From pound to sanctuary: Sammie’s Friends celebrates a decade |

From pound to sanctuary: Sammie’s Friends celebrates a decade

Cheryl Wicks of Sammie's Friends with puppy Cowboy, Wednesday afternoon at the shelter on McCourtney Road.
Submitted photo | The Union

One decade ago, the Nevada County Animal Shelter began a major transformation, as local nonprofit organization Sammie’s Friends was founded and quickly became a key supporter with an eye on turning around some troubling numbers in terms of the shelter’s euthanasia rate.

In 2001, roughly 68 percent of animals at the shelter were being euthanized, a number of them due simply to a lack of space.

At the time, the shelter restricted the number of dogs and cats to just nine each, causing the percentage of euthanized animals to be elevated.

But with the help of Cheryl Wicks and Curt Romander, founders of Sammie’s Friends, animals are no longer euthanized due to lack of space.

“Nothing is more exciting than seeing an animal who has been at the shelter for awhile and is then happily adopted into its forever home.”
Volunteer Coordinator Carol Cox

In fact, they are not euthanized at all.

In 2010, Sammie’s Friends took over full operations of the shelter and by the following year, Wicks was proud to report the county’s euthanasia rate for animals housed there was down to “eight-tenths of a percent.”

In that first year of operation, the shelter took in an additional 500 to 700 animals. Wicks said in 2011, the shelter had taken in more than 2,000 animals.

Wicks said during 2010 negotiations that the animal shelter had cost about $300,000 per year for the county to run, before the county entered a three-year, $982,000 agreement with Sammie’s Friends.

Prior to taking over shelter operations, Wicks said, Sammie’s Friends had already been contributing about $50,000 a year to the shelter. Once they assumed operations, Wicks said Sammie’s Friends contributed “beyond the county’s proceeds in the $80,000 range” toward the care and placement of animals at the shelter.

Due largely to the influence of the organization, the county shelter has gone “from the pound to a sanctuary,” said Suesan Larson, secretary of the Sammie’s Friends board.

On Saturday from noon to 4 p.m., the shelter will be hosting an adopt-a-thon while spending the day celebrating the 10th anniversary of Sammie’s Friends and its successful support for the shelter.

The event will have a silent auction, raffle items, and food for sale with all the proceeds going toward medical expenses for the shelter and community animals. KVMR (89.5FM) radio station will also be there to do a live broadcast of the day.

“(I hope) a lot of people attend (and there are) a lot of adoptions,” said Wicks, who serves as president of the Sammie’s Friends board.

Wicks first came to the shelter in 2001, when there were no volunteers and animals never left their cages. After one year, she had created a volunteer program that through the years has grown to include approximately 100 people.

In 2004, Wicks and Romander founded Sammie’s Friends and the organization began working with the county in financing the shelter.

Along with starting the organization, Wicks used personal money to cover the gap between the money they spent each year and the amount they got from the county.

Then in 2010, Sammie’s Friends officially took over the shelter from the county, and as of today, Sammie’s Friends has created a no-kill shelter within the county and has expanded their support further by providing assistance for animals throughout the community who already have a home.

“I’ve learned a lot about not only animals, but (also) people,” said Wicks, when talking about her experience.

For volunteers and the community, the addition of Sammie’s Friends has provided security and reassurance that all animals are being treated the right way and provided the care they need. It has made the shelter a destination rather than a place to avoid.

“People who come to volunteer at Sammie’s Friends think they will be sad to see animals in cages,” said Volunteer Coordinator Carol Cox. “But those animals are the lucky ones, because they are safe and well fed, with any medical needs attended to, and will be taken care of by Sammie’s Friends until they are adopted.

“Nothing is more exciting than seeing an animal who has been at the shelter for awhile and is then happily adopted into its forever home,” said Cox, who is also serving as chair of Saturday’s anniversary celebration.

Along with its foster families and adopt-a-thon events like Saturday’s, Sammie’s Friends makes use of the Internet to find new pet owners, including Petfinder .com, and its own website, http://www.Sam

Taia Greco is a Ghidotti Early College High School senior serving as an intern at The Union.

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