Animal shelter volunteer designs Web site
By By Janet Little Cooper
On any given day, the kennels at the Atmore Animal Shelter are filled with abandoned dogs and cats who poke their wet noses, paws, or wagging tails through the holes to be noticed by potential owners looking to adopt.
In an effort to expand the possibilities of the animals finding a place to call home, 15-year-old Carly Landa of Pensacola, Fla., has teamed up with the Atmore shelter by creating and maintaining a Web site for the shelter that allows people to see pictures of the available animals as well as read a detailed description of them.
Landa, the daughter of Alto Products president, David Landa, realized the need for the Web site after spending time during her summer at the shelter with the abandoned and stray animals.
"I got the idea for the Web site two years ago, when I started spending time at the shelter," Carly Landa said. "I started by simply promoting on other people's Web sites. I posted the shelter's information on many different shelter and rescue organization directories. I came across a site called petfinders.com, where an individual or an organization can post their animals up for adoption.
"I posted some pictures with descriptions, but I thought that the animal shelter should have a Web site that displays their animals, but is also informative. With this idea in mind, I put together an outline with all the information I thought would be necessary to help inform the public and adopt out animals. I took the information and sat down with William Reynolds. Mr. Reynolds develops Web sites for businesses, one of which is Alto Products Corp. He was extremely helpful and did an amazing job of helping me with the Web site. It was everything I hoped it would be."
The Web site can be found at http://www.atmorepetrescue.org. The Web site states the shelter's mission statement as well as providing information regarding the shelter's policies on adopting animals and Atmore's city laws concerning pets and their owners.
Prospective owners are able to view photos and descriptions for each of the pets at the shelter and are then instructed on how to contact the shelter if they find a pet they are interested in. The site also offers a contact page that allows viewers to request a certain kind of pet that they are specifically looking for.
It is obvious that Landa loves animals by the detailed descriptions she writes for each pet on the Web site.
"I can't remember a time that I didn't have pets or want them," Carly Landa said. "I've always loved animals, but I wasn't always interested in rescuing them. It wasn't until just a few years ago that I realized how much animal suffering there is in the world. Dogs and cats are roaming the streets hungry, or being abused or neglected. I wanted to do something about that. The purpose of the Atmore Animal Shelter is to speak up for those who can't speak for themselves. Their goal is to take in strays and give them food, shelter and ultimately a good home. They have a mission to stop neglect and abuse. These are things that I want to fight too and it's great that I can do something to help."
The Web site is not the only way in which Landa is lending a hand to the animals at the Atmore shelter. She adopted a cat from there and is also serving as a foster home for a stray dog that she carried to the shelter herself.
"I've had dogs, birds, rats, mice, rabbits and most recently a cat," Landa said. "Currently I have three dogs and one cat. Two of my dogs were strays or rescues. My cat, Shana, is a souvenir from my time spent at the shelter. When I was working there I fell in love and had to have her. My dad didn't think we needed more animals, but I begged and pleaded until he caved in. She's a great cat and the whole family loves her… with the exception of my dad.
"The newest addition to our family is a foster dog named Maggie. Maggie was a stray until we caught her and brought her to the shelter. She was terrified of everything. For some reason, I couldn't stop thinking about her. She was miserable and lived in fear. My heart went out to her and I spent a lot of time with her. When I said I wanted to take her home, Rhonda and Kay (Atmore Animal Shelter Animal Control officers) must have thought I was crazy. Out of all the friendly, happy, outgoing dogs, I wanted Maggie. I can't explain it, but I saw something in her. She's been living with us for just two weeks, and she's already a completely different dog. She is happy, friendly and completely spoiled. Her tail is always wagging and she's curious about everything. Everyday with her is a privilege. It's been so much fun to watch her progress. She'll be ready for a permanent home soon and we'll be looking for a family who has a lot of time, love and patience."
Landa has received some inquiries from the listings she posted on petfinders.com, but not from the Atmore Animal Shelter Web site itself due to people not knowing about it. She is currently working on trying to get other rescue organizations involved in the Web site's event page with the hope of being able to list other animal-related activities such as Humane Society fundraisers or pet adoption days. She plans to work on creating a similar Web site for Pensacola during her school holidays or next summer.
Landa attends the IB program at Pensacola High School in Pensacola, Fla., and is heavily involved in theatre by participating in plays at school and at the Pensacola Little Theatre where she also takes classes and teaches drama to second and third grade students.
She is also a member of the Southeastern Teen Shakespeare Company, an organization to educate aspiring actors about Shakespeare and to improve their acting abilities.
Landa also participates in the school drama club and Latin club and is a member of the PHS cross-country team.
While she will not be able to spend time at the shelter during school, she will continue to volunteer her time through the Web site for the sake of the animals.
"I learned a lot this summer," Carly Landa said. "The experience has been heartwarming and heartbreaking. The hardest and most controversial part of work at an animal shelter is the euthanizing. Many feel that it is cruel and don't understand why it is done."
Landa said that the irresponsibility in pet owners has led to an overpopulation of under cared for animals without the means to rescue each one.
"The shelter tries as hard as possible, but at the end of the day sometimes it is the best thing you can do for an animal that might otherwise spend its life alone, afraid, hungry, or in pain," Carly Landa said. "For me, this was a very difficult lesson to learn. It has made me understand that doing what is right is not always easy. I learned responsibility and to put my own feelings aside for the sake of others.
"Besides that, working at the shelter has taught me a great deal of discipline and work ethic. I worked hard and at the end of the day I felt satisfied with myself. I learned about that great feeling that comes after a long day of doing something useful. I can hardly wait for next summer!"
Landa has spent her last three summer vacations doing volunteer work at the shelter. She has done it all from cleaning cages, washing food bowls, doing laundry, cleaning litter boxes and mopping kennels. And of course, spending one-on-one time with the animals by running around with them outdoors.
"Carly would ride with me to Atmore every morning," David Landa said. "We would leave around 5:30 a.m. every morning and then not return home until around 6:30 p.m. This is how she has spent her summer vacation for the past three summers. We are really proud of her."
Rhonda Kelmer from the Atmore shelter is equally proud of her. Kelmer said that Landa has an obvious love and compassion for animals and has been a tremendous asset for the shelter and the animals alike.
Landa plans to continue volunteering her time to help animals in need and although she is not exactly certain about what she wants to do with her future, she does know that she will always be an animal lover.