CLEVELAND, Ohio — Everybody who knows anything about dogs knows that canines love to run fast, romp freely and wrestle with other dogs until tuckered out.


Normally, kennel-confined dogs that have been lost, abandoned or turned in by their owners don’t get to enjoy any of that. But in an unprecedented change, canines at the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter(CCAS) now frolic together on the kennel grounds in a gated space much like a small dog park.

And it won’t be long before dogs housed at the Cleveland Animal Control & Care City Kennel and Cleveland Animal Protective League are having the same kind of fun.

Here’s why:

The county shelter recently implemented Dogs Playing for Life, a program designed to enhance the quality of life for kenneled dogs, said manager Mindy Naticchioni. The intent is to reduce the stress, anxiety and frustration of kennel life. The program also allows the kennel to determine how well a dog will socialize with other dogs. Because the dogs are lost or strays, the kennel typically doesn’t have much background on them.

“Many or our adopters are looking for dogs that can get along with their dogs at home,” said Naticchioni. “Dogs that aren’t friendly with other dogs have a hard time getting adopted.”

On a recent sunny Monday morning at the shelter, about a dozen dogs, mostly pit bulls and pit bull mixes, ran, wrestled and leaped into a dog bone-shaped pool to cool off. Strawberry, a 4-year-old mix, crawled into a bright blue collapsible agility tunnel for a self-imposed timeout from the sun, the other dogs, or both.

Deputy Dog wardens Jessie Jarjabka, Amanda Kopec and Jon Wagner kept a close eye on the dogs and held water spray bottles should the play get a little too rough, or one of the dogs get a little too frisky, so to speak. But the wardens didn’t need to use the spray because a 4-year-old pit bull mix named Cimarron swooped in to break things up when one of the dogs started behaving badly toward another.

“We love her,” Kopec said of the self-appointed referee. “She’s our favorite.”

The playgroups start out with two or three dogs at a time. The most energetic dogs go into the play area first since they have the most energy to burn. Additional dogs are brought in one at a time. First-time playgroup joiners wear a muzzle until the attending dog warden feels comfortable removing it. The dogs stay out about 20 minutes.

“It is estimated that 20 minutes of play time equals about the amount of energy burned on a one-hour walk,” said Naticchioni.

But the playgroups aren’t replacing walks.

“We don’t want those walks to go away,” Naticchioni said. “We just want an extra element.”

For now, deputy dog wardens coordinate the play sessions, but the shelter is planning to train their volunteers to take over. The agency is already getting a good response from people who want to sign on, Naticchioni added.

Back in June the Cleveland Animal Protective League hosted Dogs Playing for Life founder Aimee Sadler. The shelter’s dog wardens received training, as did representatives from the APL and City Kennel.

“We had to wait quite a while to get her,” APL President and CEO Sharon Harvey said of Sadler. According to the Dog for Life website, Sadler travels the country training workers at kennels in the program.

Timotha (Timy) Sullivan, who has been a City Kennel volunteer for about a year, went through the training.

“I think this is amazing,” Sullivan said. “It’s a great way for us to get to know our dogs before we send them out.”

City Kennel and APL plan to launch Dogs Playing for Life programs in the coming months.

Meanwhile, CCAS Facebook followers who’ve heard about the program are loving it, said Naticchioni. Supporters have donated pools and other supplies on the CCAS Amazon wish list specific for the playgroups. One person even donated a $300 timeout cage.

“There has also been a renewed surge of energy among the volunteers,” said Naticchioni.

Harvey, of the APL, is excited that the program has come to Cleveland.

“We need to do everything we can to keep the dogs as happy and healthy as possible,” she said. “We still need volunteers to walk the dogs on leashes, but sometimes dogs just need to be dogs.”

Garage sale in Strongsville to benefit dogs: The Rescue Inn, a foster-based organization dedicated to saving the lives of dogs in need, is having a fundraising garage sale from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, August 20, at 16510 Pepperwood Court.

