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UPAWS receives shelter grant

GWINN — Michigan Pet Alliance announced the recipients of its 2021 Grants and Awards program, which focuses on lessons learned from COVID-19.

One of the winners is the Sands Township-based Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter, which will receive a shelter assessment grant.

Michigan animal shelters and rescue organizations were invited to demonstrate positive changes made to their operations as a result of the pandemic.

Awards of $1,500 each were granted to Michele’s Rescue in Grand Rapids and to Ingham County Animal Control and Shelter. Both grant awards were made possible thanks to the generosity of the Humane Society of Macomb Foundation.

Michele’s Rescue instituted a foster-to-adopt program, now allowing any potential adopter to become a foster care home first to provide them with a trial period to allow their new pet to adjust slowly to their new home, said MPA, which is based in downstate Bloomfield Hills.

ICACS took advantage of the time it remained closed to the public during the pandemic to make operational changes that would enrich the lives of animals in the shelter by instituting the Fear Free program. These changes reduced the length of stay for both cats and dogs and resulted in a much quieter, healthier environment for animals, volunteers and staff, MPA said.

The Humane Animal Treatment Society in Mount Pleasant will receive the training grant.

UPAWS will take what it learns from the assessment to prepare its 2022 strategic plan, while HATS will use the training grant to improve standards of care for dogs.

“We greatly appreciate the support from Michigan Pet Alliance, as their financial support for a shelter assessment will help our organization identify new ways to improve our daily operations,” said Bill Brutto, executive director at UPAWS, in a news release. “The assessment will help us continue to meet the needs of each animal that comes through our doors, to rehabilitate each animal for better physical and mental health, and to help place our animals in their forever homes.

“With great community support from organizations like Michigan Pet Alliance, we have the opportunity to continue to impact our community and the animals that live in it.”

The shelter assessment grant, a value of $3,000, includes a site visit, interviews with key staff and a review of operational materials. A blueprint report of resources, sample documents and recommended changes and improvements is provided to the shelter.

Member in spotlight

MPA has highlighted a UPAWS volunteer in its “member spotlight.”

Reva Laituri grew up in the country and had no one her age to play with, except when cousins visited her grandparents who lived nearby, MPA said.

“My best friends and playmates were dogs and cats that lived with us and nearby relatives,” Laituri said. “During those early years, I witnessed a lot of cruelty toward them, but was too young to do anything about it. I shed a lot of tears over a lot of dogs and a few cats.

“I often think of those dogs and cats I didn’t help and try every day to make their lives mean something. I don’t know that it will ever be enough, but I do know it hasn’t been for lack of trying.”

For more than 40 years, Laituri has volunteered for UPAWS wherever needed, from a beginning of working in the office and manning the reception desk to later performing the many duties of an executive director during job vacancies.

She is UPAWS longest-serving board member at 24 non consecutive years and has held several offices, including nine years as president, a post she currently holds.

During her tenure, UPAWS has gone from a save rate of just 37% to saving 97% of the animals in UPAWS’ care. In 2019, a new $3.6 million state-of-the-art shelter was completed under her leadership, thanks in part to a $1.6 million bequest from UPAWS supporters Philip and Ruth Spade, for whom the new shelter is named.

In August, the UPAWS board of directors hired Bill Brutto as its executive director. Brutto, who for the past five years was the director of the Grand Rapids Kroc Center for The Salvation Army, was with the U.S. Army for 18 years, attaining the rank of captain.

His family — wife Taylor and kids Joshua, 11, and Addison, 9 — love the outdoors, MPA said. Brutto had always wanted to work with animals, so this was the perfect opportunity to do both.

“Having animals in our home changed my kids’ whole attitude,” said Brutto about adopting two dogs. “I realized how important it is to give your children the responsibility of taking care of another living creature.

“In areas where we are doing well, we would like to celebrate and recognize the individuals who made these successes possible — people like Riva who show such exceptional care for animals. Her number one priority is always what’s best for them.”

UPAWS is located at 815 S. State Highway M-553 in Gwinn, specifically Sands Township.

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