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Jack Hanna brings out cheetahs, lemurs to help sick, injured dogs

Photo courtesy of Nikki Clark

Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, brought out cheetahs, lemurs and other wild animals Thursday night to help save sick and injured dogs.

About 30 guests attended A Night with Jack Hanna and Friends, partnered with Friends of the Shelter, held in the Columbus Zoo indoor activity room.

Friends of the Shelter, or FOTS, is a volunteer, nonprofit group that coordinates fundraising activities that benefit the dogs at Franklin County Dog Shelter, according to its website. It held the event to raise money for sick and injured dogs at the shelter.

“Franklin County Dog Shelter is county funded,” said Amanda Murphy, events and social media coordinator for FOTS and a public relations specialist for Connect Ohio. “So they receive a county budget each year and what the FOTS does and why we were formed is to fund medical care for dogs that come to the shelter who need expensive surgeries and operations, where the Franklin County budget wouldn’t allow those expenses.”

The set goal was $5,000, but FOTS had hoped to raise $8,000.

Murphy said it will take a couple of days to figure out how much the event raised.

Molly Stancliff, a third-year in women’s studies at Ohio State and the co-founder of Buckeyes for Canines, BK9, volunteers with the Franklin County Dog Shelter, Pets without Parents and the Capital Area Humane Society.

“(FOTS) is a great organization and they help many homeless dogs that would otherwise never make it to new homes,” Stancliff said.

Stancliff was unable to attend the event.

“There are many great initiatives all over the Columbus area,” Stancliff said. “I wish that I could support them all.”

The event had two live bands, Billy Two Shoes and The Salty Caramels, who also donated their time.

“This is one of many creative fundraising activities (FOTS) organizes throughout the year,” said Susan M. Smith, community relations manager of the Franklin County Dog Shelter.

Armed with a small stack of his own photos and a permanent marker, Hanna walked around the room speaking with everyone and giving them personalized autographed pictures.

Hanna was the guest of honor, the speaker and he introduced several wild animals, including two cheetah cubs, a lemur and others.

“Without volunteers, the zoo would not be here, the shelter would not be here and many things wouldn’t be here,” he said. “Columbus is the most giving city than any other place in the world. Not just in the people world, but the animal world as well.”

The shelter impounds more than 13,000 dogs a year. Five percent of those dogs have injuries or illnesses.

“These are highly adoptable dogs that might otherwise not get the chance to become healthy again,” Smith said.

FOTS spends $10,000 to $12,000 a month on sick and injured dogs and is completely volunteer-based. 

There is no main headquarters for the FOTS organization.

“It’s good that we don’t because then we don’t have all those extra expenses,” Murphy said. “We’re very proud of the fact that over 97 percent of our donations go straight to the dogs.”

Rather than donating the money to the shelter, FOTS pays for the dogs’ medical care. Dr. Elizabeth Kinsel, known as Dr. Libby, at Creature Comfort Veterinary Center in Lancaster, cares for any dog FOTS brings in. 

Kinsel was not available for comment.

“It can be very difficult for the public to understand that FOTS is not part of the shelter,” Murphy said. “We are a completely separate entity that simply works with the shelter to save dogs and help them find loving homes.”

Colleen Liebers, a third-year graduate student in veterinary medicine, said she was surprised that more fundraisers aren’t being held with how much money some shelters need,

Liebers said she volunteered at a shelter in New Orleans in December.

“(The New Orleans shelter) was basically a shack between two buildings,” Lieber said. “They just had to rely on the help of volunteers to walk, feed and play with the animals. All the food, treats, blankets and meds were from donations. It was incredibly sad to see this shelter in such need of basic things.”

Several companies donated their time and baked goods for the event as well as other items for a silent auction.

Murphy said everything but the catering was donated. She said most fundraising events are successful because of “the good will of others and other businesses.”

The items for the silent auction included items such as a gift basket of dog goodies from Mutts & Co., an autographed Archie Griffin football and helmet and other items.

Guests received baskets of dog treats and dog food samplers. Tickets cost $60 per person.

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