5/19 New Haven Register (Woof Trax)

Walking your dog could help Hamden get an animal shelter

Clare Dignan May 19, 2020 Updated: May 19, 2020 3:48 p.m.

HAMDEN — A local nonprofit fighting for Hamden’s animals is asking the community to walk with a purpose.

Gimme Shelter, a organization on a mission to see Hamden’s first animal shelter built in town, launched a social distancing fundraiser through the WoofTrax app and is asking only for people to walk their dogs.

The app, which is free to use, awards money to local shelters based on how many people they have walking on their behalf.

“People are looking to get out, and this is one option we hope they consider,” Gimme Shelter President Leonard Young said of the fundraiser.

Assistant Hamden Animal Control Officer Mitch Gibbs, with Woof Trax participant Jamie Viesselman and Callie, a Weimaraner rescue. Jamie & Callie are courtesy of Gimme Shelter vSecretary, Dian Viesselman.

It’s been a year since Hamden Animal Control had to vacate the North Haven Animal Shelter facility, but Hamden still doesn’t have a space of its own for animals. Dogs and cats are kept at several shelters and animal hospitals from which the town rents space for $30 a day per animal.

With warm weather already being enjoyed by many, Young said now is a perfect time for people to join the cause and get out walking, while continuing to socially distance.

Young and others founded Gimme Shelter in 2017 to create awareness and raise funds for the first-ever municipal animal shelter in Hamden. Since then the organization has held restaurant fundraisers to gather donations — among other efforts — for the animal shelter gift fund established by the town.

The fund started this year with $23,463, Young said, but since the typical restaurant fundraisers currently are not a viable option, Gimme Shelter wanted to find a different way to keep the momentum going and keep the need for a shelter in the community’s mind.

To participate in the WoofTrax fundraiser, people need to download the app, sign up for a profile and select Gimme Shelter as the Connecticut organization they want to support.

Walkers can join the “Spot On Walking” challenge through the app to raise money. The challenge is sponsored by Spot Pet Insurance so it costs walkers nothing to participate. The prize is proportionally based, so the more people walking the better, Young said.

“If we get 100 people, I’d be ecstatic and I don’t see why we couldn’t,” Young said. “The dogs have to go out and already I see a lot of people out walking, jogging and bicycling.”

An active walker in the challenge is defined as using the Woof Trax app at least once per week and walking a minimum of two-tenths of a mile. (Users don’t need a real dog to walk with to participate.)

Young said Gimme Shelter is hoping to reach the $25,000 mark for the gift fund by the end of the year. People wishing to contribute outside of the fundraiser may address donations to Hamden’s Animal Shelter Gift Fund, and mail to the Hamden Police Department at 2900 Dixwell Ave.

As recently as January, Mayor Curt B. Leng suggested the town might be able to build a shelter using a prefabricated unit — a house manufactured off-site in advance that could be shipped and assembled.

The prefab could provide all the amenities of something built from the ground up at a fraction of the cost, Leng said at the time.

Several sites were being considered, including an underused lot on Brooksvale Avenue next to Brooksvale Park. Other sites being considered were on Putnam Avenue or the High Meadows property, 60 acres the town is exploring purchasing.