Pet Pal Story

His large brown eyes have been staring out the same bars for most of his 4 years of life.

At 105 pounds, Zeus the calm and gentle Rottweiler mix has yet to be adopted.

A small facility off 22nd Street South and 5th Avenue South in Midtown, Pet Pal Animal Shelter is the only home Zeus knows. As their longest resident, Zeus is safe because of the no-kill policy at Pet Pal.

“Zeus came from a kill facility,” Mary Alexander said. Alexander is the assistant to the executive director at Pet Pal, Scott Daly.  As a full-time volunteer, Alexander performs a myriad of duties at the shelter.

“I actually worked my way up from kennel worker on up,” Alexander said.

“It can be from cleaning kennels to going out to civic groups and talking about Pet Pal to writing articles to, like I was just doing, to taking pictures for our website,” Alexander said.

Zeus lives in one of 20 kennels reserved for healthy animals. Alexander called this the “well side.”

Some of the kennels house two dogs while bigger units have more, depending on the space and the size of the dogs. Zeus sees a variety of cats, dogs and occasionally other small animals come and go. Most often, the shelter receives pit bulls, says Alexander. Zeus, however, patiently waits for a home.

“He has been showing a couple of times, but it just doesn’t work out,” Alexander said.

Alexander said the shelter’s criteria for adopting animals is rigorous to ensure the animals are placed with suitable owners. A person’s living situation determines the breed eligible for adoption. Other people or animals living in the household make a difference. If the animal being adopted is a “dangerous breed,” Alexander said Pet Pal won’t place the animal in a home with small children. Also, certain breeds need special environments. Pet Pal will not put a hound dog in an apartment because the breed likes to bark a lot.

“And there’s reasons for all of those, an animal may love you, but it may not love me,” Alexander said. “Well who are you gonna get rid of?

“Different animals have different criteria. Very simply, if you rent, we need to get approval from your landlord. If you have any other animals in the house, we need to get approval from your vet or we need to talk to your vet to make sure you’ve been a good animal owner.”

Local shelters that don’t have room for animals will call to place overflow with Pet Pal because of its no-kill policy.

“No-kill by our standards means as long as the animal is physically and behaviorally able to be kept up for adoption, we’ll keep them as long as necessary,” Alexander said.

She said if an animal has an incurable illness or an illness that will make other animals sick Pet Pal will euthanize it.

“For example, parvo, distemper, rabies,” Alexander said. Parvo refers to canine parvovirus, a disease that “attacks the gastrointestinal tract of puppies and dogs” and “is highly contagious,” according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

If an animal remains aggressive after the appropriate training and treatment, the shelter will also euthanize as a measure of safety.

“At that point we will never put, knowingly put, our staff or volunteers or the public in danger,” Alexander said.

Sarah Head, a 17-year-old volunteer with Pet Pal, is a dog trainer. Head and her mom, Karri Head, volunteer at Pet Pal together.

“I help train the dogs so they can have better manners to go into their new homes,” Sarah Head said.

Alexander said volunteers make up the majority of help at the shelter. There are only a few employees.

“The volunteers are the backbone,” Alexander said.

Pet Pal volunteers take an extra step with their animals, sometimes taking the dogs on a drive, watching television with them or playing with them for extended periods of time.

Fundraisers are the primary source of donations. Occasionally someone will bequest money to the shelter, but that doesn’t happen often. Silent auctions, raffles and doggie kissing booths are some of the many events used to generate funds and build awareness.  Staff at the shelter are planning for a May 11 fundraiser, which Alexander calls “the puppy love event.”

The shelter, while small, takes in as many animals as possible.  Despite the size of the facility, Pet Pal had placed 632 animals last year from the Midtown location in new homes.

“We have really grown in this area,” Alexander said.

If people in the Midtown area are having financial struggles and own a pet, Pet Pal will provide animal food to the family. The shelter also offers low-cost vet services. Occasionally, Pet Pal will cover the cost of the spay and neuter services if the family can not afford to pay.

“But mainly, we’re matching people up with animals and what’s a better match? I mean that makes their life as complete as it does the animal’s,” Alexander said.

Meanwhile, Zeus continues to wait.