Pet Search finds animals forever homes

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For nearly 30 years, Kent and Sherry Knight have been putting animals first. What began as People for Animal Welfare in 1986 changed its name to Pet Search in 1995, and since then, more than 3,000 dogs and cats have been placed with loving families. The Knights are co-founders and CEOs of the organization, based in Washington, which is a 501-c3 nonprofit.

“We’re an all-volunteer organization. We put the animals first,” Kent Knight said. Pet Search is a no-kill animal rescue and placement service that utilizes foster homes to care for pets until permanent homes can be found. Currently, Pet Search has about 20 foster families and a number of volunteers throughout Washington County and Southern Allegheny County that temporarily care for the dogs and cats.

“If there’s an animal in need, we’re not going to turn it away,” Sherry Knight said. “We rescue in our own back yards.” She added that the organization does not take in animals from out-of-state or other shelters.

By fundraising and obtaining grants and corporate donations, Pet Search is able to sustain itself. The organization also offers a low-cost spay and neuter program called SNAP that anyone can utilize, and hosts rabies vaccination clinics five times per year.

Pet Search acquires animals in a number of ways. Sherry Knight said about 60 percent of the dogs brought to Pet Search come from local animal control agencies in communities like Cecil, North Franklin and South Strabane. Another 20 percent of dogs are strays people have picked up.

Owner-related issues, such as someone developing an allergy to the pet, a death in the family or the family is moving and cannot take the pet with them also bring animals to Pet Search.

The Knights and the other volunteers are busy all year, but during kitten season, in early spring, they are at their busiest. Sherry Knight said that they always get calls at the end of every month, because it’s at that time that people often move.

The Holiday Season

Adding a pet to the family is not something that should be entered into lightly. That’s why Sherry and Kent Knight agree pets shouldn’t be given as a gift unless the person knows about it beforehand and has had a hand in selecting the animal. Also, with the craziness of the holidays, it may not be the best time to adopt a new pet.

“You have to like the pet and the pet has to like you. The pet is choosing you,” Sherry Knight said.

Kent Knight added that if a family does decide to adopt a pet during the holidays, do it prior to the actual day.

“Explain to the child, ‘Santa wants you to have it early,’” Kent Knight said.

“The holidays are not the best time to bring in animals. You want to be able to spend time with them,” Sherry Knight added.

Winter time

Pet Search does a thorough application process on prospective adoptive pet parents, which is especially important in the winter season.

Sherry Knight said they don’t place a pet if it is going to be an exclusively “outside” pet.

However, Sherry Knight said if folks do keep their dogs outside, to get an insulated dog box and line it with straw. She advised not to put blankets in the box because they could get wet and cold. A dog box with a flapper door is also a good idea.

For stray outdoor cats, Sherry Knight advised using an insulated Styrofoam cooler as a shelter. She said to use duct tape to tape the lid and cut a hole in it so the cat can get in, and then line it with straw.

Why they volunteer

Kathy Dzikowski of Avella has been a Pet Search volunteer for about six years, and specializes in fostering cats. She’s also the organization’s treasurer. She said the best part of volunteering is “seeing people’s faces when they get their pets.”

“I enjoy spending time with the dogs and cats,” said volunteer Teresa Williams of McMurray, who often helps out at adopt-a-thons and community festivals. Williams, who has been volunteering for about five years, also makes homemade dog treats for the animals. “We get new dogs constantly,” she said, adding that’s a good thing, because it means a lot of dogs are being placed in forever homes.

“I’m proud of the organization and what we do,” said volunteer Janet Lane of Washington, a five-year Pet Search volunteer. “I’ve made many friends – like-minded friends.”

Kent Knight said the “success stories” are the best part about what he does with Pet Search. He said it’s especially rewarding when an animal they think may never be adopted finds a home.

How to get involved

Pet Search holds monthly meetings at 7 p.m. the first Thursday of each month in the annex of the Washington County Courthouse. Anyone interested in volunteering or helping out in any way is welcome to attend.

For more information on how to volunteer or donate, call 724-228-SEEK or visit

Pet Search will hold an adoption event/pictures with “Santa Paws” at PetSmart in Washington. Events are scheduled to run from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 7-8 and 14-15.

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Published Dec 4, 2013 at 2:16 pm (Updated Dec 4, 2013 at 2:28 pm)

Pet Search finds animals forever homes

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