When the flood of mail following her contribution to a national animal welfare organization became a daily deluge, Eileen Gideon decided it was time to take matters into her own hands.
Gideon, a restaurateur who with her husband runs Dutch's Daughter in Frederick and Dutch's at Silver Tree at Deep Creek Lake in Oakland, founded Uniting to Save Animals, or U2SA, in October. The organization's mission is to help low-income residents cover the cost of spaying or neutering pets to cut down on unwanted animals, as well as to promote adoption from local shelters and rescue organizations.
"I sent a donation thinking I'm helping out animals," Gideon said. "Within a month, I started getting six brochures or letters a day in my mailbox. The abuse, neglect and death of animals, it's horrible."
Gideon is a lifelong animal lover who owns six dogs, including four bloodhounds. Most of her dogs are rescues, and she considers all of them members of her family, which includes her husband, Joe, a son and two daughters. Between her family, the dogs and the restaurant, she's got little free time.
"The more I get involved with all these rescue dogs, the more I realize the more I can't keep any more dogs," Gideon said. "I'm only rescuing one dog at a time here. Maybe I can help somebody else."
A New Year's Eve fundraiser at Dutch's Daughter raised more than $30,000 with more than 200 attendees, Gideon said. She hopes to plan similar future events, and the organization is eyeing the purchase of a mobile vet clinic and the opening of a thrift store in downtown Frederick with the proceeds going to U2SA.
"I don't want to ask people for money," she said. "I want them to want to give money."
Gideon also opposes puppy mills, the large-scale dog breeders widely believed to place profit above animal welfare. She emphasizes that rescue organizations exist "for any sort of animal out there."
"Adopt, don't buy," she said. "No need to buy an animal. You just have to look."
Five area veterinarians have signed up with U2SA to offer spay and neutering at reduced rates. The organization has also helped out with the Frederick County Animal Control shelter, for which it has made a brochure, Gideon said.
"All five of these vets go way beyond what they need to do," Gideon said, while also praising U2SA volunteers who have helped the organization grow to this point. "They are very much into helping the community."
Crossroads Animal Referral & Emergency of Frederick has already spayed or neutered 17 animals with the help of U2SA, Dr. Kelly Gellasch said.
Village Vet of Urbana will offer free spay and neuter days this month, sponsored in part by U2SA, Dr. Nancy Little said.
"It's a very good thing. I think it's necessary. Some people really need help," Little said. "If they don't have the wherewithal to spay and neuter their pets, what are they going to do when they multiply to 20 or 30 (animals)?"
Buckeystown Veterinary Hospital, Montgomery Village Veterinary Center and Yellow Springs Veterinary Clinic are also participating, Gideon said.
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