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New Wellness Center set to open at Animal Friends in Ohio Township

| Monday, July 10, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
An artist's conception of Animal Friends' new Howard Ash Animal Wellness Center in Ohio Township
An artist's conception of Animal Friends' new Howard Ash Animal Wellness Center in Ohio Township
A promotion for this week's grand opening of Animal Friends Howard Ash Animal Wellness Center.
A promotion for this week's grand opening of Animal Friends Howard Ash Animal Wellness Center.

Animal Friends will host a grand opening for the shelter's Howard Ash Animal Wellness Center on July 15.

The event at the Camp Horne Road facility will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and include a ribbon-cutting ceremony with those who made the building possible, and transition to a campus-wide celebration, including music, food and guided tours. Additionally, adoptable dogs, cats and rabbits will be welcoming guests.

“We're so thrilled to show off everything we do here,” Animal Friends spokeswoman Shannon Tremblay said. “We've seen a number of challenges, and this building is the solution.”

One of the primary focuses of the $8.5 million, 18,400 square-foot facility will be the “compassionate and humane” spaying and neutering of pets in order to prevent the 20,000 animals euthanized each year due to overpopulation and community health concerns, she said.

“We can get that much closer to ending overpopulation,” Tremblay said. “It will be basic wellness needs. We are designed for the services for pet owners who may not have the finances to see a vet. If there's a bigger problem, we're happy to refer a veterinarian to make sure the pet gets help, but basic wellness care lays the foundation.”

Tremblay shared that the Animal Friends employees are constantly jockeying for space, even turning storage spaces into offices.

Voicemails and emails are filled with people who need help, and there is even a mobile resource center available.

“It's a wonderful problem to have,” she said. “With our new clinic, we can double [the vaccinations] and keep pets healthy and compliant with the law. The popularity will alleviate the need.”

Animal Friends completes about 10,000 spay and neuter surgeries — 6,000 on site and about 4,000 are completed through community partners or their mobile program. Additionally, they have the Chow Wagon, which distributes pet food.

“Everything we do is from donations from the public. We work with 29 food pantries and Meals on Wheels,” Tremblay said. “People were taking food out of their own mouths so that their pets wouldn't go hungry. We're ensuring pets and people are properly fed.”

The shelter regularly has 250 animals on site available for adoption and about 100 in foster care.

The area's two humane investigators provide education and resources to pet owners whose pets are underfed or out in extreme conditions. Animal Friends services about 2,500 pets annually that way, simply by educating owners to properly care for their pets rather than taking pets away.

“We just want to ensure owners have the knowledge to care for their pets,” Tremblay said. “We want to keep loved animals where they are.”

The Wellness Center's goal is to improve communities “by supporting the mutually beneficial relationship we have with our pets.”

Parking will be provided on campus, and a shuttle will transport from another lot in the event on-site parking is full.

“We're asking that pets stay home, but bring as many people as you want” Tremblay said.

Rebecca L. Ferraro is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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