Pets abandoned in foreclosures have a new home

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ST. LOUIS (AP) - Stray Rescue founder Randy Grim can claim a lot of achievements in the 10 years since he started changing the pet landscape here with a devoted band of volunteers.

Armed with the "Miracle Dog," Quentin, who inexplicably survived death by gas chamber in 2003, Grim persuaded St. Louis and other cities to end that means of execution.

In December, he won passage of

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Stray Rescue founder Randy Grim can claim a lot of achievements in the 10 years since he started changing the pet landscape here with a devoted band of volunteers.

Armed with the "Miracle Dog," Quentin, who inexplicably survived death by gas chamber in 2003, Grim persuaded St. Louis and other cities to end that means of execution.

In December, he won passage of a city ordinance that outlaws prolonged chaining of dogs.

And he created a way for real estate agents and mortgage companies to report animals abandoned in foreclosures. Some 600 animals have been rescued in the program's first nine months.

And on Wednesday, Stray Rescue of St. Louis beat out 1,000 other entries from around the country to win a $1 million animal shelter makeover from Zootoo.com.

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The pet lovers' social networking site was founded last fall by multimillionaire Richard Thompson, former chief executive of Secaucus, N.J.-based Meow Mix.

He said Meow Mix gives away "tons of cat food" and gave him a chance to visit countless shelters in the U.S., most of which he said, "are in deplorable condition, needing volunteers and out by the city dump or airport.

"They're out of sight, out of mind. How can you adopt a pet if you don't know where to go? Nine million pets a year are euthanized. Why go to a pet store when you can adopt?"

Thompson said the shelter makeover competition was his way to "shine a spotlight on shelters" and show their need for donations and support.

Communities nominated the shelters and visitors to Zootoo.com voted online. Thompson and his team, which included the Humane Society of the United States, visited the 20 finalists.

The first runner-up, Humane Society of the Ohio Valley in Marietta, Ohio, received $20,000. The second runner-up, SPCA of Jefferson County in Watertown, N.Y., received $10,000. Seventeen other shelters were awarded $6,000 each by Zootoo.com last week.

Thompson said Stray Rescue, and many of the finalists, met criteria for need, community commitment, best practices, and efforts to get more animals adopted.

Stray Rescue's edge was the way it has rallied the community to help the shelter, he said.

Stray Rescue operates two small no-kill shelters, which hold a total of 40 animals. Every inch of space is used for rescued animals - even the office and bathroom, where a shepherd mix, Josephine, is assigned.

Grim and a network of volunteers humanely trap abandoned dogs - largely in impoverished neighborhoods - socialize them in the shelter or a foster home, and ready them for adoption.

Grim says the money will be used to help create a state-of-the-art shelter from a downtown warehouse donated by A.G. Edwards before it merged with Wachovia last fall. The build-out will cost an estimated $3 million; Stray Rescue already had raised $700,000. He trusts he'll raise the balance.

"People perceive shelters as eyesores," he said, "but I want ours to be inviting and in a prime real estate location. These aren't second-class dogs, and they shouldn't be hidden away like some dirty little secret. I want to build a shelter the city and public can be proud of."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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