the tendency to run around.

Such animals are often disposed of because of scratched furniture and other damages, she said, and yet their owners should have already known better.

She also said a large dog can run as much as $20,000 in medical and maintenance expenses during its lifetime.

It appears not all owners know that, either.

“If we could get people to step up to the plate and consider that it’s a lifelong responsibility, they’d know that not everyone needs a pet,” Gomulak said. “It’s not a requirement for a happy life, and if you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t get one.”

Allen said that aside from the shelter’s overtaxed capacity, she has her own problem at home with too many pets due to the carelessness of their original owners. She said she keeps as many in the house as she legally can, a detail that frustrates her husband.

“It breaks my heart every time I see them,” Allen said, and added that she has risked life and limb by running onto highways and grabbing stray animals to rescue them from abandonment. “When you love animals, you don’t think about it. You just do it.”

For more information about the fundraiser, call (940) 665-9800.

 

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