Legislating change for Michigan’s animals

How many times have you thought “There ought to be a law!” when thinking about animal welfare and sheltering? Some of animal welfare’s top leaders in legislative approaches, lobbying, and the political process will be speaking at the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance’s “Getting to the Goal” Conference in Troy, Mich., on Sept. 4-5, 2014.

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Nathan Winograd

Nathan Winograd

Nathan Winograd

Executive director of the national No Kill Advocacy Center, Nathan Winograd is a graduate of Stanford Law School, and a former criminal prosecutor and corporate attorney. He has spoken nationally and internationally on animal sheltering issues, has written animal protection legislation at the state and national levels, has created successful no-kill programs in both urban and rural communities, and has consulted with a wide range of animal protection groups, including some of the largest and best known in the nation. His book Redemption presents the No-Kill Equation (the formula for ending the killing of animals in shelters), promotes the need to legislate no-kill through shelter reform legislation, and includes a proposed model law. Redemption is the most critically acclaimed book on the topic in the United States, winner of five national book awards, and the inspiration for a documentary film of the same name.

He’ll be presenting  the Michigan premiere of Redemption, a session on legislating shelter reform, and an inspirational keynote address, “Yes, We Can!”

Julie Lewin

Julie Lewin

Julie Lewin

Julie Lewin is founder and president of the National Institute for Animal Advocacy (NIFAA). The organization’s mission is to convince advocates that state and local political organizations must be a mandatory component of their advocacy and to teach them how to be political. She’s been an animal rights activist, a statehouse lobbyist for several animal advocacy organizations, and a journalist. She is author of the highly-praised, comprehensive how-to book, “Get Political for Animals and Win the Laws They Need: Why and How to Form a Voting Bloc for Animals in Your Town, City, County and State — and the Simple Steps It Takes to Do It.” Her webinars include “Get Political for Animals and Win the Laws They Need,” ” How the Lawmaking Process REALLY Works, and How to Impact Each Step,” How to Launch and Run Your Political Organization for Animals,” and “How to Reform Your Local Animal Shelter and Animal Control Department.”

Lewin will be presenting on “Citizen Lobbying: How to Effectively Advocate for Animals to Legislators
Power.” She’ll cover how to win strong laws for animals requires a political organization that endorses candidates for election and grows constantly; how lawmaking is an elaborate step-by-step process, with each step a danger for your bill; why your group needs fewer members to be powerful than you realize; easy recruitment strategies for the group and you, the individual activist; why typical petitions, media coverage and protests are weak tools for winning legislation, and more.

Courtney Protz-Sanders

Courtney Protz-Sanders and Bubba

Courtney Protz-Sanders and Bubba

Courtney Protz-Sanders  is a Board Trustee for Michigan’s Political Action Committee for Animals (Mi-PACA) and  is the founder and executive director of Paws for Life Rescue, a foster-based animal welfare organization operating throughout southeast Michigan. Courtney has more than 15 years of experience in the field. Employed by the Dumb Friends League, a large open admission humane society with intake numbers averaging 75 a day in Denver, Colorado, from 1999 through 2004, Courtney has since volunteered her time at various shelters in Oakland County. She is an active volunteer of the National Disaster Animal Response Team (NDART) and was deployed to New Orleans following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, to San Diego following the wildfires in 2007, and most recently to a Livingston County puppy mill bust in May 2014. Courtney works full-time in the auto industry in addition to managing Paws for Life Rescue and Mi-PACA. She graduated from Michigan State University in 1999 with a Bachelor of Arts in communication, then earned a Master of Science degree in public relations in 2002 from the University of Denver. Courtney’s family consists of rescued animals: pibble mixes Peanut and Tyson and cats Marley and Pippin, as well as several foster animals at any given time.

At the 2014 conference, Protz-Sanders will be presenting “Smashing the Political Brick Wall: Advocating for Change at the City and County Levels,” sharing how animal lovers can band together to make changes at the local level to improve the lives of their community’s pets, farm animals and wildlife. This very simple concept of a PAC as the voice for Michigan’s animals has already led to major changes in cities and counties throughout Michigan. She’ll also speak on “How We Make it Work: Busting Myths, Working Together, Best Practices, and Saving Treatable Pets.”

For more information about the conference, to apply for a scholarship, or to register, click here.

