If you were a stray dog or cat wandering Montgomery County, you’d want SICSA to take you in. In its 37 years in Kettering, the Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals has worked to give animals the care they need and to strengthen relationships between animals and people. More than 1,400 animals find homes through SICSA each year.
It’s not always an easy task, but the 24 staff members and 340 volunteers dedicate 16,000 hours of service each year to provide animals with the homes they deserve. For everyone at SICSA, it’s worth the time and effort.
Development Associate Kira Petrykowski has been working at SICSA since last April and says she thoroughly enjoys what she does. “I always knew I wanted to work at a non-profit organization. I wanted to work in a way that was meaningful and had some sort of purpose. I didn’t want to work at some big corporation where I felt out of touch,” she said.
Petrykowski spends her week and most of her weekend thinking of new ideas to get the community interested in SICSA and answering phone calls and emails. She organizes everything from the annual Walk for Strays to dog washes and even birthday parties for the animals. “We don’t receive government funding, so we rely on fundraisers and donations to keep SICSA running,” Petrykowski said.
While the job may seem ideal, it is sometimes hard for Petrykowski to turn down animals that they don’t think will be adopted. “SICSA isn’t licensed to provide veterinary care for animals,” Petrykowski explained.
There’s also the issue of overpopulation at the facility. SICSA has a limited intake capacity, so some of the animals have to be turned down. However, SICSA’s policy states that they won’t euthanize (or put down) an animal to save space. “When the animals come in, it’s not like they have a time limit,” Petrykowski said.
For everyone involved with SICSA, each day is something new. There are dogs to walk, linens to wash, animals to feed, dogs to train and, of course, adoptions to process. Carol Repic is currently filling in as an adoption counselor but has been volunteering at SICSA for six years. “We get about 7 to 8 adoptions per week,” Repic said.
‘The best dog ever’
Fairmont English teacher Janie Ross adopted from SICSA about 10 years ago. “I heard SICSA was a great facility, and I liked the idea of giving a dog who maybe had a rough start another shot,” Ross said.
Ross and her husband agreed that they wanted a big black lab because it reminded Ross’ husband of a dog from his childhood. When Ross realized SICSA had a black lab, she drove over and they pulled out a “beautiful, handsome, young black lab,” she said.
Ross immediately called her husband and said they had found their dog. “We called him Jordy and as we were filling out the paperwork and answering questions, I remember being scared to death that they wouldn’t let us take him,” Ross said.
Last November Jordy had to be put down because of cancer. “He was a big ole’ sweetheart and the best dog ever,” said Ross.
When asked if Ross would return to SICSA to adopt again, she responded, “Definitely.”
The staff is adamant that the animals go to safe and loving homes. “Our policy is that everyone in the family needs to come meet the animal they plan to adopt to make sure the animal and all of the family members interact well with each other.”
Every animal has a story
Repic feels a strong emotional connection to her job and the animals and often finds herself choked up at their stories. “The staff has been laughing at me because I have gone a full two days without crying,” she said. While some stories are filled with joy and hope, others aren’t so bright.
Repic must deal with the surrender of animals because their families don’t want them anymore. Sometimes they can no longer afford the care for their animals, but in other cases the reasons are as simple as getting new carpet. “It is very hard to see how some people treat their animals. They give up their family member as though they mean nothing,” said Repic. “It is especially hard to see when the dog is so attached to the owner and the owner just doesn’t care.”
According to www.pet-abuse.com, there were about 33 animal abuse reports in Ohio in 2010. However, many more go unreported. (Repic urges people to call if they suspect or have witnessed animal abuse.)
One dog named Fraggle Buddy has suffered from abuse. For 10 years, the animal was chained up outside year-round, even in bad weather. “When he came in, his teeth were ground down from chewing on the chain,” said Repic.
Helping at ‘the finest kennel’
Outside of the animals they care for every day, many of the staff at SICSA have pets of their own as well. “I have three dogs,” Repic said. “One of them came from SICSA. I would have a lot more if my husband let me.”
Among the plethora of volunteers at SICSA is Russell Sweetman, who is very devoted to his work. He keeps the dogs company, works on management and upkeep around the building, and comes in to serve every day. Over time, Sweetman has adopted eight dogs from SICSA and also fosters dogs. Despite all the dogs he has fostered, it’s still hard for him to see them go. “I get choked up just thinking about it,” said Sweetman.
After all the time he spends volunteering, he never gets tired of it. “SICSA is the finest kennel you’ll ever find. It is a very unique shelter,” he said.
Teenagers can also volunteer at SICSA. Fairmont sophomores Paige Wyckoff and Emily Herting volunteer there together once a month. “I love volunteering at SICSA because it gives me a chance to meet other people that like to work with animals as much as I do,” Wyckoff said.
As for Herting, she enjoys seeing that she can make a difference.
The staff at SICSA really appreciates the work done by the hard-working volunteers. “There is no way SICSA would be able to get by without our volunteers,” Petrykowski said.
For 37 years the community has supported SICSA in its mission to help the animals. “Donating your time, supplies or money are the three primary ways to help,” said Petrykowski.