Adopt-A-Pet in Fenton

At Adopt-A-Pet in Fenton, enrichment and learning are such key activities for the dogs and cats there, training sessions are as regular an activity in their lives as eating and sleeping.

“We hold ourselves to a high standard, one which looks out for both the physical and mental well-being of the animals in our care,” said Director Jody Maddock.
The shelter’s certified trainer and vet tech has been working with the dogs for the past four years, as well as training staffers and volunteers who want to participate.

Every dog is given a training session every day.

Adopt-A-Pet’s spacious eight-acre grounds include wading pools, four fenced play yards and an agility course. This summer, Maddock is planning an outdoor “Zen Den” with different smells and textures to provide even more enrichment.

To assure that staff, volunteers, and dogs are safe when walking or enjoying enrichment activities, the shelter has developed a coding system. Dogs with green collars are good to go. Blue collars mean volunteers need to check with staff before taking the dog out. Purple collars denote medical restrictions, such as heartworm positive or having just been spayed or neutered. Volunteers must have additional training to be able to work with a purple-collar dog. A red collar indicates a resident who might be a possible bite risk or one who is fearful or has behavior issues. Only staff members are allowed to take red-collar dogs out of their kennels.

“Volunteers truly are our lifeline,” said Maddock, who noted that she has about 85 active volunteers. “We are fortunate to have so many. Some start their day with us at 8 a.m. Nighttime volunteers tuck the animals in at 9 p.m.”

The Adopt-A-Pet facility was formerly a college fraternity house, one that now provides separate facilities for cats and dogs. The main building houses cats and a medical suite. It has six open cat rooms, three catios and can accommodate as many as 49 cats. The dog building has 14 rooms, four of which are puppy litter rooms. The floors are heated and some dog kennels have small outside patios.

Televisions are set up to help entertain animals who are in recovery. The three dog quarantine rooms all have televisions as well. Staff report that the puppies seem to enjoy watching movies such as “Baby Einstein” and “Moana.”

The cats have five television sets and seem to be partial to Cat TV videos.

In addition to its onsite training and enrichment work, Adopt-a-Pet takes on other challenges as well.

“We are known for taking on difficult medical cases,” Maddock said. “Police and area veterinarians frequently contact us, and we are happy to assist them.

“Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson helps with many cases in Genesee County and has even volunteered as the auctioneer for our biggest annual fundraiser.”

Like many shelters, Adopt-a-Pet receives no public funding and, instead, relies on donations and fundraisers to keep the lights on. Its popular annual fundraiser, The Howling Haunted Trail, features a spooky trail through the deep woods of the shelter’s own property, complete with a beverage tent and a food truck. Last year, more than 3,000 people took part in the Halloween fun while helping raise $80,000 for the shelter.

In addition to the glitzier fundraisers, Adopt-a-Pet runs an ongoing campaign collecting returnable cans and bottles. A group of volunteers dubbed the “Bottle Warriors” takes them to stores and redeems them for cash. This bottle and can drive has raised more than $50,000 since the beginning of the pandemic.

In 2022, Adopt A-Pet has lived up to its name and reputation by adopting out 1,197 dogs, a live release rate of 99.3%.

Their story has now become a part of Michigan Pet Alliance’s story. “We joined MPA because things are constantly changing in sheltering,” said Director Maddock. “I felt this was a great way to stay on top of the changes.”