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Furry 5K supports medical needs at the Seattle Animal Shelter

Dr. Nick Urbanek, director of shelter medicine, cares for SAS’ animals with resources from the Help the Animals Fund.

Now a regular fixture in Seattle Animal Shelter’s designated clinic room, Dr. Nick Urbanek doesn’t get much downtime. As the new director of shelter medicine, Urbanek provides veterinary evaluation and treatment for the many animals – dogs, cats and critters – that come under the shelter’s care.

“There are a thousand distractions here,” said Urbanek. “It’s never quiet.”

The shelter made large strides by hiring him as an in-house veterinarian in February 2017, but Urbanek said SAS still needs more veterinarian resources.

To raise funds for Urbanek’s veterinary efforts and the shelter’s Help the Animals Fund, SAS will host its annual Furry 5K on Sunday, June 11 at Seward Park. According to Director of Volunteer and Community Engagement Ania Beszterda-Alyson, these funds cover examination bills, spay/neuter surgeries and rehabilitating animal cruelty and neglect victims.

“The event was founded by shelter volunteers who, through their daily interactions with homeless and abandoned animals, saw that private donations were greatly needed for our municipal shelter to become a lifesaving organization,” said Beszterda-Alyson. “Injured, abused and neglected animals need veterinary care, medications and sometimes surgeries to become adoptable and find loving homes. Furry 5K donations save lives of the most vulnerable animals in our community.”

SAS is an open-admissions shelter and accepts any animal that is surrendered or found within Seattle city limits. (Animals from outside Seattle are accepted on a space-available basis.) According to Beszterda-Alyson, these animals are usually the ones turned away by private animal welfare organizations.

Urbanek often sees older animals with behavior issues, skin conditions, allergies or even arthritis.

“My goal and hope is to provide quality veterinary care (medical, surgical and behavioral) for all animals in our care,” said Urbanek. “It’s a seemingly simple goal but requires a lot of coordination starting from the moment an animal comes through the shelter’s door.”

Before Urbanek came on board, SAS would send animals with medical needs to local veterinary clinics. But the excitement of being transported from the shelter to medical facilities often created anxiety for the pets. And while the shelter can now handle medical conditions on-site or in foster care, the diagnostics and treatments can be very costly, Urbanek said.

Last year, the charitable donations from the Furry 5k helped 3,715 animals at SAS, according to Beszterda-Alyson. This year, the shelter hopes to raise $120,000 for veterinary care and rehabilitation of shelter dogs, cats and critters.

“Our live save rate says we are doing a fantastic job at making positive outcomes happen,” said Urbanek.

You can help further Urbanek’s efforts to care for SAS animals by registering or setting up a team today at If you can’t attend in person, you can still help SAS reach its goal by making a donation at

For more information about the Seattle Animal Shelter, visit us online at or call 206-386-PETS (7387).

Story by Erin Berge, SAS volunteer