CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — The Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter has had growing success over the last decade. The credit is due, in part, to the volunteers who dedicate their time to finding each dog a new home. 

  • More than 94 percent find a new home
  • This has a lot to do with the work volunteers put in
  • They walk, train and facilitate playgroups for the dogs every day

“They get out three or four times a day. We want these dogs to know how to walk on a leash, to know how to be with people, but the playgroup also teaches them how to be with other dogs,” said Grace Vitale, a volunteer for 10 years.  

 Vitale and the other volunteers are on a mission.

“Because we want to change the way the sheltering world works. We can all do better. And the shelter is doing better,” said Vitale.

The shelter is filled with stray and unclaimed dogs from across the county. Volunteers train, walk, and facilitate playgroups every day.

“They're doing a lot of work to teach those dogs the things that they didn't get in the beginning of their life,” said Mindy Naticchioni, the shelter’s administrator. 

“And then there's the love from the dogs, because I'm going to tell you what... these dogs know when you are showing them kindness and they feel it. They feel your love and they give the love right back,” said Vitale.

All of this training and attention makes the dogs more likely to be adopted into a new home.

“So, we are sending multitudes of dogs home, we're giving dogs chances and teaching them things that we never dreamed we'd be able to do,” said Naticchioni. 

A decade ago, the shelter was only adopting out about 50% of the dogs that came in. Today more than 94% find a new home.

“We couldn't do what we do here without our volunteers, we absolutely cannot,” said Naticchioni. 

The Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter can always use more volunteers. Vitale wants to encourage people to volunteer at nearby shelters.

“Put your toe in the water, that's what I did. I put my toe in the water. I was afraid because I thought ‘oh my gosh, what if I fall in love with a dog and something bad happens?’ I mean, you just don't know.... don't let your fear stop you. Get down here or go to a shelter near you. Do it, just do it, you can always stop. But first you got to start, right?”