Shawnee animal rescue SPAR struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star
Frisco (left) and Levi (right)  were among several dogs that were transported to Boulder Humane Society by Saving Pets At Risk (SPAR) and adopted into their forever homes.
SPAR also rescued six puppies found in a drainage ditch after their mother was hit by a car and transported them to Boulder Humane Society where a few have already been adopted.

From losing funding to canceling charity events, local Shawnee animal rescue Saving Pets At Risk (SPAR) faces negative financial impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to Director of SPAR Sherry Claybrook, the non-profit organization has faced many struggles since COVID-19 began and is barely able to care for the 48 to 50 animals currently in its program. 

“We have a lot more people wanting to relinquish their dogs and...then we transport Boulder Humane Society (in Colorado) and they stopped taking transports in,” Claybrook said.

She explained because SPAR couldn’t transport the dogs to Colorado, they had to board them which is an expense the organization can’t afford under normal conditions.

In addition to not being able to transport animals, Claybrook said SPAR also had to cancel its biggest fundraiser due to COVID-19.

“We have another one that’s kind of like Oktoberfest and we’re beginning to be afraid that we won’t be able to have that either,” Claybrook said. “With COVID-19 being a problem for a lot of people, donations as a whole have been down except for emergencies.”

The animal caretaker said SPAR is still functioning because of support from local businesses. 

However, Claybrook explained, the expenses of caring for 48 to 50 animals are great and difficult to maintain.

“We have dogs that were puppies that grew up in this time span and had to be spayed and neutered, which is something Boulder usually does for us,” Claybrook said. “So we just had a lot of unexpected things happen to us. So we are struggling to survive.”

Though they face financial challenges, Claybrook said SPAR is doing everything it can to help puppies and dogs.

The animal director said in the middle of June, Boulder began accepting transports again and SPAR took about 60 dogs and three cats to the Colorado organization and continues to make transports. 

So they remain functional, Claybrook said, and SPAR is making small payments at a time and slowly chipping away at animal medical bills.

“We’ve applied for a couple of grants and we did get one $3,000 grant from the Oklahoma City Community Foundation,” Claybrook said. “We don’t qualify for a lot of grants because we don’t have a facility that’s open to the public six days a week.”

SPAR is seeking financial assistance, Claybrook said, and she hopes the organization can continue to help the unwanted and mistreated animals in Pottawatomie County.

“We just need help. We’re a county of 70,000 people and we are desperate for help so we can stay upright so we can continue to address the problem here in Pott. County,” Claybrook said. 

According to Kim Landholt, SPAR Digital Media Coordinator, in an attempt to receive financial assistance, SPAR started a resale website where people can purchase gently used items at reasonable prices for their pets.

“We must rely on the community to step forward to provide the funding necessary to continue to save the hundreds of abandoned, abused, injured (and) homeless dogs we rescue every year,” Landholt said.

To donate visit or, to adopt a dog visit and to purchase gently used items check out SPAR’s Facebook Market page.

“COVID-19 halted so much for everyone, but nothing stopped our need to save abandoned and injured dogs in Pottawatomie County,” Landholt said. “It actually increased our need for Saving Pets At Risk.”