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Shelter directors on achieving no-kill success in Michigan

Can animal shelters in Michigan really save all their healthy and treatable pets? Yes, say these shelter directors who are in the trenches doing it!

Shelter directors from open-admission public and private shelters in Michigan and Minnesota will be sharing their secrets of success at the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance’s “Getting to the Goal” Conference in Troy, Mich., on Sept. 4-5, 2014.

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Jeff Randazzo

Jeff Randazzo

Jeff Randazzo, Chief Animal Control Officer, Macomb County

Jeff Randazzo currently serves as the chief animal control officer and director of Macomb County Animal Control, where he has overseen an increase in the shelter’s save rate from 34 percent to 71 percent since he took charge in 2012.

Jeff attended Michigan State University where he studied equine science and livestock management, which prepared him for his employment with the City of Detroit as a horse trainer and instructor for the Detroit Mounted Police.

For the last decade, Jeff’s professional career has concentrated on various aspects of welfare for homeless animals, from animal evaluator and adoption counselor, to veterinary and surgical assistant, to animal control for both municipal and nonprofit shelters. Chief Randazzo brings with him a new vision and strong law enforcement skills, which makes him an amazing advocate for animal welfare.

Reva Laituri & Bella

Reva Laituri, President, Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter (UPAWS)

Reva Laituri

Reva Laituri has been a volunteer at Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter (UPAWS) for 25 years, and has served on the Board of Directors for 17 years, the last five as president. UPAWS received Michigan Outstanding Shelter Award in the “Open Admission Medium” category in 2010 and 2011.

Currently Reva also serves as chairperson of the personnel, fundraising, and awards committees, sits on several others, and is the assistant treasurer. She will be presenting on “The Economics of No-Kill Sheltering.”

Reva lives in Negaunee with her husband, five dogs, and the occasional foster dog.

Tanya Hildendorf

Tanya Hilgendorf & Georgia

Tanya Hilgendorf, President and CEO, Humane Society of Huron Valley

Tanya Hilgendorf is the Executive Director of the Humane Society of Huron Valley, which handles animal control and adoptions for Washtenaw County. She has a BA in Political Science from University of Michigan and a Masters in Social Work Administration and Public Policy from Wayne State University.?

Tanya’s life’s focus is on protecting the vulnerable, and transformational leadership that helps failing nonprofit organizations achieve mission success. Prior to working at HSHV, she was the Executive Director of Ozone House, serving runaway and homeless youth and families in crisis.? She has been with HSHV for nine years.?

With an incredible team of staff, volunteers, and supporters, HSHV has become a thriving, dynamic multi-service animal welfare organization with nearly 100 employees, 700 volunteers, and an 87 percent save rate focused on rescuing, healing, saving and protecting. It resides in a newly built state-of-the-art animal care center that helps nearly 15,000 animals a year.? HSHV has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, and has received numerous awards for customer service, management excellence, and humane education, and was named MPFA Outstanding Large Open Admissions Shelter three years running.? Tanya currently is the proud mom of six felines, a German Shepherd, and a teenaged human.

Mike Fry

Mike Fry Animal Ark

Mike Fry, Director, Animal Ark

Mike Fry is the Executive Director of Animal Ark, Minnesota’s first and largest No-Kill animal shelter. He’ll be presenting on enrichment for shelter pets and fundraising, as well as delivering a lunchtime keynote on leadership.

Mike is the former clinic coordinator for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic at the University of Minnesota and the former Rehabilitation Manager for the HOWL Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Seattle, Washington. 

Under his leadership, Animal Ark created the first No-Kill community in Minnesota and maintains one of the highest save rates in the nation. Mike is also the creator of Just One Day, a campaign of Animal Ark and the No Kill Advocacy Center which encourages shelters across the nation to embrace the programs and services of the No-Kill Equation every June 11, the anniversary of Tompkins County, New York’s, No-Kill success. Each year, this campaign saves the lives of tens of thousands of shelter animals. He is also co-host of Animal Wise Radio.

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Veterinarians save lives in Michigan animal shelters

Most people might think shelter medicine is mostly about spay/neuter, but a group of progressive veterinarians are changing paradigms all over the United States as they develop innovative, data-driven strategies for helping homeless pets.

