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Rescue league needs $10K to get grant for surgical equipment

K-9 Stray Rescue League volunteer Lori Stevenson poses with her foster dog, Harry. He’s a 10-month-old cairn terrier mix who came here from Flint. “He just got his neuter surgery and he’s ready to get a home,” Stevenson said. (click for larger version)
March 14, 2012 - The good news is the K-9 Stray Rescue League in Oxford was awarded a $10,000 grant from the State of Michigan to help upgrade its facilities for spaying and neutering dogs.

The bad news is the nonprofit group must first raise $10,000 and purchase the equipment in order to receive the state money as reimbursement.

"That's going to be our next challenge – doing fund-raisers and things like that, so we can afford the equipment," said Karen Kronk, secretary for the rescue league's Board of Directors.

Last week, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced that the K-9 Stray Rescue League was one of 15 state-registered animal shelters and humane societies to receive a piece of $134,253 in funds from the 2012 Companion Animal Welfare tax check-off.

There's a spot on the annual state income tax return form where taxpayers can elect to contribute $5, $10 or any amount they wish to the Animal Welfare Fund. This fund supports efforts relating to the spaying and neutering of animals, and helps finance the costs of protecting and caring for animals subjected to cruelty or neglect.

The K-9 Stray Rescue League plans to utilize its $10,000 grant to purchase some much-needed equipment for the surgical suite located at its 2120 Metamora Rd. kennel facility.

"Most of the dogs that come through (here) have to be spayed or neutered," Kronk said. "Rescuing is not just pulling a dog from animal control. There's a lot of care involved."

The rescue league generally adopts out about 500 dogs each year and she estimated that "at least 90 percent" of them must be fixed before a good home is found for them.

"The whole idea is to reduce the unwanted pet population," Kronk noted. "There are more dogs out there that need homes than there are people who can take them in. We're just trying to lessen the number of dogs that have to be euthanized because nobody wants them."

Hence, the rescue group's need for a surgical suite that's modern, efficient and capable of handling a high volume of patients.

"It's kind of like a MASH unit," Kronk said. "They'll do eight to 10 dogs in an afternoon. It's quite a production line."

"I'm very excited about getting new medical equipment," said Fenton resident Lori Stevenson, who serves on the K-9 Stray Rescue League's Board of Directors and volunteers as the group's medical coordinator. "Surgery Day will be so much easier. It will be easier for the veterinarian – easier for us."

The rescue league plans to use a good portion of the $10,000 to purchase an electrocautery unit, which will be used to make incisions.

"Right now, we have to do incisions with a scalpel," Kronk said.

Electrocautery is a surgical technique that involves introducing high frequency electrical current to a specific area of the body in order to create a surgical incision, remove unwanted tissue or seal off blood vessels.

Many surgeons believe electrocautery instruments are cleaner, safer and more efficient than other methods.

"It will be much easier on the animal," Kronk explained. "There's less bleeding and discomfort for the animal. It's also a time-saver for the doctor. The time to perform the surgery is reduced by 50 to 70 percent."

In addition to the electrocautery unit, the rescue league also plans to purchase new surgical lights and a new scale to weigh the dogs.

"The equipment that we have in (the surgical suite) right now was secondhand to begin with," Kronk said. "It's breaking down and we can't find replacement parts. So, that's a big reason for this."

Existing lighting in the surgical suite is not exactly user-friendly.

"If the doctor needs a certain angle, we have to really maneuver these lights and hold them in place until he's finished," Kronk said. "It's almost like a ballet when he needs the lights adjusted – you have to disconnect some bolts, reposition the lights and have somebody hold them there. It's almost comical."

A new scale is needed in order to help anesthetize the canine patients for spaying and neutering procedures.

"We have to weigh the dogs in order to administer the right amount of medication to put them under," Kronk explained. "Right now, the scale that we have works intermittently. It's not as accurate as we need it to be for the safety of the dogs. We always err on the side of caution."

Due to the large number of dogs that go through the kennel, the scale needs to be heavy duty.

As was noted earlier, the rescue league needs to raise $10,000 to make all this happen.

"We don't get the grant money (from the state) up front," Kronk said. "We have to spend the money first. We have to go out and buy the equipment, then we get reimbursed."

Because the rescue league is a small operation that relies solely on volunteers and donations, it doesn't have an extra $10,000 just laying around.

Every penny the group raises or receives goes directly to caring for the dogs it houses.

The group typically has about 50 dogs at its kennel facility at any given time. Another 10 to 20 dogs are placed with foster families until they can be adopted.

Due to its limited budget and considerable responsibilities, the rescue league is hoping folks reading this article will donate whatever they can to help buy this new surgical equipment.

"We're starting from zero," Kronk said.

Those who wish to contribute to the K-9 Stray Rescue League can mail checks to 2120 Metamora Rd., Oxford MI 48371 or donate on-line at www.dogsaver.org/k9srl

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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