Puppies at the Jackson County animal shelter have a spacious new playground, thanks to the Friends of the Animal Shelter and donors.

Puppies at the Jackson County animal shelter have a spacious new playground, thanks to the Friends of the Animal Shelter and donors.

FOTAS is hosting a grand opening of the new Puppy Place at 10 a.m. Sept. 24 at the Jackson County Animal Care and Control Center, 5595 S. Pacific Highway, Phoenix. The fenced-in area at the front of the shelter provides a clean space for puppies to exercise and be more visible to the public.

"It's a place for them to run and play and to be puppies," said Barbara Talbert, president of the FOTAS board.

Because puppies have not yet built up adequate immunity to diseases, they are kept separate from healthy adult dogs during exercise. Previously, the puppies were confined to individual kennels and volunteers walked them outside, one at a time, in a small space on a leash.

"It was tedious for them and the puppies," said Talbert. She added that the short walks and lack of freedom also did not promote adequate physical and emotional development, which is needed for them to become adoptable.

"Now, the puppies can exercise and be more visible to the public when they play and get trained," said Talbert, adding the shelter draws more than 300 visitors a week.

"A lot more people will see them interacting with volunteers. They will be healthier and better socialized, too," she said.

FOTAS raised about $22,000 to construct the facility, including a $10,000 grant from a pet recovery service called HomeAgain and donations from the community.

The puppy area is just one of the ways FOTAS helps support the shelter. In addition to walking dogs, fostering cats and a providing a variety of clerical support, volunteers also work to educate the public about spaying and neutering pets as well as pet care. FOTAS also hosts its annual Puss 'n Boots Ball, a charity dinner and costume party, at the end of October to raise money for the shelter.

Recently, FOTAS has been promoting the "Kind News," a monthly publication for children by the Humane Society of the United States. The publication emphasizes the importance of caring for pets and owners' responsibilities toward them. FOTAS is looking for classroom sponsors to provide the Kind News to area students.

"We provide the publication and teachers incorporate it into their curriculum," said Talbert. "For $25 a year, people can sponsor one classroom. So far, FOTAS has about 50 classrooms signed up.

Talbert said the Puppy Place grand opening on Saturday is a way to thank the donors and volunteers for their support. It also offers a chance to call attention to the work the shelter does.

"I think the big secret about the shelter is that it is really a fun place. Spending time with the animals makes us feel good. It is not a sad place. We celebrate the adoptions, all the animals who get new homes," Talbert said.

Donations of puppy toys are welcome. For more information on FOTAS activities or volunteer opportunities, contact Mary Pfister at 541-944-2021 or visit the organization's website at www.FOTAS.org.

Angela Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at decker4@gmail.com.