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Internationally Acclaimed Animal Advocate Mike Arms comes to East Texas.

Animal advocate to share shelter success secrets with Longview residents By Glenn Evans This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it | Posted: Sunday, February 19, 2012 4:00 am People considering where to board a pet during vacation don’t think about an animal shelter, but they should. That’s according to a man coming to Longview to share his formula for successfully fielding the problem of unwanted dogs and cats. Mike Arms travels the country and beyond describing how to establish animal shelters that euthanize only when an animal is violent beyond rehabilitation or suffering beyond repair. One trick he advocates is including kennel services as a money-making tool. And, why should parents considering day camps send their children elsewhere when there is a place filled with wagging tails and purring kitties? “We have the facility of the future,” Arms said from San Diego, where he established the Helen Woodward Animal Center. “We have the boarding facilities in here. We have (small animal and equine) hospitals here. We have the day camp here for the children. We’re part of the community, and that’s why the community loves us so much.” That no-kill center offers a template some local animal advocates hope to replicate in Longview through a public and private funding partnership. The Fete for Pets organization, which is named for its March fundraising event, has recruited Arms to include a Longview stop in his ongoing mission to save animals’ lives. ‘Outside the box’ Organizer and local business owner Alicia Nolte hopes animal lovers from the Longview animal shelter, rescue groups and other critter-friendly communities will come ask Arms how he does it on March 2. “That means anyone who has anything to do with the animal industry that has questions,” Nolte said. The 6:30 p.m. event at Papacita’s Mexican Restaurant in Longview is free, except for dinner and doggy bags. “Our city needs to move into the future and step outside the box,” Nolte said. “And it’s not just the city of Longview, where the mayor is working on a public/private partnership. We’re going for Kilgore, Gladewater, Upshur and surrounding counties.” Longview Mayor Jay Dean previously came out in favor of an as-yet unformed partnership between the city and animal advocates to build a second animal shelter in Longview. The Humane Society of Northeast Texas historically has operated its shelter at or near capacity. Leaders of the nonprofit facility on Enterprise Street consistently describe a mission beyond the capacity of the 39-year-old shelter and its small, trained staff. The humane society also is working toward building a new home and has secured donated land for the expansion. Nolte expressed hope Arms’ model, which she visited in the summer, will inspire a new approach to the animal overpopulation that’s feeding the problem. “Throwing trash out on the side of the road is not accepted anymore — it is looked down on,” she said. “We have learned to appreciate the beautiful land we live in, and it’s time we appreciated animals’ lives.” Marketing Arms described a two-pronged attack. “The big problem organizations have is they don’t market their product,” he said. “We will do more in our society to advertise a hamburger or Coca-Cola than we will for the beautiful product we have.” For instance, he said, the public usually sees local animal shelters only when something bad happens — a closure, or seizure of a dangerous dog. “Why would parents go (to the shelter)?” he asked. “If it doesn’t show the beautiful product we have, it’s not going to change.” The solution, he said, is shelter workers pitching stories about their charges to television and print media, adding that everyone likes a cute animal story. Weekly adopt-a-pet columns routinely feature older animals when puppies or kittens would lure more families to the shelter. “If you have 10 families come down, not only that cute puppy gets adopted but three more dogs get adopted, too,” he said. “You put two kittens in a cage, and you give them the names, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Bonnie and Clyde. So, now Peanut Butter gets taken, and they’ll take Jelly, too. You have to run it like a business, and you have go get those footsteps into your facility.” Throw out the phrase “mixed breed,” he added. “We have ‘blends,’ ” he said. “We’re like Starbucks here, and the public loves it.” For the skeptical, Arms says in his first attempt at this model, the adoption rate at a Long Island, N.Y., shelter went from 50 a week to 850 a week in 11 years. He has similar success at the Southern California animal center and said he has shown the model to communities across the country. Tax-free shelters Arms also said the Longview group appears on the right dog path with the public/private partnership that’s envisioned. “That’s what you’re going to need to get it up and running,” he said, turning to his second prong: “But, then we can put in (ideas) that bring in revenue. We put in the day camp, and that brings in revenue. We put in the boarding facility, and that brings in revenue. We put in the hospitals. So now we don’t depend on taxpayers, because we get no state or city or federal funds, and we’re a $6 million facility.” Fete for Pets proposes something smaller but along the same lines. Nolte said the new group is not out to shut down the Longview shelter, just help in the mission both share. “That shelter — I don’t think it should be them or us,” she said. “It’s all of our East Texas animals, and we need to help relieve the burden that is thrown on them. They are just overwhelmed.”

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