State Center woman starts animal shelter

A deeply personal concern about pet overpopulation has motivated a State Center woman to form a not for profit animal rescue organization.

Amanda Akers, a Chelsea native who moved to State Center with her husband Tyson in 2010, said she decided one month ago to move forward.

Motivation to act came from two sources.

“Every dog Tyson and I have ever had has been a rescue dog,” she said. “And we adopted our current dog, Diamond, from a ‘high-kill’ shelter in Louisiana.”

Akers said it was designated high kill, because it could only keep strays and unwanted pets for one week before euthanizing them.

“They advertised like crazy on Facebook to alert the public to the animals they had available,” she said. “Diamond, though, really got things rolling, and made me realize how big of a problem we have with unwanted pets and strays.”

Akers said an estimated 3 to 4 million unwanted animals are euthanized each year.

She has named the shelter “Diamond in the Ruff,” in honor of her dog.

Akers candidly acknowledged starting the organization from scratch has been challenging.

But she has hit the ground running by recruiting three other central Iowa women who share her passion.

Bev Espencheid of rural Traer, LIsa Tichy of rural Le Grand, and Terrie Weitzell of Toledo have joined Akers.

Additionally, Akers hired an attorney to help her apply for a 501 (c) 3 tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service.

Patience will be more than a virtue, it will be required, as it may take up to two years to receive a 501(c)3 certificate, she said.

In addition to being tax exempt, earning the certificate qualifies Diamond in the Ruff to receive charitable donations and advertise on specific social medial websites.

However, there is much work to do in the meantime.

And in the past month Akers, who also works at Marshalltown’s Emerson Process Management/Fisher Controls, and team have been aggressively lining up foster or permanent homes and placing animals accordingly.

The team does have commitments from several folks willing to serve as foster hosts.

Finding foster and permanent homes quickly is a priority for Akers, since news of the shelter is spreading, and she and Tyson do not have unlimited space for the animals on their half-acre property within State Center town limits.

In addition to Diamond, the Akers are caring for six dogs and one cat.

“It is important for an animal to be placed in a home or farm situation, so it can learn basic behavioral skills, and they get the attention needed, which makes them more adoptable,” she said. “Plus, I would hate putting animals in cages.”

Social media and Internet tools are used extensively to promote, and manage the shelter.

A Facebook page, “Diamond in the Ruff Shelter,” has been created, with photos of animals. ‘And my team and I are online constantly communicating, working to find foster or permanent homes as well,” Akers said.

Akers and team have received advice on rescue operations from Heidi Drager, executive director of Marshalltown’s Animal Rescue League.

Also, Dennis Drager, Heidi’s husband and owner of the Animal Clinic – The Vet, in Marshalltown, gives Diamond in the Ruff discounted professional services.

Regardless, expenses have risen with each level of commitment, so the team has scheduled a fundraiser July 27.

Donating her services to the event is professional photographer Weitzell.

She will charge $25 for a photo of the first pet and $15 for a photo of each additional pet. Credit and debit cards will be accepted.

An additional $2 donation earns one the chance to win a 16×24 canvas print.

Bringing a specific brand of dog food will result in more savings.

“If one brings a bag of Blue Buffalo dog food (chicken and rice-adult) available at Theisen’s Home-Farm-Auto in Marshalltown, they will receive a $15 discount,” said Weitzell. “And with each donation, they will receive an 8×10 print and the donor’s name will be entered into a raffle to win one of many Theisen’s cards.”

As the fundraiser is being held at the Marshalltown Dog Park, all rules for use apply.

“Please bring your dog’s vaccination record, as that is a requirement to use the park,” said Tichy, “and let your furry friend run off some energy while helping Diamond in the Ruff.”

For more information, contact Akers at 641-844-3370.

Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com