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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Puppies create calm for university students, attention for animal advocacy

By Kathy Antoniotti
Akron Beacon Journal

University of Akron student Chris Meta sent cell phone photos of the brindle-colored Plott hound to his wife, hoping she would agree to take the dog into their pack that already includes three mixed-breed dogs.

Meta, of Youngstown, Ohio, was stoically standing up to pressure from fellow law school friends advising him to throw caution to the wind and just take the dog home. He said the decision was “on the fence right now” as he held the coonhound’s leash while snapping shots of the dog named Ohana.

“I need to walk away right now,” he said. “The last thing I need to hear is, ‘No, honey,’ ” as a response, he said.

A dozen or so puppies and older dogs arrived near West Hall in the law school complex on the University of Akron campus on a recent morning with the express purpose of visiting with students as they walked to classes.

The ploy worked. Crowds of students were drawn to the animals as if by magnets.

The intent of the event, sponsored by the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, a national student organization dedicated to animal advocacy through the creation of humane laws, was to help students de-stress as finals week begins, said Elisa Wood, a second-year law student and vice president of the campus organization. It also helped bring awareness to SALDF, she said.

“Preparation for finals is a very intense time and is very stressful. The dogs remind them there is a world outside of law school,” said Wood, originally from Dayton, Ohio.

Many of the 25 or so students in SALDF count volunteering with homeless animals as a way to fulfill an annual pro bono requirement for law school. They work as handlers for animals at weekend adoption events for Paws and Prayers pet rescue, the group that provided the animals.

John Chapman, a Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, city prosecutor and a University of Akron law school graduate, has remained an ardent volunteer with the rescue group, specializing in the placement of puppies.

“One hundred and four puppies have stayed at my house and have gone on to happy homes,” he said.

He teams up in the effort with a coonhound named Holly who teaches the puppies that it’s not OK to bite, he said.

As students and faculty advisers played Frisbee with border collie Jake and tug-of-war with a boxer named Max, others sat on the ground inside a small fenced-in area where a family of black collie-mix puppies entertained them with their antics.

SALDF adviser Ann Schiavone, who helped arrange for the puppy meet-and-greet with students, said it was a great way to bring attention to the 3-year-old organization.

“Everyone has different opinions on animal laws, but we are all united in our love of animals,” Schiavone said.

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