An extraordinary, first-of- its-kind facility outside of Canal Winchester is giving homeless dogs a fresh start and setting new standards for shelter care.
Gigi’s, a 501(c)(3), opened its doors in October 2018 and is already improving the lives of shelter dogs. It does not operate as a traditional shelter. Instead, it considers its 15,000-square- foot dog campus located on three acres as part of a “resource network,” serving as a hub between rural, overcrowded shelters and adoption center partners like Columbus Humane. The rural shelters, including those in Gallia, Jackson, Scioto, Ross, and Lawrence counties, generally have too many dogs, not enough resources, and a shortage of local adopters.
“I’ve had dogs all my life, ever since I was three years old,” said George Skestos, a successful businessman who founded Gigi’s with his wife, Tina, and named it after their beloved Akita. “I just wanted to do something for them.”
“We’re not in this business to make money. We’re here to help the dogs.”
— George Skestos
The Gigi’s team travels regularly to five shelter partners throughout southern Ohio to bring dogs back to Gigi’s campus. Once there, the dogs receive medical care and a behavioral evaluation from its staff veterinarians in a state-of-the-art facility before moving on to one of the adoption center partners to find their permanent home. The building was designed to keep stress levels at a minimum for the animals, from the color on the walls and extra insulation to pare down noise, to the music it plays to soothe anxious dogs.
“Our mission is to take homeless dogs that might spend months in a shelter and get them to healthy, loving, and happy forever homes within just two weeks,” Tina explained.
In addition to its work with dogs on site, Gigi’s provides shelter partners with vaccines, medical supplies, and equipment at their own shelters at no cost. This proactive approach helps fight disease and increases the overall chances of dogs being successfully adopted. It’s also a saving grace for the rural shelters, which operate on tight budgets.
The organization now has its sights set on two new specialty areas that will add to the services offered as homeless dogs arrive. The first, a 9,600-square-foot behavioral center, will address the specific needs and training of dogs who can’t be adopted due to fear or aggression. The second will be a 400-square-foot Canine Parvovirus unit, specifically designed to treat and ultimately save dogs suffering from the highly contagious and often deadly viral illness.
To George, this is just the beginning of what he hopes will be a dog-saving approach that is modeled throughout the United States.
“We’re hoping it catches on and other people will do it. This is just the start.”