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Uniontown woman wants to start refuge, adoption agency for cats, dogs

| Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012

Jamie Speelman is one step closer to her dream of opening a refuge and adoption agency for cats and dogs in Fayette County.

The Uniontown resident is inviting the public to come and listen on Wednesday as she unveils plans for "Angels of Mercy," a 501(c) registered animal shelter.

"I've noticed this county is in a dire need for another animal facility. It's been overwhelming for the other shelters in the area," Speelman said.

With four years under her belt as a humane police officer, working for nearly two years with the Fayette Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and a day job as a police officer for Dunbar Borough, Speelman said she's seen first hand the need for a low-cost, high-quality spay and neuter program, as well as an animal control facility.

"The new shelter will help with the overpopulation of cats and dogs locally and take the burden off the other rescue shelters," the Angels of Mercy founder said.

Dennis Heath, a constable in Dunbar, is joining forces with Speelman and has taken on the role of treasurer.

"We've noticed the increase of abandoned animals being dropped off in remote areas of the county," Heath said. "I know Jamie has talked about starting a shelter for a long time. When we've worked together and ran into situations in the borough where we've had to call animal control, we just didn't see the response we were hoping for, so we knew we had to do something."

With a strong focus on the financial side of the nonprofit, Heath is working on coordinating fundraisers to raise capital. He's anticipating the meeting on Wednesday will turn up some badly needed resources.

"I'm hoping someone will have an abandoned building to donate, or a building that they are not using, that we could use for our shelter," Heath said. "Once we get a physical location that we could operate out of, hopefully we can get some contracts with the municipalities in the area and actually do animal control, adoptions, a spay and neuter program and be fully operational. That's the ultimate goal."

That goal sounds good to Fayette Friends of Animals volunteer Tammy Coleman. She has worked with the no-kill shelter and adoption center in Uniontown for the last decade and says the low-cost, high-quality spay and neuter program will be a "godsend."

"Fayette County is definitely in bad shape as far as unwanted animals," she said. "There are just too many and not enough homes.

"I think people don't fix their animals like they should due to income, and some people are still with the old saying that it will take the 'manhood" away from their dog/cat," she continued. "Some also like to have their animals get pregnant in order to have the children observe and learn. But that's the worst thing they could do. Once the puppies/kittens are born, then the children don't want to help take care of them anymore and they end up in shelters."

Speelman is determined to help make changes by securing a shelter location this year, along with other plans for a mobile animal clinic. She's also actively recruiting volunteers to help her mission and fill remaining board positions, such as vice president.

"We are asking people who want to get involved to come to our meeting; anyone with secretary skills, skills related to grant writing, people with abilities in management, fundraising skills or anyone who can help us raise public awareness," Speelman said.

Currently Speelman is working with a veterinarian in Greene County and has begun to offer a spay program for cats. Cost is $30, which includes flea treatment, booster and rabies vaccination and a general medical check -- funded solely from an aluminum can recycling program and donations to Angels of Mercy.

She said it's just a small start to the big dream of dedicating her life to animal service.

"This is something that I've always wanted to do. I always took in strays and I've been around animals all my life. It just feels like the right thing to do and it comes to me naturally," Speelman said.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in Franklin Memorial Church, Dunbar.

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