Mutt Strut in Kirtland: The Lake Humane Society & Adoption Center’s 21st annual Mutt Strut fundraiser will be Saturday, August 22, at Penitentiary Glen, 8668 Kirtland-Chardon Road. Admission is free. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Project Runway: a runway show of adoptable dogs begins at 10 a.m. A one-mile walk begins at 10:30 a.m. The day includes canine games and contests, live music, a Chinese auction, demonstrations and shopping in the Mutt Mall. The public is asked to raise pledges. Fundraisers can raise pledges in one of two ways: Create a personalized online fundraising page using FirstGiving, or print a pledge form and go door-to-door. Attendees who raise $35 or more will receive a complimentary Mutt Strut T-shirt and bandana for their pooch. All proceeds benefit Lake Humane Society and the homeless pets of Lake County. For more information go to

Dressing up for dogs and other pets at Cleveland MetroParks Zoo: Black Tie and Tails Silent Auction and Gala, the biggest fundraiser for Voices in the Dark Animal Rescue, takes place from 7:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday, August 22, in the Primates, Cats and Aquatics building of the zoo, 3900 Wildlife Way. Dinner tickets are no longer available, but the public can now purchase tickets for $30 that include entry and open bar/drinks only. It is $30 per ticket. Tickets can pre-purchased or bought the night of the event. Go to There will be music by KIDD Productions, a silent of donated items, and more. Voices is a foster home-based animal rescue that relies strictly on donations. Volunteers take animals into their own homes and work with them until new owners are found.

Canine festival in Mansfield: The Humane Society of Richland County will host its 13th Annual Strutt Your Mutt Canine Festival on Saturday, August 22, at the Richland County Fairgrounds, 750 North Home Road, Mansfield. Registration for the 5K is 8 to 8:45 a.m. The Pet Blessing is at 8:55 a.m. The rest of the day includes dog nail trimming, vendor expo, lure coursing, Happy Tails Parade, and more. Admission is free but donations will be accepted at the gate. Donations can include cash, puppy and kitten food, cleaning supplies and so on. For a complete list of activities and where on the fairgrounds they will take place, go to and click on events.

Pachyderm presentation in Ravenna: The Happy Farm Animal Sanctuary presents a night of Safari Yarns & Elephant Tails with Dick Houston, author and co-founder of Elefence International, at 7 p.m. Saturday, August 22, at the Happy Trails Covered Arena, 5623 New Milford Road. The presentation will highlight what Houston and Elefence International are doing to save elephants from ivory poachers. He also will focus on Elefence’s latest project in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe: “Building the World’s Largest Drinking Fountains for Elephants,” with footage of hundreds of elephants at waterholes. Pre-purchase tickets are required; no tickets at the door. Tickets are $20 per person; $10 children ages 6 to 17; kids up to 5 admitted free. Reserve seats at

Animal show with Jungle Terry in Willowick: Community Cat Companions is hosting Community Cat’s Animal Adventure, featuring Jungle Terry and Friends, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, August 23, at Pet Supplies Plus, 30450 Lakeshore Blvd., Willowick. Tickets, $7, include a live animal show, family-friendly activities, refreshments and more. For reservations, call 216-956-5129.

Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter fundraiser at Whiskey Island: Paw-ject Runway Doggie Calendar Contest and Vendor Expo, Sunday, August 23, at Whiskey Island Marina, 2800 Whiskey Island, Cleveland. Registration opens at 10:30 a.m. The event is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Cost per dog and one handler is $20 and includes admission to the Rescue & Vendor Expo; demonstrations and games; Dog Bikini Contest, and food from Boco Loco Burrito Factory. Admission is free for spectators. Online voting will determine the top dogs for the calendar and the cover dog. Photos of the top 12 winners will be featured in the Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter 2015 Calendar. All contestants receive a calendar and flash drive containing photos. Admission is free for vendors but they must call 216-525-4813 in advance.

Fun with pets in Hinckley Township: Gold’s Gym presents Dog Paddle & Pet-a-Palooza, 1-to-5 p.m. Sunday, August 23, at the Hinckley Reservation Ledge Pool & Recreation area, 1151 Ledge Road. Activities with dogs include guided hikes, swimming, K-9 demonstrations and more. A donation of $5 per dog is requested to benefit Medina County SPCA and the Cleveland Animal Protective League. Both will have adoptable pets on site. To download liability waivers and get more information go to

