Tue, Feb. 25

101 animals find homes at Pet-A-Palooza

Staff photo by Dean H. Borgwardt

CHRIS and Tina Halstead adopted this 3-year-old tabby at the Pet-A-Palooza gathering in Sedona.

"Meet Your New Best Friend @ Pet-A-Palooza!" drew approximately 1,500 people to the largest adoption event of its kind to come to Northern Arizona. Within six hours 101 homeless animals had found new homes.

Participants included the Humane Society of Sedona, Verde Valley Humane Society, Yavapai Humane Society, Coconino Humane Association, and the Humane Society of Northern Arizona, a privately owned Flagstaff shelter that opened its doors Friday and held its first adoption day at the event.

What usually takes about a month to accomplish was done in one day, said "B" Skielvig, executive director of the Humane Society of Sedona. That shelter saw 25 animals adopted while another cat and dog were placed Monday; nearly half of the pets they brought to the event. The Verde Valley Humane Society placed 10 cats and eight dogs.

“It’s really bizarre because the kennel is half empty,” Skielvig said Monday. “The number of people amazed me. It was far better than I thought it would be.”

Cyndi Sessoms, executive director Verde Valley Humane Society, agreed.

“It was way better than I expected. It was a great day. It was hard work but worth it.”

Skielvig credits Saturday’s success to Michigan commercial real estate broker Joe Sowerby, who spearheaded it. In addition to being well organized, she said Sowerby’s experience helped them avoid the pitfalls of previous events. After all, Sowerby has 11 years of experience doing this.

Over the past decade his efforts in Michigan have blossomed into the two largest pet adoption events in the country: “Meet Your Best Friend at the Zoo” and “Pet-A-Palooza.” Since 1993 nearly 11,000 animals have been adopted, the part-time Sedona resident said.

"It's my second job that I don't get paid for," he said. He sees finding new homes for man's best friend as his opportunity to do the right thing. " I belong to these guys in the cages. For me the payoff is animals going home."

Georgia Drought and her daughter Shavon, 10, read about Pet-A-Palooza! in the newspaper and decided to see what was available. They had been looking for a small dog for several weeks. On Sept. 11 they found the perfect match – a soft 6-week-old German Shepherd mix. Before leaving, Shavon had already named him “Balto.” The Sedona family was heading home and then to the store for dog food.

Drought said she was pleased with the variety of pets available and appreciates that “Balto” is neutered and has most of his shots.

"Meet Your New Best Friend @ Pet-A-Palooza!" offered a relaxed outdoor atmosphere and a variety of healthy animals looking for new homes. In addition, Canyon Pet Hospital provided veterinary services, Sedona Pottery offered handmade pet bowls, and Susan Faith debuted her new book, “Puppy Love,” a whimsical tale about the importance of pet care and child safety. Faith donated 20 percent of book sales that day to the Humane Society of Sedona. Animal Control also was onsite with dog licenses. Wal-Mart of Cottonwood donated 25 microchips each to the SHS and VVHS so several pets went home with a new implant.

Word of this event found its way to Chris and Tina Halstead, who had wanted a playmate for their 7-year-old cat. Having everything available at one location clinched the deal, said Chris Halstead, of Cornville.

“It beats going from shelter to shelter. It’s a convenient way to do what we wanted to do,” declared Chris, who recently relocated to the Verde Valley from New York.

After about two hours and $20 later they left with a cuddly 3-year-old black and white neutered tabby that had been microchipped.

“He’s low key and friendly,” he said of his new pet. “He’s chilled.”

Next year promises to be bigger and better as Sowerby plans to make it a tradition in Sedona. He aims to double the number of shelters participating, have larger tents, a dog agility track, and more animal-related vendors on site.

Sowerby’s personal goal Saturday was to see 100 animals go home. With that goal met, he hopes to double that number next year. The Humane Society of Sedona and Verde Valley Humane Society plan to be there again.

“We’ll definitely do it again,” Skielvig said. "Thanks to the event several large dogs and mature animals now have a new home, she added. “It also allows other animals that didn’t get adopted a chance to be adopted as more people will notice them.”

Sowerby admits his goal would be to never have to have one of these events. However, until people commit to spaying and neutering their pets, events like this are necessary, he added.

“We call them man’s best friend but every year we euthanize 8 to 10 million healthy cats and dogs. That’s a helluva way to treat man’s best friend.”

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