It wasn't a dog-eat-dog world Saturday at Cotton Park in Vermillion.
Tasha Anderson, executive director of the Heartland Humane Society, and her dog, Annie, enjoyed the morning's sunny skies and warm temperatures along with several other dogs and their owners at the humane society's Tails and Trails event at the park.
"This is our third annual dog walk, and it basically is a free-will donation for anyone to come out and walk his or her dog," she said. "It promotes a healthy lifestyle, it promotes education of owning animals, and it also gets our name out there, and let's people know we are fun organization."
Tasha, (Annie) Jeanette Kaddatz, director of operations, (Ray) Julie Becker, (Hutch) Tiffany Paulson, (Houdini) Jordan Bailey (Princess).
The event is also designed to remind people that there are several dogs and cats in Yankton and Clay counties that need a good home.
"We had several of the dogs that are available for adoption here at the park," Anderson said. "They wore little bandanas that say, 'Adopt me,' and people could walk them and get to know them.
"In the past, we've actually had people who met their dogs here at Tails and Trails," she said. "So we have people who have adopted based on their experiences at this event."
A long-term goal of the Heartland Humane Society is to eventually construct a new, permanent housing facility for stray pets in the region.
The funds raised at Saturday's event were allocated to the society's spay and neuter program.
"One of the things that's really important to the Heartland Humane Society is making sure that animals get spayed and neutered," Anderson said. "The money raised today through donations and memberships and things like that will go toward spaying and neutering the animals that we adopt to the community, as well as spay-neutral that we have set up for things like feral cats.
"There are different types of spaying and neutering that we do," she said, "but mainly it is for spaying and neutering animals before they are adopted and helping to maintain that by assisting people, after adopting an animal, to get that animal spayed or neutered."
Heartland Humane Society organized in 2000, and last July, it received a facility to allow it to house sheltered cats. "That's been a really big step forward," Anderson said. "Also, in August, I was hired to serve the organization full time. We've never had a full-time person before, so now we have regular hours, a regular office and we have cats available for adoption at the office.
"This is really the first time that we've had a facility, if you will, and a face in the community, where people can come and interact with us every day," she said, "so it's just been a huge step forward for us."
Heartland's office is located at 601-1/2 Burleigh in Yankton, next to More Than Pets grooming salon. The office is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment.
Heartland Humane Society serves Yankton and Clay counties in South Dakota and Cedar County in Nebraska and surrounding communities, protecting and enhancing the lives of companion animals by promoting healthy relationships between pets and people.
The new facilities and other progressive happenings at Heartland Humane Society couldn't have occurred at a better time. Several factors have lead to an ever-increasing demand for the society's services.
"There are several things that have contributed to that. There is a large population of stray animals. That could be attributed to a lot of things. I know that some of shelters in the area, such as in Sioux Falls and Sioux City, IA have reported that they larger numbers (of stray pets) also.
"The economy has probably taken its toll on some families; they are having to give up animals. We have people moving from houses that they cannot afford, and they have to give up animals, sometimes," Anderson said, "so there is a big need. And there is a big need for education on appropriate pet ownership, and what is the right pet for each particular family. Those are all services that we can help with, by re-homing animals, by helping to educate people, helping to educate school-age children and people who are wanting to adopt. We are happy to help with some of those things."
Anderson knows first-hand how successful that "re-homing" process can be. Her dog, Annie, a terrier mix, is adopted from a shelter.
Many of the dogs at Saturday's event have a complicated pedigree, but are simply loved a great deal by their owners.
Tasha, (Annie) Jeanette Kaddatz, director of operations, (Ray) Julie Becker brought Hutch, her Great Pyrenees-Chocolate Labrador mix to Saturday's event. Also participating in Tails and Trails was Jordan Bailey, who brought her dog, Princess, a boxer-collie mix. Tiffany Paulson kept a tight grip on the leash of her dog, Houdini, Australian cattle dog/Australian shepherd mix.
All of the animals are the type that typically can be found in an animal shelter – a pet that desperately needs a home.
"Shelters do often have purebreds for adoption, too, but unfortunately, the animals that aren't spayed or neutered aren't choosy," Anderson said. "So they mate with other animals that aren't spayed and neutered, and you get these eclectic varieties of dogs.
"Sometimes, though," she added, "you get the best of both breeds. Sometimes it's a good thing."
Anderson knows from experience that adopting a shelter dog can have a highly rewarding outcome.
"It's a good, fulfilling feeling, and sometimes you get the best of all the breeds that are mixed in there. It's not good that animals have unplanned litters, but it can be a good thing to have a mixed breed, too."