Pitching for pits in Cuyahoga Falls: For the Love of Pits is having a Cornhole Tournament fundraiser at 3 p.m. Saturday, August 29, at Legend Lanes: Bowling Center, 4190 State Road. Tickets are $50 per team of two; includes entry fee, two drink tickets, hamburgers and hot dogs. To register go to

Horse rescue benefit in Grafton: Angels Haven Horse Rescue is hosting its annual Steak (or Chicken) & Bake event from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, August 30, at North Park Community Room, 1050 Novak Road. Tickets are $20. Send checks payable to: AHHR, 13297 Durkee Road, Grafton, 44044. For questions, call 440-781-5060 or email

Erie Shores Humane Society fundraiser in Lorain: Bark-B-Q Bash and Raffle to benefit animals rescued by the Erie Shores Humane Society, 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, September 12, at St. Lad’s Club picnic grounds, 4221 Clinton Ave. Presale tickets are $20; $5 for kids 12 and younger. Reserve tickets by emailing or call 440-522-3964. Barbecue meal consists of 14-ounce steak, potato, salad, roll, dessert and pop. Vegetarian meal is butternut squash ravioli, salad, roll, dessert and pop. Kids’ meal is macaroni and cheese, salad, roll, dessert and pop.

Responsible dog ownership training in Cleveland: Cleveland All-Breed Training Club is hosting its Responsible Dog Ownership Day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, September 26, at the group’s training club, 210 Hayes Drive. The event is free, and dogs must be vaccinated and leashed. Activities include beginning agility equipment and novice rally exercises; microchip your pet (11 a.m. to 1 p.m. until sold out, thanks to Apple Hill Animal Hospital); action-packed demonstrations, and more. For more details go to

Free pet food in Lorain County: The North Olmsted Pet Pantry distributes food to low-income families. Call 440-471-7902 to receive food the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in Avon.

T-shirt fundraiser for pets in need: Erie Shores Humane Society is having an ongoing T-shirt fundraiser. The T-shirts are splashed with the message “Compassion: Learn it, teach it, share it” on the back. The shirts are $15, with all  proceeds going to vetting bills. Shipping is free. The T-shirts can be viewed and purchased at

Dog adoption in Cleveland: Vaccinated, neutered dogs are available for $61 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Cleveland Kennel, 2690 West Seventh St., off Interstate 490. See photographs of the temperament-tested dogs at Facebook, or call 216-664-3476 or email Also, the kennel needs six-foot leashes, ground wet dog food and large harnesses.

Farm animal abuse: The Humane Society of the United States and United Farm Workers offer $5,000 rewards for information that leads to the conviction of farm animal abusers. Call 888-209-7177.

Cleveland cat sanctuary needs supplies: Purr-Fect Companions Cat Sanctuary, that cares for about 60 abandoned cats, needs dry and canned food, scoopable litter, gift cards and monetary donations to pay veterinary bills. Mail checks or gift cards to P.O. Box 770992, Lakewood, Ohio, 44107. Or, call 216-671-6369 to learn of drop-off locations. Volunteers are needed.

Preventing unwanted Chihauhua litters: PetFix Northeast Ohio, with funding from PetSmart Charities, is running a “Cherish Your Chihuahua” spay/neuter campaign. The campaign provides 75, $20 spay/neuter surgeries and free nail trims for Chihauhua and Chihauhua mixes during the month of August. The breed and breed mixes are some of the most at-risk pets entering U.S. shelters each year, according to PetFix. For more information, go to or call 216-732-7040.  

Willowick cat organization needs help: Willowick Community Cats is seeking volunteers to trap and transport cats and kittens in Lake County to area clinics for services. For information email Tabitha at

Akron cat crisis: PAWSibilities, Humane Society of Greater Akron, is experiencing critical capacity at its Twinsburg facility. PHSGA is offering special adoption fees: Cats (over six months) are $25; kittens are $25 or two for $40: dogs (over six months) are $60. Go to

Cat supplies needed in Cleveland: Purr-Fect Companions Cat Sanctuary needs dry and canned cat food, scoop-able litter, gift cards and monetary donations to help pay veterinary bills. Mail checks or gift cards to P.O. Box 770992, Lakewood, Ohio, 44107. Or call 216-671-6369.

Send animal news to; 216-538-6010. Get more animal news at

By Roxanne Washington, The Plain Dealer
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on August 20, 2015 at 11:15 AM


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