BRATTLEBORO -- This weekend, the Windham County Humane Society will give people the chance to walk it out for their four-legged friends.
The WCHS has planned the 13th Annual Walk for Animals on Saturday, Sept. 28, and it will take place at Crowell Park for the first time ever. The walk raises money that goes directly to care for the animals at the facility and local businesses have stepped up to sponsor it.
"I’m very excited about the venue change," WCHS Executive Director Annie Guion said in an e-mail. "Our walkers will enjoy an actual loop through downtown, and there is more parking, all of which is free and that just makes it easier for people to come out and support the walk."
Registration starts at 9 a.m. at the Crowell Park on Western Avenue. The walk starts at 10 a.m. and heads down Green Street to Elliot Street to Main Street and up High Street and back to Crowell Park. Prizes will be awarded around 11 a.m., once walkers have returned to the park.
According to a statement from the WCHS, the number of animals coming into the shelter is up this year by 25 percent. Some of that increase is due to more owners surrendering their pets (213 this year to date compared to 122 last year to date) and some is a result of WCHS’ transport program. The WCHS, a non-profit organization, has been taking in dogs from high-kill shelters for four years but 2013 marks the first year that the organization has taken in cats from high-kill shelters -- a new trend in New England.
Shelters across the United States are typically filled of cats and many healthy adoptable ones are euthanized due to a lack of space. Humane organizations in Vermont have more manageable populations for portions of the year and are now beginning to rescue cats from other areas of the country. The WCHS, according to Guion, took in 20 kittens from Philadelphia on Aug. 22. Within one week, 18 of them had found new homes.
The WCHS is, at the same time, working to help local animals by taking in strays as well as animals that owners can no longer keep for a variety of reasons ranging from finances to housing issues.
Low-income pet owners who are residents of Windham County can apply to the Pet Care Assistance Program and get preventative care, such as parasite control and core vaccines at low or no cost, depending on the level of need. The program is just a year old and has 202 participants who, on average, own three pets and make just more than $900 a month.
"This program has really shown us how great the need is in our community" said Guion. "These people love their animals, but they can’t always afford proper care. I can’t imagine trying to re-home these pets -- they already have loving homes, they just need a little support. And we need the support of the community to be able to keep the Pet Care Assistance Program going."
One Stop Country Pet Supply is this year’s "Top Dog" sponsor once again. Also sponsoring the event are Brattleboro Savings & Loan, Buehler & Annis, PLC Law Offices, G.S. Precision, New Chapter and the Trust Company of Vermont. Businesses have also provided prizes for walkers who raise the most money, including a $250 gift certificate from Achille Agway. C&S has donated supplies, including the ice cream cones and dog treats that will be handed out to walkers and their dogs.
For anyone interested in participating, the pledge form can be downloaded from the WCHS website at www.wchs4pets.org. Any walker who raises $50 or more will get this year’s T-shirt, and all walkers will get a Walpole Creamery ice cream cone. Well-behaved dogs on leashes are welcome (no flexi-leads).
For more information, visit www.wchs4pets.org or call 802-254-2232.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.