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January 26. 2014 8:15AM

Journey Ewell’s love for 4-legged friends includes the underdogs

Journey Ewell 

Journey Ewell, 38

Home: Manchester

Birthplace: Manchester

High school: Central High, Manchester

Current job: Co President of the Friends of the Manchester Animal Shelter

Key current professional challenge: We are looking to expand the Manchester Animal Shelter. Since we do not euthanize for space, we desperately need more room to house all of Manchester’s animals in need.

Last major achievement: Received the Spirit of New Hampshire award in 2011.

Biggest problem facing New Hampshire: In New Hampshire we have an overpopulation of cats and pitbulls which leads to crowded local shelters. Many people struggle to afford having their pet fixed, so we began two free/low-cost spay/neuter programs at the Manchester Animal Shelter to combat both of these issues.

Favorite place in New Hampshire: Hampton Beach

What book are you reading now? "Kneading to Die" by good friend Liz Mugavero

What websites do you visit most often: of course :)

MANCHESTER — Animal advocate Journey Ewell knew something had to be done when the city became overrun with stray cats and pit bulls about five years ago.

Inspired by her passion for pets, Ewell created a host of programs at the Friends of the Manchester Animal Shelter to curb overbreeding through free or low-cost spay and neuter clinics and help pet owners care for their animals during hard times while remaining the driving force behind fundraising efforts upon which the shelter relies.

"The problem in New Hampshire is the cat population and the pit bull population. We are inundated with cats and pit bulls," said Ewell, 38, a Manchester native and co-president of Friends of the Manchester Animal Shelter at 490 Dunbarton Road. She has been a volunteer there since 2003.

Pits bulls currently are the "breed of choice" in New Hampshire, she explained. A disproportionate number of strays coming to the shelter were pits bulls, and about 98 percent of them had not been spayed or neutered, she said.

Ewell started the "Fix-a-Pit" program in 2009 that alters pit bulls for free. About 460 pit bulls have been altered so far under the program, she said.

"Since 2010, we actually did an intake count of how many pit bulls we took in every year. There are less and less strays coming, so we can see how we've made a difference," Ewell said.

She applied the same approach to the cat over-population by creating a "Quick Fix" clinic in 2009 that provides low-cost spay and neutering of cats. About 3,000 cats have been altered since, she said.

"We have so many cats coming into the shelter that the only way to solve that is to get to the root of the problem, which is to spay and neuter," Ewell explained. 

Ewell also created an emergency medical fund — the Tonka Fund — which ensures no animal is put down because of medical costs. She also started a pet food pantry where Manchester residents facing hard times can get free dog or cat food so they won't have to give up their pets. And she chairs the Wine and Chocolate Event, the shelter's major annual fundraiser.

Ewell has been an animal lover since she was a child growing up with rescue dogs.

Her favorite breeds and pets are the ones no one wants.

"I always tend to go for the underdog — so cats and pit bulls," she explains. 

Ewell owns four cats and an "awesome" 9-year-old female pit bull named Glory who no one would adopt after coming to the shelter as a stray. 

Ewell spends her free time going to Hampton Beach, spending time with family and friends or staying at home with her animals.

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