Pupils aim to help dogs

Third-graders raise money for 69 rescued animals


It's the lunch hour at Timonium Elementary School, and pirates have taken over the hallways.

Decked out in pirate garb -- eye patches, fuzzy moustaches, hooks -- a band of third-graders roamed the halls yesterday trying to get classmates to cough up money.

But instead of extorting doubloons to finance marauding voyages, these young buccaneers have been busy raising money to help the dozens of dogs rescued this month from two Harford County homes.

"We are trying to hook you into helping a pet by donating money," Ben Miller, 9, said to classmates in the hallway.

Juan Touceda, 9, took the schtick further, positioning a stuffed parrot on his shoulder.

"It's a fundraiser for animals who need homes," said Juan, who is the keeper -- and voice -- of Perry. The bird squawked "Help a pet" repeatedly.

The campaign is working. Nearly 70 third-graders at the school on Eastridge Road have raised about $1,000 this month.

"There is even more," said Hannah Haley, 9, manning one of several small treasure chests. "I have $10 in change in here. Everybody here loves pets."

The pets in question are 69 dogs being housed at the Harford Humane Society in Fallston. They are among the animals that were recovered by Harford police and animal control workers May 12 at two homes in Whiteford. Police found 120 dogs -- at least 40 of them dead -- and some cats in the two homes. Some of the animals had been in cages for weeks or months, while others were roaming amid carcasses and feces.

Police later arrested Donna Lee Bell, 59, the owner of the homes, who has been charged with 118 counts of animal cruelty.

The dogs were taken to the Harford shelter, where officials plan to find temporary foster homes for the dogs until the charges against Bell are resolved.

The children at Timonium Elementary will deliver the money to the shelter, along with new leashes, collars, food dishes and linens.

"We have pillows so they are comfortable when they lay down, and blankets so they don't shiver," said Tyler Pillas, 8.

The Harford shelter is working to nurse the animals back to health and find foster homes.

Many of the dogs are bouncing back, said Tammy Zaluzney, shelter director, who credits her staff and the community response to the animals' plight.

"Their eyes are bright, when they see the leash, and their tails wag at the idea of a walk," she said. "These animals have an indelible spirit, and they are getting it back."

The shelter has received more than $15,000 in contributions in the past two weeks, and volunteers have come forward to help care for and exercise the dogs, Zaluzney said. Children have sent handmade thank-you cards and "people treats" to the staff.

"It has been difficult for everyone here to see these victims of abuse and neglect," she said. "The community support is keeping us going and making us feel appreciated."

Before the Harford dogs were discovered, Timonium's third-graders began a fundraiser as part of an economics project that involved making and selling hair ornaments and donating the proceeds to charity. The class had selected Tails of Hope, an animal sanctuary based in Mount Airy, as the beneficiary of the $220 in proceeds.

But in the midst of one fundraiser, the children took on another -- helping the animals at the Harford County shelter.

Marguerite Forte, a third-grade teacher who is directing the project, delivered a carload of donations to the shelter last week and plans to take another soon.

"We got a list of all the things they need and started collecting," she said.

The philanthropic efforts have not been limited to the third grade. Second-graders have decorated cartons for different items -- including one for pet toys -- so donors can sort accordingly.

"We even have a squishy soccer toy," said Zach Metzler, 7.

To which Rachel Hall, 8, replied, "They can share and fetch."


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