Chips all in for a good ‘paws’

Saved Me partners with SugarHouse Casino to host poker tournament to benefit animals in need

Puppy love: Ray Little and Madison, a 2-year-old chihuahua mix, hang out in front of the wall that celebrates animals that were adopted each week at Saved Me. The Northern Liberties-based animal shelter will host a poker tournament to benefit its animals on Friday, May 12.

By Melissa Komar

Kelis’ time was up when Ray Little stopped at Animal Control and Care Team for a routine dog pickup.

“[Kelis] was actually being used as one of their test dogs because she was friendly with other dogs,” he said. “And I asked if there was another dog that I could take and they pointed to Kelis and said she was actually scheduled to be put down that night.”

Thanks to Little and Saved Me, the nonprofit animal shelter at which he is executive director, the 10-year-old pit bull terrier mix will have a second shot at life.

Located in Northern Liberties, Saved Me has been on a mission to save animals from high-kill shelters from euthanasia due to overcrowding since reincorporating from the former Operation Ava in 2015.

That mission comes with a cost.

Aside from basic necessities such as food and bedding, animals often need medical treatment.

To defray some of these costs, Saved Me is holding a poker tournament and cocktail reception at SugarHouse Casino on Friday, May 12.

“It’s a fun way of actually treating yourself to a night out,” Little said, “and helping the animals at Saved Me at the same time.”

Helping animals is a cause long close to Little’s heart.

He spent years volunteering at the Pennsylvania SPCA and was its director of adoption, foster care and rescue until 2009. During his time there, he worked with the Philadelphia-based Doggie Style Pets to coordinate adoption events at store locations.

These experiences led to Little helping found what is today Saved Me.

“The primary reason we created the shelter was to be a model and partner for pet stores that don’t want to sell pets,” he said. “Our mission is to save the lives of pets that are adoptable.”

In addition to housing the animals, Saved Me provides medical care for the animals it takes in, which can range from neutering and spaying to operating on broken bones.

These pre-adoptive services are one of the major perks of adopting instead of purchasing an animal, according to Little.

“Adoptable animals have seen a veterinarian and you know more about their medical history. Often times, pets sold in pet stores come from breeders who don’t have the best interest of the animal’s health in mind,” he said. “And, of course, you’re saving a life.”

Man’s best friend: Ray Little talks to Nina, a boxer mix, as she waits at Saved Me to find her ‘furever’ home.

Saved Me works with local shelters such as ACCT to find homes for animals through adoption, “many of the dogs which are urgent, meaning they would have been euthanized the day we picked them up,” according to Little.

At any given time, the shelter houses approximately 60 to 65 animals between its two sites, including one in Narberth.

The majority of the animals are adopted at partner pet stores and outside events.

Saved Me brings adoptable dogs to all Saturday home games for the Philadelphia Union and provides adoptable animals to Pets Plus, which was once one of the biggest sellers of puppies, according to Little.

Doggie Style remains the largest partner for adoptions through the shelter.

And there’s never a shortage of dogs and cats.

Pit bulls are the most common dog available, and Saved Me started a program to curb the bad rap the breed often gets.

Through “You Saved Me and Me,” the organization promotes pit bull adoptions: Each time a pit bull is adopted, a space is saved for another pit bull. The adopter then gets a photo of the pit bull that took their dog’s place.

While pit bulls make up the majority of the dogs taken in, there are many more that have a sojourn at the shelter.

Saved Me takes in approximately 1,200 animals each year.

About 94 percent are adopted to new homes, some go back to their owners, and approximately 1.4 percent are humanely euthanized due to health issues.

While Little is proud of the success Saved Me achieves in giving animals a second chance, it’s more than just statistics.

It’s saving dogs such as Shepp, a 10-month-old, shepherd mix with heartworm that an adopter decided to take home and continue the treatment on his own.

It’s Diva, the 6-year-old, Boston terrier mix that had a hip fracture that never healed and was adopted.

It’s the puppies that would have died of parvovirus, but have a survival rate of 87 percent thanks to medical intervention at Saved Me.

Puppies that successfully underwent treatment for parvovirus at Saved Me.

And it’s Frank, the pit bull mix that was found tied to a tree last week and had facial swelling that was consistent with being beaten.

As Little walks through the shelter, he stops to greet each dog by name.

Each life is just as valued as the next.

“Some of these animals would be passed over because people don’t want to take home a sick or old animal,” he said. “Every animal deserves a fair shot to find a home.”

The Poker Tournament and Cocktail Reception to benefit Saved Me will take place on Friday, May 12, at 6 p.m. at SugarHouse Casino, 1001 N. Delaware Ave. Buy-in is $220. There will be a silent auction and chip-in — individuals can donate their chips. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at savedme.org.

Individuals interested in adopting an animal through Saved Me can stop by the center, 860–2 N. 3rd St., during business hours. Appointments not required. Must provide I.D., proof of home ownership or permission from landlord to have pets and a veterinarian reference. Monetary donations and food and cleaning supplies are always accepted. Volunteers for dog-walking and adoption events are welcome. For details, call 215–240–1240 or visit savedme.org.