Christmas time for the animals

Published 3:43 pm Wednesday, December 20, 2006

By By Janet Little Cooper
Christmas went to the dogs and cats Friday and Saturday at the Atmore Animal Shelter as pet owners turned out in force to have their four-legged friends photographed with Santa.
The two-day fundraising event was held in conjunction with Spayd with Heart, a non-profit organization that works to spay all cats and dogs adopted from the shelter.
"It has gone real well," animal control officer Kay Spence said. "Everybody has been real supportive. One lady came in three different times to make donations. She brought treats for all of the animals in the shelter. Then she brought blankets for them and then she brought a cash donation for Spayd with Heart."
By the end of the event, more than five animals had been adopted from the shelter and due to the coordinated efforts between the shelter and Spayd with Heart, the animals that could went to their new homes with all their shots and either spayed or neutered.
"The City of Atmore pays for our building, utilities and payroll, but it is Spayd with Heart that actually takes care of the animals", Spence said.
Lori Armenti, president of
Spayd with Heart, began the program 10 years ago in Jackson County Florida where she was living at the time. When she moved to Atmore she implemented the program in Escambia County for the Humane Society later moving it to the shelter after the Humane Society relocated to Brewton.
"I started this program because of the need," Armenti said. "The best thing that people can do is to spay or neuter their pets. We have animal shelters because people do not spay or neuter their pets."
Spayd with Heart provides funding for the shelter to have each pet spayed or neutered as well as receives the necessary immunizations. According to Armenti, a law was passed in July stating that every animal adopted out of the state of Alabama must be spayed or neutered.
"We get a reduced rate from the vet to have the necessary medical work done," Armenti said. "Everything is done to the animal prior to being adopted out. We also help people who are on a fixed income to get the proper medical treatment needed for their pets."
This was Spayd with Heart second fundraiser in three years at the shelter. Because the organization is non-profit they depend solely on contributions. Occasionally, Armenti is able to apply for funding in the form of a grant.
Participants in the weekend event were more than happy to donate knowing that their money was going to a good cause.
Ashley Rutherford brought her Doberman Coco to have his picture made with Santa. The Temple Christian Academy student, did not leave however until she had adopted a full-grown white cat.
"I have two ferrets, 10 cats, a Doberman and a Boxer," Rutherford said. "My teachers call me 'cat girl'. I just love animals."
Rutherford's father, David, said that the only difference between them and a zoo is that they don't charge admission.
Rutherford said his daughter made a red scrunchy for her dog Coco just for his picture with Santa.
For many, having the opportunity to have their pet photographed with Santa was the first time.
"I have had Cricket, a rat terrier, for six years and this is the first time I have ever had her picture made with Santa," pet owner Patricia Chastain said. "I think this is wonderful. Anybody who has love in his or her heart for animals understands. I don't have children so my heart is full of love for animals. They are all so special and each has an individual personality. This was a great way to give to God's animals for Christmas."

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