BROOKFIELD – Due to the increase in the number of dogs testing positive for heartworm, the Healthy Hearts and Paws Project plans to build a 9,300 square foot facility off Collar Price Road where they can stay to recover.
Jason Cooke, President of HHPP, began helping heartworm-carrying animals in August 2018 in partnership with the Mahoning County Dog Warden and Commissioners, and in 2019 the Healthy Hearts and Paws Project was founded.
Cooke said the organization has helped 42 dogs so far this year and expects to help 300 by the end of the year. Due to increased numbers, fundraising has begun for a $1.9-2.1 million facility at the 39-acre site.
“We are designing a facility to help more dogs with heartworm. This way we can help up to 400-500 dogs per year. It is designed solely for the treatment, recovery and adoption of heartworm carrier dogs. There will be a quarantine area and special recovery areas for dogs,” Cooke said.
Fundraising is scheduled to begin this year, begin in spring 2022, and open the facility in spring 2023.
Individuals can donate on the Healthy Hearts and Paws Project Facebook page. Individuals can also contact the organization if they wish to welcome a dog.
Cooke said people will be able to sponsor parts of the building, the entire building or individual kennels.
He said the facility could be used not only to help dogs in Ohio, but in other states as well.
Township Administrator Chairman Dan Suttles said Cooke would work with the Trumbull County Building Department on his project because the township does not have zoning.
The organization’s volunteers visit shelters in the region and find dogs carrying heartworm.
“I gave up my whole house and garage to do this. The number of needy dogs has increased so we need a bigger facility,” he said, noting that the dogs are now in kennels or crates.
Cooke said he and volunteers are doing what they can to place as many dogs as possible into foster homes.
He said he worked with Mahoning County commissioners, the dog sitter and Friends of Fido to help save dogs with heartworm.
“People thought I was crazy, but I wanted to help dogs” Cooke said, noting that he started with five crates in his house.
Cooke also has an area where dogs can run and play, which has been set up by volunteers. About 10 volunteers a day help the organization walk the dogs, clean the kennels and try to socialize the dogs. Recently, the Youngstown State University lacrosse team helped walk dogs.
Cooke said heartworm is a preventable disease caused by mosquitoes.
Heartworm treatment costs can range between $500 and $700, he said.
“It will be nice to have all the dogs in one place. We want to help dogs get adopted after treatment. Too often they have been deemed unadoptable because of heartworm. With successful treatment, they can live a happy life,” he said.