Maggie Reid, Staff Writer
It wasn’t until Utica College Student, Amanda Abdagic, adopted a dog herself that she started to become an animal activist. “I saw what having one could do for somebody,” Abdagic said.
“People don’t take seriously it enough how much animals help in a certain situation.”
Abdagic started looking into animal rights and donating to Steven-Swan Humane Society. However, she started to wonder if she was donating to the right one. After doing research, she found that Herkimer Humane Society was the only one out of Rome and Steven-Swan, who revealed how much they were receiving from state aid. They only had a team of around 11 volunteers and were desperate for help, so Abdagic decided to donate food.
When she pulled in, she saw a fence with a beaten down dog house that was being used until it would fall apart. “As soon as you pull in, you kind of want to cry, you see how bad the situation is,” Abdagic said.
“I found out that they had 100 dogs there last month, even though they didn’t have much. I felt like I needed to do something. I decided on dog houses because they only had three beaten down ones, and the dogs all love their time outside.”
Abdagic then teamed up with her best friend who did construction to build the houses. She turned to social media and local businesses to see if anyone would be willing to help. A paving company, after she explained the situation, agreed to come down to the shelter after she explained how the houses were sinking into the ground. Pretty soon, more people heard and began to help.
Within a week, they had a dog house for a St. Bernard who, sadly, isn’t very social and isn’t likely to get adopted. It’s insulated, and he will be able to spend more time outside in the winter. Abdagic went to assemblyman, Anthony Brindisi, for different suggestions on how they can get more funding. WUTR will be reporting about Abdagic’s efforts to help spread awareness.
“Not many people know about Herkimer’s situation because they have never been there,” Abdagic explained. They still need important things, such as A.C in the dog’s area as it gets up in the 90’s during the summer. The cats are struggling with heat during the winter because of an unreliable furnace. It’s only functioning because of the 10-15 dedicated volunteers who take the time out of their lives to help. Imagine how great it could function if there were 100 volunteers.”
Abdagic decided that if she was going to put in the work to build the houses that they should be able to last 15 years without any problems rather than a shorter period of time where you would have to fix it up.
“Besides a lot of time, sweat and stubbed toes, it takes a lot of material to make sure these houses are insulated,” Abdagic said.
“If they have to keep them outside, we want to make sure that they are warm and that they look nice. We want to have nice houses greeting people when they pull in to help make them more adoptable.”
Each of the houses were donated, and every person who contributed material will have their names on the houses, along with Abdagic’s dogs paw prints.
“If it had not been for my dog affecting my life as much as he did, none of this would be happening,” Abdagic said.
Three houses have been completed in the two weeks since it started, but the goal is to complete six before it starts to snow. Not all the houses were built, some of them were donated. They are still looking for donations, whether it is materials, a dog house or even suggestions.
Abdagic is also a local title holder chapter for Miss America, which she became involved with her senior year of high school. After receiving a full scholarship from young scholars to UC, she wanted to find ways to pay for her books.
“I initially got involved because of the scholarship money, but stayed involved because of all the good things it has done for me,” Abdagic said. “It’s the reason why I am so patient in helping my community.”
One of the requirements is to have a platform that the title holders dedicate themselves to. Abdagic chose bullying and animal rights, and gives talks at schools about bullying and bystanders and how it can affect a person.
Through Miss America, Abdagic also mentors an 8-year-old girl who she brings with her while working on the dog houses to show her that “there is no limit to the good that we can do”.
Abdagic has been very vocal on social media in order to raise awareness. “It’s not for attention or to add to my resume, it’s because people our age don’t realize the impact we can have on a person or a non profit organization such as this. I want more people to become involved so that it becomes more of a community project, rather than just an Amanda project.”