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Local animal shelter in online contest for a makeover

March 25, 2008
By Connie Cartmell,
It’s springtime and for the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley, 1210 County House Lane, spring means a boatload of puppies, kittens, and always — overwhelming needs.

Supporters have high hopes that by this time next week, their “ship” will come in, making the future for thousands of homeless animals more secure and comfortable.

“We just had two litters of puppies dropped off today,” said Cheryl Byers, shelter director and manager. “Since Thursday, we’ve had six litters of puppies. We need dry puppy and adult dog food.”

Help may be just a “click” away.

The deadline for a nationwide, online contest, called Zootoo Shelter Makeover, is Monday. But before that happens, each person in Washington County has an opportunity to make life better for animals at the shelter — just by logging onto a computer Web site and registering, according to Jill Deming, a humane society board member

There is no cost or obligation, other than selecting a shelter of choice.

“We ask your vote for the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley,” Deming said.

Across America, out of more than 1,000 animal shelters, the 20 that accumulate the most points (from Oct. 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008) will compete to win a $1 million complete facility makeover or cash prizes.

“We’re in 12th place now and if we just maintain our place through this week, we can definitely expect $5,000 and just that’s tremendous - wonderful — for us,” Deming said. “All we need to do is get people to register (on the Zootoo Web site) or refer aother person, and we get more points.”

Once the top 20 is determined, representatives of, as well as other experts in the pet industry, visit each shelter to determine which one is “most deserving” of a complete makeover — either a renovation of the existing shelter or a rebuild.

“I have a feeling that if they visit our shelter, their decision will be to rebuild,” said Byers.

The top 20 shelters (with the highest points) take home the prizes, either the grand prize — a makeover — or two cash prices, Deming said. Second place gets $10,000. The 18 others each get $5,000.

“All that’s asked of the public is to log onto They’ll ask if you want to register with your name and password, then enter our ZIP code and choose a shelter — ours,” she said. “Just signing up gets us 100 points.”

Through incredible effort by local volunteers, according to Deming, word has spread like wildfire and the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley moved from the back of the pack to a front runner.

“It’s just been really good exposure for Marietta, too,” Deming said.

It began locally when shelter volunteer Debbie Kelley of Reno, heard a radio ad for the nationwide contest and suggested the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley jump on board.

From that point on, Deming said Kelley “worked her tail off” as committee chairman for the contest here.

“It’s important for two reasons,” Kelley said. “First, it would be so great to have our shelter get the top prize and a makeover. Second, it’s brought an incredible awareness to the community of the shelter’s needs.”

Even without the top prize, the contest has already helped the animals, she said.

“The Zootoo Web site is a central meeting space for local people who love animals,’ Kelley said. “People I’ve met in my own community have become good friends. When the contest ends, they won’t take the site down and there’s lots more to do with it.”

Fact Box

About the contest
-What: Today Show, Shelter Makeover Contest.
-When: 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. today.
-Where: NBC
-Who: Featuring Richard Thompson, founder of
-For more information: Check local listings for Today Show schedule.

How to cast a “vote” and get points for the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley, 1210 County House Lane:
-Log onto http://www.
-Register (no cost) at the site.
-You will get a password.
-You will be given the option of selecting a local shelter to support with a vote.
-Every time you visit, whether to review a product or pet-related service, share an opinion, post a photo, or refer a friend, points are added automatically for your shelter.



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