The Michigan Pet Fund Alliance is proud to welcome some of the nation’s leading shelter medicine experts to our “Getting to the Goal” Conference in Troy, Mich., on Sept. 4-5, 2014.

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Our veterinary presenters include:

Dr. Ronald D. Schultz

Dr. Ronald Schultz

Dr. Ronald Schultz

Ronald D. Schultz, PhD, Diplomate, ACVM, is the founding chair of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences, and director of the Maddie’s Laboratory for Diagnosis and Prevention of Shelter Diseases, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, having held that position for the past 30 years.

He will be speaking on the importance of vaccinating all shelter pets before or immediately upon intake, and presenting case studies supporting a disease and cost reduction effect of this policy. Additionally, as time permits, he will speak with veterinarians and lay staff members about other disease-control practices in animal shelters.

Prior to joining the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1982, Dr. Schultz was on the faculty at the Veterinary Colleges at Cornell University (1970-78) and at Auburn University (1978-82). Dr. Schultz has long-standing scientific interests in the following areas: immunopathogenesis of infectious diseases; developmental aspects of immunity; effects of environmental factors on immune systems; vaccinology. Research projects in his laboratory are numerous and varied. Primary emphasis is on the pathogenesis of infectious diseases of dogs, cats and cattle. Dr. Schultz has authored numerous articles on immunology and infectious diseases. He has trained many graduate students and post-doctoral fellows and has received many grants for his research and held a number of patents.

Dr. Schultz’s presentation is sponsored by a generous grant from Maddie’s Fund.

Dr. Julie Levy

Julie Levy

Dr. Julie Levy

Julie Levy, DVM, PhD, is director of Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida. She will be co-presenting on a revolutionary new approach to community cat management with Dr. Kate Hurley.

Dr. Levy’s clinical interests center on the health and welfare of animals in shelters, feline infectious diseases, and humane alternatives for cat population control, including contraceptive vaccines for cats. She is the founder of Operation Catnip, a nonprofit university-based community cat spay/neuter program that has sterilized nearly 40,000 cats in Gainesville, Florida, since 1998.

Dr. Levy has published more than 100 journal articles and textbook chapters, many focusing on community cat issues. She is the recipient of the Carl J. Norden-Pfizer Distinguished Teacher Award, Outstanding Woman Veterinarian of the Year, and the European Society of Feline Medicine Award for Outstanding Contributions in the Field of Feline Medicine.

Dr. Kate Hurley

kate with adorable kit URI study

Dr. Kate Hurley

Kate Hurley, DVM, MPVM, began her career as an animal control officer in 1989. She graduated from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 1999, and in 2001 returned to UC Davis to become the first in the world to undertake a residency in Shelter Medicine. She now directs the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program.

Dr. Hurley will be joining with Dr. Julie Levy in a presentation on new approaches to community cat management.

Dr. Hurley’s proudest achievements include co-authoring the Association of Shelter Veterinarians’ Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters, and co-editing the textbook Infectious Disease Management in Animal Shelters. She loves all things shelter-related, but her particular interests include welfare in confinement, humane and effective community-cat management strategies, infectious disease, and unusually short dogs.

Dr. Karen Overall

Karen Overall and Toby

Dr. Karen Overall and Toby

Karen L. Overall, MA, VMD, PhD, DACVB, CAAB, has BA, MA and VMD degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and a PhD degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She did her residency training in veterinary behavioral medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Overall is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (DACVB) and is certified by the Animal Behavior Society as an Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB).

She will be presenting on the shortcomings of current behavior evaluations done in shelters, and discussiong their impact and alternatives.

Dr. Overall has served on the faculties of both the veterinary and medical schools at the University of Pennsylvania and ran the Behavior Clinic at Penn Vet for more than a dozen years. She lectures at veterinary schools world-wide and is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences.

Dr. Overall is also editor-in-chief for Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research (Elsevier). She has been named the North American Veterinary Conference (NAVC) Small Animal Speaker of the Year and frequently consults with governments world-wide about legal and welfare issues of pet dogs and behavioral, welfare and performance issues pertaining to working dogs. Her research focuses on neurobehavioral genetics of dogs, the development of normal and abnormal behaviors and how we assess behavior, especially as concerns working dogs. Her favorite collaborator is her husband, Dr. Art Dunham, with whom she shares a household of four much-loved rescue Australian Shepherds.

