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Fete For Pets

By Words JO LEE FERGUSON
March 23, 2012 at 5:41 a.m.


<p align="left">The goal Alicia Lee Nolte and the rest of the Fete for Pets board have in mind is an "animal center." It's a place Nolte envisions as having lots of space for people to view animals available for adoption, a place with classroom space to educate people about animal care, an inviting place where people will want to volunteer to help walk dogs. Maybe it could have a doggie daycare, training services, a pet store, veterinarian offices. Maybe it could even make money.

<p align="left">"We take our children out of a bad environment and we try to bring them to a better environment," Nolte said. "That's what we need to teach our community to do - step up to do something better for our animals."

<p align="left">Fete for Pets is her way to help make that possible. The name originally applied to a fund-raiser she organized for the existing animal shelter operated by the Humane Society of Northeast Texas. The event has since become a fundraiser for efforts to open a new shelter, and the event's name also has been assigned to the nonprofit organization behind the fundraiser. This year's Fete for Pets event is March 31 at Flyin' Feathers Ranch.

<p align="left">Nolte, wife of Mike Nolte and mother of 8-year-old Ella, is a businesswoman - owner of Cherry Hill & Co. clothing store, two events centers - The Station, located near her store, and Flyin' Feathers Ranch.

<p align="left">The native East Texan also is a woman who has a heart for animals: five animals live in her home (four of them are rescues looking for homes), a 17-year-old pot-bellied pig named Louie Suey lives outside at her home and another nine rescue dogs live at the ranch.

<p align="left">"I've seen so much love and loyalty and received love from animals," she said, explaining that animals, like children, need protection.

<p align="left">"They can't change their environment," said Nolte, who is president of Fete for Pets. "They don't have a voice. They're helpless..."

<p align="left">That's why they need someone to stand up for them and stand up to raise money for a new animal center in Longview, she said.

<p align="left">Fete for Pets, though, is about more than bricks and mortar. Until the new animal center is built, for instance, the group is helping several local animal rescue groups whose members take pets into their homes until they find a permanent home.

<p align="left">"These people are doing it out of their own money, and their own blood and tears," Nolte said.

<p align="left">And the need is great.

<p align="left">"The numbers are so high, the stats of the unwanted animals that run the streets, the rural areas," she said, and it's because so many people are not responsible for their pets and do not get them spayed or neutered.

<p align="left">Part of her group's goal is to make such services available at lower costs. Her group also is about education, starting with children.

<p align="left">And her group is about partnerships, starting with the city of Longview. While the details are not set in stone, city officials have been touting a public-private partnership to build a new shelter for Longview. The city has pledged land for the facility at Hinsley Park, on U.S. 259 near Hawkins Parkway, and city staff members visited other animal facilities around the state to help develop a possible shelter design.

<p align="left">For Nolte, the ultimate goal is to have a larger facility than the one currently in use, with an area to adequately quarantine animals when they arrive at the shelter so disease doesn't spread.

<p align="left">It should be a "happy" and "peaceful" place for people to visit animals available for adoption.

<p align="left">And perhaps the biggest goal of all is for the shelter to be as close to "no-kill" as possible.

<p align="left">"It's a goal. It's something we want desperately," Nolte said.

<p align="left">That said, Nolte and Kevin Cummings, the city's development services director whose department includes the animal control office, acknowledge that not all stray animals are adoptable.

<p align="left">For instance, Cummings said some of the animals the animal control officers pick up are "so badly injured that the most humane thing is to put the animal to sleep." Others are just unadoptable, so wild that it would be unsafe to place them with a family.

<p align="left">In the end, the new shelter will have to meet the needs for an adoption facility and the needs of the city - possibly at different locations.

<p align="left">While the plans are not finalized, Nolte's group has sought the assistance of a group that has accomplished the very things Fete for Pets wants - and duplicated it around the world.

<p align="left">The Helen Woodward Animal Center is a no-kill shelter in California that has helped 2,200 shelters in nine countries, Nolte said. That organization's president, Mike Arms, is coming to Longview in March to speak to city leaders, help make infomercials in support of Fete for Pets' goals and take questions about how a no-kill shelter can operate. His services are free, Nolte said.

<p align="left">"They've already figured out the whole thing," Nolte said, of efforts to build a no-kill facility that doesn't drain taxpayer dollars.

<p align="left">Arms' organization will help Fete for Pets achieve its larger goal of stopping what Nolte said is the "senseless death of thousands of animals."

"We've all got to come together," Nolte said. "It has to be a village to raise a community."

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