A little girl growing up in rural Johnson County always had a heart to help lost animals.
Sara Woods was always bringing home stray dogs and cats to take care of — leaving her dad, Mike “Woody” Woods to find homes for them.
After Sara died in a car accident in 2008, friends of her family in the Johnson County Eagles began a motorcycle ride fundraiser that benefits an organization that does the same thing she always loved to do — help find homes for animals.
Event organizer Tom Bland, a Franklin resident, who knows the Woods family, said he remembers Sara as a baby and as a kid growing up who always had dogs — and could never turn her back on an animal in need.
“Once or twice, she even came home with a pig,” Bland said.
Sara’s generous spirit continues to live on through the Goin’ to the Dogs motorcycle ride, which has raised $8,000 to $9,000 per year, with all proceeds benefiting the Johnson County Animal Shelter. Nearly $45,000 has been raised since its inception.
Because of the ride, no dogs have been euthanized due to a lack of space at the shelter in more than five years. Animals who are taken to the shelter who are sick or injured are able to be treated and all animals who come into the shelter get vaccinations.
The shots help animals not contract disease even after they’re released, said Michael Delp, Johnson County Animal Control director.
“It pays dividends we don’t even realize,” he added.
In addition, feral cats that are trapped and neutered are released back into the wild, and don’t continue to reproduce. Before the county’s trap and neuter program and the charitable ride began, about 1,000 cats were being euthanized in the county. Now, no feral cats are being put down.
Sara’s ride also offsets costs for transporting homeless animals that are taken in by other rescue organizations. Some rescue organizations are as far away as Wisconsin.
“You really don’t have any idea how many lives that the fund is able to impact and save,” Delp said. “All I can do is shake my head and smile.”
The Goin’ to the Dogs ride this year will take place at the same time as a special event at the county animal control office July 11.
The animal control office will host a special open house event — a sort of “freedom festival” for animals, Delp said.
The open house will serve as a thank-you to the riders and all the supporters of the animal shelter and give the public a chance to adopt animals at little to no cost.
Motorcycle riders will stop by the event and the sheriff’s office K-9 officer and animal obedience trainers will give demonstrations. Groomers will share pet care tips and tricks.
Visitors can adopt free “barn cats,” which are cats who have been rescued who will make great pets or can just live in barns catching mice, Delp said. The cats are already spayed or neutered and vaccinated.
The shelter will also have dogs available for adoption at a “name your price” rate. In other words, pet adopters can decide how much they can pay for the adoption fee and the shelter will pick up the rest of the cost.
Visitors can also enjoy free pizza and popcorn.
“We celebrate our freedom in July — this is our freedom fest for the animals,” Delp said.
The “Goin’ to the Dogs” Sara Woods Memorial Ride will leave at noon July 11 from Whit’s Inn, 1020 N. U.S. 31, Whiteland
Cost is $20 per rider and $10 per passenger.
Breakfast will be available starting at 9 a.m. for $5.
Registration starts at 10 a.m., with kickstands up at noon
All proceeds benefit the animal shelter.
Dinner and festivities after ride will be at the Johnson County Eagles, 564 N. Front St., Whiteland.
The Johnson County Animal Control open house will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 11 at Johnson County Animal Control, 2160 N. Graham Road, Franklin.
The event is free and open to the public
Rain date: July 18, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.;
The open house will include vendor booths (available free of charge to vendors — call 736-9324 for information); demonstrations by sheriff’s department K-9 officer, obedience trainer demonstrations with dogs; grooming tips and tricks from local pet groomers.
Photos with dogs will be available for $5. Microchipping will be available for $10. Pet ID tags will be available for $3
Free barn cats will be available for adoption.
“Name your price” adoptions for dogs will be available.
Visitors may enjoy free pizza, popcorn and drawings throughout the day for door prizes; pets attending with their owners must have up-to-date vaccination certificates.