Dr. Overall’s presenation is sponsored by Dr. Marty Becker.

Dr. James Averill

Dr. James Averill

Dr. James Averill

Since taking over as Michigan State Veterinarian last year, James Averill, DVM, PhD, has made huge changes in the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD’s) companion animal programs, particularly in enforcing regulations in poor-performing animal shelters in the state.

Dr. Averill will appear with his staff to participate in a Q&A with conference attendees and discuss the successes and challenges of MDARD’s programs.

Dr. Averill received his doctorate of veterinary medicine in 2001 from Michigan State University. Upon graduation he went to work for USDA Veterinary Services, Michigan, office as a Veterinary Medical Officer for bovine TB.

Dr. Averill returned to Michigan State in 2002 to pursue a PhD in Epidemiology, which was completed in February 2009. From 2006 to 2008, Dr. Averill worked for the Michigan Department of Community Health as Deputy Coordinator for Pandemic Influenza. In August of 2009, Dr. Averill joined Michigan Department of Agriculture, Animal Industry Division as the Bovine TB Eradication Program Coordinator. In June of 2011, he became the Animal Industry Division Director. Then in June 2013, Dr. Averill assumed the role of State Veterinarian while maintaining Division Director responsibilities. He resides in Webberville, MI, with his wife, Donna.

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Can’t afford to attend the Michigan No-Kill Conference? We can help!

Kitten On The ComputerThe more people who learn how to save the lives of all Michigan’s healthy and treatable homeless pets, the faster we’ll reach the goal of saving them all. That’s why we maintain a scholarship fund to cover registration fees for those who could use a little help.

If you need a hand, please apply for a scholarship to the 2014 Michigan Getting to the Goal Conference, being held Sept. 4-5 in Troy, Michigan. The online application is here.

And if you have a hand to lend to your fellow animal advocates, please make a contribution to our conference scholarship fund — thank you on behalf of the animals they’ll save with what they learn at the conference!

Helping people means helping their pets

All too often in the animal welfare movement, we forget that pets and people are a package deal. Six activists dedicated to helping pets by helping people will be speaking at the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance’s “Getting to the Goal” Conference in Troy, Mich., on Sept. 4-5, 2014.

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Kim Wolf

Kim Wolf

Kim Wolf

Kim Wolf is the Executive Director of Beyond Breed, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to supporting the bond between people and pets. She runs a grassroots project called “Ruff Riders” that assists pet owners in under-resourced neighborhoods in New York City.

Kim is also employed as a social worker for a program supporting senior citizens and their pets in Manhattan. Her previous experience in animal welfare includes positions at the Pennsylvania SPCA, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, and Animal Farm Foundation.

Kim has also been a social worker for older adults and vulnerable individuals in New York City and Philadelphia, and she spent four years at AARP in Washington, DC doing policy and communications projects. She has presented at numerous animal welfare and aging conferences around the country, and she has received awards for her community outreach and advocacy efforts (including the “Humane Outreach Award” from the Pennsylvania SPCA). Kim lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her six adopted dogs.

Amber Sitko

Amber Sitko

Amber Sitko

By profession, Amber is a computer consultant with Microsoft for over 14 years and has a Masters of Business Administration from Wayne State University. By passion, she founded All About Animals Rescue (AAAR) in 2005.

The organization has gone from primarily adopting out animals, from over 300 a year, to opening a full time spay/neuter clinic in 2008.

The operational budget has grown from $80,000 annually to over $2.5 million currently, reaching more than 60,000 cats and dogs each year with care.

Amber has successfully obtained grants in the tune of over $1 million dollars and developed fund raising and strategic plans for the organization. She has also created Spay Michigan, a statewide toll-free hotline modeled after SPAY/USA, a TNR program that is the first of its kind in Michigan, and has worked with HSUS to make Detroit a Pets for Life mentorship city.

Jennifer Clarkson

Jen Clarkson

Jennifer Clarkson

Jennifer Clarkson is the Board President and Executive Director of Dog Aide in the city of Detroit. Dog Aide’s mission is to educate dog owners, identify needs of communities, supply owners with food and daily care items, provide access and financial help for routine veterinary care, and network with rescues and community organizations to help people get the food and financial assistance they need.

