‘Pit Bulls’ star to help raise funds for River Rouge shelter
Morning and night, Dave McMurtrie and Kayli Sparks are all about dogs.
The pair long have run the independent shelter Pit Stop for Change Rescue & Rehabilitation from their River Rouge home — an all-consuming operation involving constant cleaning, feeding, dog walks, even trips to save abused or abandoned canines.
“We go all over the place,” Sparks said between duties Thursday. “It’s just nonstop. We don’t really get a break unless we go to bed.”
The group, which became a nonprofit late last year, is even busier these days. While raising their profile to become a full-fledged center dedicated to saving “bully breeds” Downriver as well as elsewhere, the leaders are seeking donations to keep thriving and reach the ultimate goal: a new building.
A fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday at Renegades Bar & Grill in Garden City featuring Tia Maria Torres of the Animal Planet show “Pit Bulls and Parolees.”
The $50 tickets for the event are sold out, but Pit Stop still needs financial contributions to secure a new site its operators say could help widen their reach, launch educational programs and more.
“We hate asking, especially when it’s regarding dogs, but it really is a matter of funding to get into a building,” McMurtrie said. “We’re at a standstill with what we’re able to do because of the limited space. Once we have a building, it’s going to open so many more doors.”
Finding a facility was part of a resolution to a legal case with River Rouge. City authorities last year cited the group for failing to have a kennel license as well as not registering dogs with the city, McMurtrie and Sparks have said.
The charges were eventually dropped “due to our great effort to find a new place and funding for it,” said Anne Savage, the group’s new business manager.
Although an official deadline has not been set, the leaders hope to relocate later this year once finding an affordable, properly zoned space. “We think that it’s possible to get into something … but at this point it’s an unknown factor,” Savage said.
But that costs money, which Pit Stop desperately needs. The monthly food tab alone totals several thousand dollars and the pooches’ medical bills add up, Sparks said. “It’s imperative that we get donations because without them, we can’t help any new dogs. We can’t maintain the lives of the dogs we have taken in. We can’t go check on things. We have to be able to drive around, get dogs to vet checks. ... The support of the community is a necessity.”
The nonprofit owners also strive to maintain high standards — from hands-on training to daring rescues and selective adoptions. “Our goal is to get every single dog in our program but there are going to be no shortcuts to do that,” McMurtrie said. “We’re always going to err on the side of the dog and that’s how all rescues should be.”
That personalized touch has garnered attention. Torres reached out to Pit Stop after reading a recent post about them on Eclectablog, which is run by Savage’s husband, Sparks said. “I thought it was a joke. I didn’t really think it was her. I was laughing, thinking: ‘Get out of here.’ ”
But Torres was serious and “said she would be interested in mentoring us,” Savage said. “She said it would be the first time she decided to mentor a group. We were pretty thrilled about it.”
As word about the group’s work spreads, other supporters want to step up help, as well.
Nevaeh Neff of Washington Township, who turns 11 next week, is extending her effort to swap birthday goods for funds to support animals in need. A GoFundMe page aims to raise $2,500 for Pit Stop.
“They’ve given up their lives to help animals that are abused and I think that’s huge,” said her mother, Suzi Neff. “There are not that many people out there who are going to do that. I just think they’re amazing people. I’m super glad that we got to meet them and we’re going to donate to a good cause.”