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New executive director takes over pet rescue group

By Kathy Antoniotti
Beacon Journal staff writer

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New Executive Director of the One of A Kid Pet Adoption Center Mark Twyford talks about his love of animals and plans for the center during an interview in Akron. (Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal)

Mark Twyford, recently named executive director of One of A Kind Pet Rescue in West Akron, long has been involved in animal welfare, on a professional and personal basis.

Twyford, who lives in Columbiana County, has taken into his own home more than 30 special needs rescue animals over the years.

One surly Jack Russell terrier stands out in his memory, Twyford said recently. Petey was 14 years old when he entered the rescue system, and he seemed to resent the world, biting everyone who came in contact with him — except Twyford.

“With Christmas coming and Petey with little or no chance of getting adopted, it was decided that he would join my family for what, based on his age and overall health, would probably be his last Christmas.”

The dog, whose teeth were so bad veterinarians had to pull all but two, took a liking to Twyford’s wife, Brenda.

“I left them together and went to work. When I returned home, my wife was sitting on the couch with Petey on her lap. She had charmed him, like she did everyone else. When I bent over to pet him, he bit me,” he said.

Petey continued to bite him every day for the next five years until he died at the age of 19, Twyford said.

“Petey loved my wife more than anything. He has been gone almost three years now, having passed just a few months before her. It comforts me to think that they are together.”

Twyford answered questions about his former experiences in animal rescue and his plans for One of A Kind.

Q: Do you come from an animal rescue background?

A: For the last two years, I have served as the manager of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA), which is a continent-wide alliance of sanctuaries that provide homes and lifelong care to primates who have been victims of biomedical research, the entertainment industry and the exotic pet trade. Prior to that, I served as executive director, and brought the “no-kill” philosophy, to animal welfare organizations throughout Ohio and Wisconsin. I also had the honor of serving on the board of directors of the Ohio Federated Humane Societies.

Q: Do you own any pets? Are they rescue animals?

A: My current family consists of five dogs and one cat. They were all special needs rescues who were considered unadoptable because of various temperament or behavioral issues. Like their many brothers and sisters before them, each has improved markedly when placed in a safe, loving environment.

Q: What prompted you to make the move to OKPR?

A: When I first arrived at OKPR to meet with members of the search committee, I would have judged the chances of my accepting an offer of employment to be remote at best. For one reason, I was very happy and fulfilled in my work for NAPSA. Secondly, I had been offered positions at many “no-kills” throughout the nation and turned them down because they were “no-kill” in name only. “No-kill” means no “adoptable” animals are killed. However, what constitutes “adoptable” is determined by the individual organization. At an overwhelming majority of “no-kill” organizations, an animal who has been abused and is frightened is classified as “unadoptable.”

Likewise, an animal who is ill or has been physically injured and requires something other than the most routine of care or surgeries receives the same deadly classification. Right away it became clear that this was not the case at OKPR. Right away it became clear that OKPR was a special place for animals.

Q: Is there anything you found at this rescue agency in particular that impressed you? Anything with animal rescue in Summit County?

A: At this point in time, OKPR might very well be one of a kind. At most animal welfare organizations, they look at dogs and cats with physical and emotional problems and ask, “How could we possibly help them?” At OKPR, we look at the same types of dogs and cats and ask, “How could we possibly not help them?” We make a commitment to every animal who comes to us. We will do everything in our power to both make them whole again and find them a forever home where they will always feel safe and loved.

Also, particularly impressive to me has been Dr. Megan Geldhof. In order for the OKPR model to work, the medical director would have to be not just a highly skilled veterinarian, but a person totally dedicated to helping some of the least fortunate of the dog and cat world. The organization is incredibly fortunate to have just such a veterinarian in Dr. Geldhof. I have known scores of veterinarians and thought very highly of some. That said, I have never met her equal.

With regard to the animal welfare movement in Summit County, I have met with the leaders of some of the other groups, as well as the dog warden, and come away excited by their willingness to work together. I started animal welfare coalitions in a pair of counties and was very pleased to learn that such a group already existed in Summit County. With the talented and dedicated folks I have met at the other organizations working alongside OKPR, I believe that the building blocks are in place to make Summit Ohio’s first “no-kill” county.

Q: What do you think will be your biggest challenge at OKPR?

A: Our biggest challenge will be to raise the funds needed to fully realize the unlimited potential of our very special organization. It takes a lot of money to treat the animals no other organization wants. It takes a lot of money to do things the OKPR way. Fortunately, our design model and message know no boundaries. While our immediate goals are focused on our own backyard, it was clear to me, almost immediately, that OKPR could one day have a national impact.

Q: Will your job generally be one as the head fundraiser, like so many head animal rescue directors?

A: Helping to raise the funds necessary to first allow us to sustain our current efforts and then extend the reach of the organization will certainly be a major aspect of my job. However, the marketing of our brand and ensuring that we operate in the most efficient manner possible will also be key responsibilities.

Q: Do you see the rescue taking any new directions under your directorship?

A: The only direction I am interested in is forward.

Q: What are your goals for OKPR?

A: Economic circumstances dictate that our first goal be to solidify and then expand the financial base of the organization. As I stated previously, it costs a lot of money to do things the OKPR way. Running concurrent to our fundraising efforts will be an all-out push on our part that will not stop until Summit has become the first county in Ohio to become totally “no-kill.” A goal for the future would be to have the OKPR sphere of influence reach a national level.

The OKPR board of directors is nearing completion of a three-year strategic plan that will provide specifics as to the manner in which we will accomplish these and other goals.

Q: Do you have any words of wisdom to individuals about animal rescue?

A: It is important to remember that the animals at any respectable animal welfare organization are not for sale, but rather up for adoption. Most of the animals in shelters and rescues have suffered, at some point in their lives, at the hands of humans. Every effort must be made to ensure that they never suffer again. Rescues and potential adopters should always work together to ensure that a given animal is being placed in an environment that will provide him or her with the best opportunity for a safe and happy “forever” home.

Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or