Jen has a background in health care, including long term care and emergency medicine. She earned her BS from CMU in community development and has been actively involved in volunteer work for many years.

She is the proud mother of two young boys as well as Grace (rescue pitbull), Squelch (ornery old rescue kitty), and Rainbow (rescue turtle).

Christina Kotowski

Christina Kotowski

Christina Kotowski

Christina Kotowski became involved in animal rescue in 2010, volunteering and fostering for a number of rescues in Southeast Michigan.

In 2013, she became active in organizing and educating her community to bring awareness to the issue of breed discriminatory legislation in Waterford, MI.

Christina began her involvement in Dog Aide shortly after it was founded in 2012.

She began volunteering in community outreach and assisting answering the Dog Aide Hotline.

Her passion for the people and pets of Detroit led her to take a leadership role as community liaison, managing the distribution of food and supplies to over 40-50 households each month.

Melissa Miller-Szumlinski, CPDT-KA

Melissa Szumlinski

Melissa Szumlinski

After matching dogs with families as an adoption counselor in 2005 and working with shelter dogs on socialization and basic obedience, Melissa realized one of the best ways to keep dogs out of rescues and shelters was to help restore the original spirit that caused dogs to bond with humans in the first place. She began studying dog training and behavior and received her CPDT-KA credentials in spring of 2011.

Along with eight other individuals, she co-founded Dog Aide in the spring of 2012. The organization’s focus is on increasing pet retention and educating pet owners on dog health, behavior, and daily care.

Melissa is contract staff for the Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team establishing emergency animal sheltering during natural disasters and large-scale hoarding or neglect criminal cases.

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The nuts and bolts of sheltering at Michigan No-Kill Conference

From the basics of the no-kill movement, to challenging beliefs about how to get pets adopted with data that might surprise you, to an overview of how communities across the United States have gone no-kill, the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance has you covered!

Three board members of MPFA will be speaking at the “Getting to the Goal” Conference in Troy, Mich., on Sept. 4-5, 2014.

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Deborah Schutt

Deborah Schutt and Cutty

Deborah Schutt and Cutty

Deborah Schutt is chair and one of the founders of the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance. She is an urban planner by profession.

After 21 years working for the public sector, she established her own consulting firm 17 years ago, which allowed her to volunteer as a foster parent for puppies. As she became more familiar and more involved with animal welfare, Deborah became acutely aware of the lack of planning, collaboration and use of systematic approaches, which were successfully used in other areas of her profession, to solve and address problems and issues in animal welfare. She became convinced that animal homelessness in Michigan could be solved, including saving the more than 100,000 animals who die each year in shelters, if a different approach was taken.

Since the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance has been providing information on best practices and supporting advocacy, Michigan shelters have reduced the number of animals killed annually in shelters from 120,000 to 44,000.

Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson and Tyler

Chris Anderson began his journey in animal welfare in 2007 volunteering with his wife, Lorene, at the Almost Home animal shelter in Southfield, MI. Later he joined the board of directors of the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance.

Chris is the chair for the 2014 MPFA No Kill conference and has served on various planning committees for previous conferences. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Michigan Political Action Committee for Animals.

Chris currently resides in southeastern Michigan, where his cat Tyler is frequently on his mind.

Christie Keith

Christie Keith and Lita

Christie Keith and Lita

Christie Keith is social media manager for The Shelter Pet Project, the first public service campaign promoting an animal welfare cause in the Ad Council’s 60-year history. She also consults on social media and communications for a number of veterinary and animal welfare organizations, including Maddie’s Fund and Dr. Marty Becker, the veterinarian on “The Dr. Oz Show” and “Good Morning America.” She’ll be presenting, “What if Everything You Know About Marketing Pets for Adoption is Wrong?”

As a writer and editor, Christie’s work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle/SFGate.com, Bark Magazine, and the nationally-syndicated newspaper feature “Pet Connection.” She is the past director of The Pet Care Forum on America Online as well as of the Veterinary Information Network’s pet owner website, and was founding editor of VeterinaryPartner.com. She has spoken on marketing, PR, and traditional and new media at a number of animal sheltering conferences including the National No-Kill Conference, Best Friends’ No More Homeless Pets, and HSUS Animal Care Expo.

