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Gilmer veterinarian leads push for Upshur County animal shelter

By Christina Lane
Aug. 9, 2012 at 11 p.m.


GILMER - Dr. Cherie Nazzal of Gilmer is leading an effort to establish a no-kill animal refuge, which would be Upshur County's first animal shelter of any type.

"Animals are not expendable," Nazzal said Thursday. "People have to take care of them."

An organization meeting for the Upshur County Hope House for Pets met earlier this week to get the project off the ground.

Nazzal, who has been a veterinarian for 30 years, said she envisions the Hope House shelter being able to house up to 200 dogs and 200 cats, with more in foster care.

Her interest in establishing a shelter came about after several animals arrived at her clinic hurt and abused.

A couple of months ago, Nazzal said, she treated a dog that had been shot and thrown into a Dumpster.

Nazzal treated the dog, which was later adopted.

She said if the dog had been taken to a shelter, it would likely have been euthanized on the spot.

"An injured animal has no chance," she said.

She added that some shelters take in thousands of animals each month and have to euthanize many because they don't have the space.

She received two other injured dogs that had been abandoned and an injured roadrunner within weeks of receiving the first dog, and the idea for the shelter was conceived.

The group of volunteers, along with Nazzal, is working to file paperwork to be designated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and they are looking for a building in the county large enough to accommodate the animals. Nazzal said they are seeking a warehouse-type building to lease.

The group also is developing a five-year plan with the hope of being able to start adopting out animals in the shelter in about a year.

However, the group wants to begin a foster program sooner. Nazzal said people who express an interest can foster an animal until it is adopted.

She wants to seek foster families and individuals to get that aspect of the program started sooner.

She is also considering a trap, neuter and release program to help with the feral cat population in Upshur County. Through the program, feral cats would be trapped, neutered or spayed and given a rabies shot, then released again.

Nazzal said she has loved animals since she was a child who performed "surgery" on her stuffed animals, and wants to see Upshur County establish a shelter.

"We've needed one for a long time," she said.

To become involved with the shelter, contact Nazzal at her clinic at (903) 843-5524.

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