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Volunteers help make shelters a little homier

A local organization is helping to make dogs in Broward County shelters more comfortable with elevated beds.

BY BETH FEINSTEIN-BARTL
Special to The Miami Herald

Dogs at two Broward County-run shelters are resting a bit easier these days while waiting to be adopted, thanks to the efforts of local animal lovers.

Volunteers from Stray Aid & Rescue are waging a fundraising campaign to outfit each of the facilities with new bedding. They've been conducting yard sales and other fundraisers so the pooches no longer have to use towels spread out on concrete floors, said Diane Fraser, the organization's founder.

Since taking on the project this spring, the group needs 30 beds to meet its goal of filling all 97 kennel runs at Broward County Animal Care & Regulation's shelters in Pompano Beach and at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Volunteers are turning to the public for donations. Each bed costs $65. The fabric mats, elevated on PVC frames, are manufactured by Kuranda, a Maryland-based company, Fraser said.

The design is chew-proof and easy to clean. More important, it gives the canines a cozy spot to sleep and relax, she said.

''When they're in a strange environment, they need to be as comfortable as possible,'' she said.

Stray Aid was motivated to take on its Mission Kuranda campaign after being approached by Katia Medina, who began volunteering 18 months ago at the main shelter in Fort Lauderdale.

''We quickly jumped on board to help accomplish her wish,'' Fraser said.

The project would not be possible without the organization. Because of its nonprofit rescue group status, they can buy the beds at a discounted rate offered by Kuranda, said Medina, a Sunrise resident.

''The dogs love them,'' she said.

BEDS DELIVERED

Stray Aid has placed new beds in each of the 19 kennels at the Pompano Beach center. Another 48 beds have been delivered to 78 of the holding pens inside the airport-based facility, which straddles the borders of Davie and Dania Beach at 1870 SW 39th St., said Lisa Mendheim, public education coordinator for the Broward County Animal Care & Regulation.

The shelters took in 19,083 animals between October 2007 and Aug. 31, according to the latest statistics. Because funding is tight, the agency relies heavily on assistance from the community, she said.

''It's critical,'' Mendheim said. ``We work with many rescue groups. Stray Aid is one of our success stories.''

Providing bedding is the latest show of support from the organization. Stray Aid works closely with Broward's animal care division by dropping off toys, shampoo, food and medical supplies.

They also act as rescue partners by fostering cats and dogs with medical needs or non-aggressive behavioral issues such as a fear of humans. The animals are rehabilitated and placed in permanent homes, Fraser said.

ESTABLISHED IN 2003

A New Hampshire transplant who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fraser started Stray Aid in May 2003. She estimates the group has rescued 500 cats and dogs.

Adoption fees ranging from $75 to $150, coupled with fundraisers and private contributions, provide money for the group's other efforts, including preventing pet overpopulation by educating people on the benefits of spaying and neutering and giving referrals to places where low-cost surgeries are performed, Fraser said.

Stray Aid soon will be taking to the streets with its own mobile low-cost spay and neuter clinic. The unit is expected to be on the road by January, she said.

For information, call 954-816-0799, or visit www.strayaid.org.

Stray Aid & Rescue is a Florida Non-Profit Corporation.
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