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Q&A with Michigan State Veterinarian James Averill, DVM, PhD

James AverillSince taking over as Michigan State Veterinarian last year, James Averill, DVM, PhD, has made huge changes in the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD’s) companion animal programs, particularly in enforcing regulations in poor-performing animal shelters in the state.

Dr. Averill will appear with his staff at the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance’s Getting to the Goal Conference to participate in a Q&A with conference attendees and discuss the successes and challenges of MDARD’s programs.

The conference will be held Sept. 4-5, 2014, in Troy, Mich. For additional information and to register, click here.

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About the Presenter

Dr. Averill received his doctorate of veterinary medicine in 2001 from Michigan State University.  Upon graduation he went to work for USDA Veterinary Services, Michigan, office as a Veterinary Medical Officer for bovine TB. 

Dr. Averill returned to Michigan State in 2002 to pursue a PhD in Epidemiology, which was completed in February 2009.  From 2006 to 2008, Dr. Averill worked for the Michigan Department of Community Health as Deputy Coordinator for Pandemic Influenza.  In August of 2009, Dr. Averill joined Michigan Department of Agriculture, Animal Industry Division as the Bovine TB Eradication Program Coordinator.  In June of 2011, he became the Animal Industry Division Director.  Then in June 2013, Dr. Averill assumed the role of State Veterinarian while maintaining Division Director responsibilities. 

Dr. Averill resides in Webberville, MI, with his wife, Donna.

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Buy tickets now for Michigan premiere of no-kill documentary!

RedemptionFilmCan America become a no-kill nation? The new documentary Redemption explores the people and ideas behind the no-kill revolution in the United States, answering that question with a resounding “yes.”

Redemption will have its Michigan premiere at the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance’s 2014 Getting to the Goal Conference on Thursday, Sept. 4, in Troy, MI.

In addition to the film and presentation, there is a companion book for the film that profiles the communities and activists in the film, the No Kill philosophy, the film’s transcript, what you can do, and much more.

This material will be exclusively available to those who come see the film and presentation.

Redemption is based on the book of the same name, and author and No Kill Advocacy Center Director Nathan Winograd will be a featured presenter at the conference, along with other leading experts in sheltering and shelter medicine.

The full line-up of speakers can be viewed here.

Attendees at the MPFA Awards Banquet, recognizing the top-performing shelters in the state, will be able to view the film at no additional cost.

Individual tickets for the movie only are also available.

Find more information, register for the conference, or purchase tickets here.

In memory of Cuddles: Farewell to dog who inspired Michigan no-kill effort

On Sunday, July 29, my precious companion angel I called Cutty transitioned from my earthly care to a place of pure love – some call it the rainbow bridge, some heaven, some call it being in the presence of God. You may know me, Deborah Schutt, or you may know Cutty, or you may not know either of us but are aware of the mission that Cutty is directly responsible for: To make Michigan a no kill state for homeless healthy and treatable dogs and cats.

Let me tell you how this beautiful dog came to earth with a mission that you can help become a reality. I was 45 years old and making a career transition that would allow me to have a pet as I would be working from my home. As a single woman never having been responsible for anyone or anything but myself, I questioned if I had the maturity and discipline to be responsible for a pet. After all, it was a lifetime commitment. So I decided to foster homeless pets to get a feel if I could make a lifetime commitment.

I never lived with a cat or a kitten so I didn’t think that was a good fit and my yard was not fenced so I decided that puppies would be my choice to foster. They were a lot of work – especially since most had some type of illness that needed medication but I realized over time and cleaning up a tremendous of diarrhea and replacing my perfume for the smell of chlorine bleach, that I could be a pet parent and I reasoned that one of my fosters would speak to my heart and I would “just know” when the right one would come along.

I received a call on December 31st, 1998 that a cardboard box filled with 7 puppies were left in a K-Mart parking lot. The puppies had upper respiratory – could I take them? Seven? No I wasn’t prepared for seven. But I would take part of the litter, so I picked up two furry boys and a girl from the shelter and drove home in the beginning of a blinding snow storm with three little sick ones crying and barking in the back seat on the tense slippery ride home.

I named them Teddy, Squirter and Cuddles. Cuddles because that is all she wanted to do and appeared to me to be mean to her brothers in every attempt to hog my attention. I didn’t like her lack of sharing and actually thought she was a little snot.

