By Shannon Lane @Shannonroselane

A GENEROUS animal lover is helping find homes for New York’s stray dogs - by giving them a free bath and haircut

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Videographer / Director: Yasser Souisri
Producer: Shannon Lane, Ruby Coote, James Thorne
Editor: Grant Hanson-Vaux

In 2016, almost 9000 homeless dogs were taken in by the Animal Care Centers of NYC according to the ACC Asilomar Statistics.

Over half of these were strays found on the streets, with no owners to care for them, feed or groom them.

Director of Marketing and Communications at ACC, Katy Hansen said: "On average we get around ten to twelve thousand dogs a year, so we have about 300-400 dogs in our care at any given time.

"On any day we will get at least 15 new dogs."

Armed with his scissors and electric clippers, volunteer dog groomer Mark Imhof has been visiting the centres for two years to help the homeless animals desperately in need of a haircut.

He said: “My wife and I adopted a pitfall. She was filthy and I gave her a bath and I said, ‘Wouldn't it be great if somebody visited the shelter and cleaned up the shelter dogs?’, and that started my idea.”

Katy said: “About two years ago he started coming in and grooming a few dogs, the next thing you know he’s groomed 500 dogs and he’s basically a fixture at the care centres."

After bathing and grooming the dogs, Mark drastically changes their appearance.

And this also causes an immediate affect on the dogs' personality, with many of them instantly becoming more confident and happy.

He said: “When I finish a dog and I see its demeanor change, it gives me this look of just love - ‘Hey buddy, thank you so much for giving me that haircut and bath.'”

Mark’s selfless acts of kindness has enabled many of the dogs to finally find their fur-ever homes.

He said: “The real most enjoyable part is when I get a note from the ACC saying that dog was adopted maybe an hour after I groomed it.”

Many of the dogs have had a hard start to life and are hesitant around people, so Mark must develop a trusting relationship with them in order to get close enough to groom.

He said: “One of the challenges of the rescue dog grooming is that I don’t have a history, I don’t have an owner coming up to me to tell me what this dog is like.

“Sometimes the staff and volunteers will tell me their experiences with them but I still have to develop an experience with the dog.

"I try to speak in a soothing voice to gain the dog’s trust, because I’m going to be getting pretty intimate with the dog to give them a haircut.”

Mark’s grooming work is also crucial to many of the neglected dogs' health.

He said: “I think one of the worst cases of grooming neglect that I’ve seen, it brought tears to my eyes honestly.

“The reason I say neglect is because the matted fur had cut off the circulation to his lower limb, his whole lower limb was gangrened and it just came off.

“The leg that was left, there were maggots. That was just scary. Scary and sad, to think that anybody could let their dog get like that.

“After the groom and bath, he found a new home a week after. Luckily I was able to help that dog before the gangrene spread further because it could’ve spread all the way up.”

With so many healthy dogs needing homes in the rescue shelter, Mark is an advocate for adoption over purchasing a pet from a breeder.

He said:"The primary message that I want to get around to everybody is to adopt, not shop. Because the shelter’s already full of dogs there’s no reason to go to a store.

"There’s a great, loveable dog at the shelter. You will find a new best friend at the shelter.”