Happy Paws

Jillana Corbett of Olean is shown with donations of dog and cat food she has collected through Happy Paws. The organization, which provides pet food and supplies to needy families with animals, will conduct a collection, as well as a free photo session for donors, beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday in Lincoln Park.

OLEAN — When Jillana Corbett provided food for her aunt’s dog to ensure the pet could remain in its loving home, she was struck with the realization that other pet owners may need help as well.

It was with that in mind that Corbett started Happy Paws last year with a mission of helping needy families obtain pet supplies.

Corbett hopes to bolster pet supplies for the organization by conducting its first pet food collection and free photo session beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday in Lincoln Park.

Supplies needed in particular include new or unopened dog and cat food, as well as over-the-counter flea medications, toys, treats, litter, crates, shampoo and other supplies.

Corbett said in return for a donation of at least one pet item, the donor can have his or her photo taken free of charge in front of the park’s Christmas tree with their pets or “fur babies.”

The photos, taken by local photographer Adam Pecherzewski, will be posted to the organization’s Facebook page within a day or so, depending on the number of participants. Corbett said the participants will then be free to copy and save their digital image.

A resident of Olean, Corbett said the organization is mainly based on donations from the public that are then distributed to local families who need help to care for their pets.

“We have helped a great deal of families over the last year” in the area, Corbett explained. “Our goal is to keep animals in their loving homes, healthy and fed. This, in turn, could prevent these animals from ending up in shelters.”

Corbett said she has hung posters in the community and asked for donations of pet supplies on Facebook, but could use extra food and items to ensure more families can be helped with their animals. Corbett said she stores the food and supplies at her house, but hopes to have a collection site in the future.

“I used to have somebody who had a business and she would allow people to drop stuff there, but she doesn’t have that business anymore,” Corbett explained. “We’re currently working on building some sort of drop-off shed.”

When asked why she organized the program, Corbett, who owns three dogs, said it started when a relative who lives in the community asked her for help.

“Actually, I have an aunt and she doesn’t have a whole lot,” Corbett shared. “But she has pets, and she loves her pets. My mom would call me sometimes and say, ‘Hey, your aunt wants to know if you have any extra dog food,’ so I would take some over to her.”

Her aunt’s dilemma made Corbett realize there were probably other individuals and families in the community facing similar situations with their beloved pets.

“If you can keep an animal in the home (with food), it can make the difference for that person feeling like they need to surrender the animal to a shelter or not,” she said.

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at kates_th@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at kates_th@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)