Squirter was the first to be adopted from my home and I witnessed a loss by Cuddles which I thought strange since she was so mean to him. A little later Teddy got adopted and again I witnessed a loss by Cuddles missing her brother. She was healthy now and not being my favorite foster – I was ready to take her back to the shelter so she could find a family.

I won’t go into all the details but after half a dozen phone calls and weeks of trying to take her back I decided to keep her. I later learned that there was divine intervention and a true miracle occurred with those half dozen phone calls that allowed the needed time for little Miss Cuddles to worm herself into my heart.

I continued to foster. Cuddles who I believed they gave passing marks in puppy class only because they didn’t want such a rambunctious puppy back repeating the class, was becoming a good big sister or Mom to the incoming puppies and dogs. As time passed, I realized that Cutty – I never liked that name Cuddles – which I gave her never thinking she would be sticking around – started to teach me lesson after lesson.

When one of the fosters escaped the house and no one could catch her, Cutty would go out to the yard and coach Nellie back into the yard to stay and lay with her – which after days of repeating this practice allowed us to recapture Nellie.

When the bunny made her nest in the flower bed and I saw Cutty rooting around and heard the squealing of the baby bunnies – I told her she needed to protect the bunnies and not scare them and she settled next to the nest providing protective watch only moving to chase the cat that had other intentions. Even when a finch flew into the window and stunned itself, Cutty went to check it out. She nosed the bird which eventually flew to the bridge railing and Cutty followed and watched as if to make sure it was alright. I chuckled because occasionally Cutty would “point” and here she was being protective.

She greeted me at the door every time I returned as if I was a world famous rock star and it was our first meeting, even if I had just returned from a 30 minute trip to the corner store. There was not one mean bone – actually I don’t think cell in Cutty. I never heard her so much even growl. When we met “unfriendly” dogs while walking she was always friendly even to the point when owners were pulling a snapping dog away, Cutty wagging her tail would back up a little and look at them as if there was no possible way that they could not love her – well at least like her. And when I would get angry, yell or swear she would rush to me from wherever she was and would literally come over to me, get on her hind paws, with her two front paws around my neck and she would lean in and give me a hug. As if to say “this negative emotion is not worth it, let it go.” And how could you stay angry when you have a dog trying to pull you into a hug?

I watched her lessons of expressing joy and appreciation to those you love – ALL THE TIME – literally – ALL THE TIME; and never responding back to a dislike or a fear with more dislike or fear; to care and give protection to those in need and truly live in the moment. And I committed to her that I would give back to her kind for all that she had given to me – the unconditional love, the joy and the life lessons.

As a result the Pet Fund was formed.

I was aware when I started to foster that homeless animal welfare desperately needed to be updated as it was operating the same way it did when I was a kid. I knew that as a planner there are solutions to problems but not without analyzing the causes and targeting the solutions. I knew there had to be a formula, a series of programs or steps to save the 100,000 homeless dogs and cats killed annually in Michigan shelters. We as the Pet Fund figured some of them out but when we stumbled upon the No Kill Equation by Nathan Winograd – the proven formula, the focus for the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance was cemented. We needed to work to make sure that every shelter in Michigan implemented the No Kill Equation.

What we NEVER expected was that it would be so hard to change the mindset of shelter management away from their status quo. I NEVER expected that the place that gave me my treasured Cutty, the Michigan Humane Society, would be so resistant to change while killing 7 out of 10 animals in their care.

Cutty came to this earth with a mission to touch me in such a profound way that I would work tirelessly to make profound changes for her kind – the homeless cats and dogs – those furry teachers of unconditional love, and living in the moment.

There is so much to be done and it can’t stop with Cutty’s passing. My heart is broken and I will miss her beyond description.

Please help make Cutty’s legacy a no-kill Michigan with a memorial gift to http://www.michiganpetfund.org/donations.php or mail a check to the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance, c/o Michigan Commerce Bank, 1988 Opdyke, Auburn Hills, MI 48326. Demand of your elected officials for public shelters or board members of not for profit shelters institute the programs of the no kill equation. It isn’t a matter of money. It is a matter of change. And of course spay/neuter your pet and support those organizations trying to save the lives of all the healthy and treatable homeless cats and dogs is their care.

Please feel free to share Cutty’s story with others.

November 26, 1998 – July 29, 2012