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CITY DOGS is the adoption program of Cleveland Animal Care & Control (CACC). CITY DOGS is also a part of the Department of Public Safety with the City of Cleveland. The CITY DOGS mission is to increase adoptions from CACC by changing the image of the mostly pit bull-type dogs who make up the majority of the kennel population, by preparing all adoptable dogs in the kennel for lives in loving homes and by creating as many opportunities as possible for the public to meet and get to know our dogs for the terrific pets they are meant to be. Friends of the Cleveland Kennel supports the CITY DOGS program and also funds additional medical expenses, enrichment supplies, play group supplies, etc.
Michelle Harvanek is the Adoption/Volunteer Coordinator for Cleveland Animal Care & Control (CACC). She also oversees the CITY DOGS adoption and volunteer programs.
Cleveland Flea: What would you like people to know about City Dogs that they might not?
Michelle Harvanek: We have a really tough building, which can scare people away or give them a negative view of our Division. What people don’t always realize is that there are a lot of wonderful programs happening here and a lot of wonderful people to care for the dogs. We have a running program, daily play groups (where dogs get to socialize with one another), a hiking program, we have short-term and long-term foster opportunities, a Kong program, and we attend a lot of community events. We are always figuring out new ways to provide better care for our dogs. We are going to be moving to a new kennel at the end of next year, but we are getting the programs in place now to be able to move seamlessly into the new facility, and we are really proud of how far we’ve been able to come with the obstacle of our current building.
CF: What does the name "City Dogs" mean to you?
MH: To me, CITY DOGS not only means the amazing, resilient dogs from Cleveland, but also the team of people behind them. It’s really more of a community than just a program or name. Our volunteers, adopters and staff members are proud to be a part of CITY DOGS. We actually just held our 3rd annual CITY DOGS Reunion for dogs adopted from CACC and their families.
CF: So, why do you think this is important to the Cleveland community?
MH: We bring in about 3500 dogs a year from the city of Cleveland. We work hard to make sure we find as many favorable outcomes as possible for those dogs and adoptions through the CITY DOGS program is a big piece of that. It’s important to not only find loving homes for the CITY DOGS, but to change the perception of pit bull-type dogs everywhere – some communities and individuals still discriminate against dogs with blocky heads, and we hope to show that these dogs are great family members when given the opportunity.
CF: Why do you love your job?
MH: I feel really lucky that I get this awesome blend of working with both people and animals in my position. I love working with dogs, caring for them while they are with us, seeing the pure joy of a dog in play group or on a run or hike. Then I love seeing them become part of a family, getting updates after they go home, and seeing them year after year at the reunion. I also get to meet some of the best people in the region through running the volunteer program. Our volunteers are the most dedicated, compassionate, inspiring, hard-working people you’ll ever meet.
CF: Can you share a moment at City Dogs that really had an impact on you?
MH: The start of play groups in May 2016 totally changed the way we do things and made life SO MUCH better for the dogs in the kennel. Dogs Playing for Life came to Cleveland a number of times to train us how to run play groups, and Friends of the Cleveland Kennel funded the fences for the play yards. We are able to provide a higher quality of life for dogs both mentally and physically when we let them play together. We also learn more about the dogs than we ever would otherwise and can make better adoption matches. It’s happened more than once, but it’s always impactful when we see a fearful dog really open up in play group.
CF: What upcoming events or special occasions are coming-up for City Dogs that you'd like to share?
MH: We have two New Volunteer Information Sessions coming up! There is one on September 16 from 1pm-2pm and one on September 25th from 12pm-1pm. Both are at the Jefferson Branch Library located at 850 Jefferson Ave. For more information on these & other upcoming events, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/pg/CityDogsCleveland/events