A local animal shelter is asking for the public's help to get a project up and running that would help make some of their dogs more adoptable and provide benefits for the people involved.
"She's a shy little girl, but she's a a really sweet little thing," says Kearney Animal Shelter veterinarian Dr. Tracy Kelliher as she examines a little brown stray named Foxy.
Kelliher says dogs like Foxy don't always get "forever homes" because they don't make good first impressions - hiding in the back of their kennel or rushing to the front when potential adopters come to see them.
To give them a better shot, Kelliher came up with the idea of Project STRAY (Stray Training and Rehabilitation by Area Youth). Behaviorally-challenged dogs could be administered advanced obedience training by students at the Kearney Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center.
"Dogs will be in a live-in situation, they'll be assigned a primary handler and then two optional handlers so that they get a break," said Kelliher.
But to get Project STRAY started the shelter needs funds, so Kelliher entered a contest sponsored by vet product manufacturer Heska. Now they need the public's online votes to win the $25,000 prize.
"Last year's winner won by less than a 50 vote margin," Kelliher said. "So we need to get our neighbors in Lincoln and Omaha, Grand Island, Hastings, even other states to come and vote with us."
Officials with the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center weren't willing to comment ahead of a more finalized plan, which the Animal Shelter says hinges on them getting funding, but Dr. Kelliher says it's still exciting for the community to be working together toward this goal.
"They've actually shown that the students that are involved in this, and even the ones that are just around it, will open up easily to their peers and to their counselors, so we're hoping it'll benefit all the kids in the facility," she said.
Kelliher says the program would be self-sustaining as students would train students and volunteers would help out, so with the Heska prize money they could fully fund the program. She says the dogs would be more adoptable once trained, and that pet projects like this have been show to lower re-offender rates. Part of Project STRAY would also involve service dogs trained at the YRTC in Geneva.
Voting ends December 18th. To vote or learn more about Project STRAY, click on the links below.