Shelter starts pet matchmaking with a photograph
By Denise Baran-Unland For The Herald-News August 27, 2012 2:58PM
Taffy is a 1-year-old female black and white domestic short hair. She loves jingle balls and feather toys so much, she will bring some to her new home. Taffy lives at Animal Care Center. | submitted photo
Updated: September 29, 2012 6:06AM
PLAINFIELD — When one walks through the doors of Help Save Pets (formerly the Humane Society of Plainfield), the first meeting with your future dog or cat is only through a photograph.
The policy makes sense for several reasons. One, the shelters are located in veterinarian offices, so only authorized staff and volunteers may go in the area where the animals are lodged. Two, prospective owners can make objective decisions about the right pet for them.
“If you start looking at terrified or excited animals, you’ll immediately get an emotional connection and you won’t see the animals’ normal personalities,” said Sue Thorsen, foster volunteer coordinator.
In 2000, Help Save Pets director Meg Kremer officially founded the non-profit shelter. Before then, her husband, veterinarian Dr. Tony Kremer, would periodically receive calls from animal controls to euthanize unclaimed animals.
Since many animals were healthy and friendly, Kremer would bring selected ones to his clinics (Kremer now has four locations) and seek adoptive parents among his clients. Eventually, the Kremers formalized their shelter. In the last 12 years, Help Save Pets has found loving homes for more than 6,000 animals. Each animal receives food, vaccinations and any needed medical treatment.
Help Save Pets accepts pets other rescues and shelters sometimes deny, Thorsen said. This includes newborn puppies and kittens, adult animals with curable health issues (such as heartworm) and pregnant and nursing pets with their babies.
Foster parents care for young animals and those with medical conditions, while healthy adult cats and dogs remain at the clinics, Thorsen said. The duration an animal stays with Help Save Pets varies, but the average length is two weeks.
Puppies can be gone in as little as two days; older pets might experience a longer stay. Taffy, a 1-year-old “very sweet cat,” is Help Save Pets’ longest resident. She has lived at the shelter since April.
Since sitting inside a cage for an extended period is depressing to animals, Help Save Pets offers the relief in several ways. Its Foster to Adoption program gives possible adoptive parents the opportunity to take pets home for a trial visit.
Unlike some rescue organizations, Help Save Pets does not conduct home visits. It will try to match animals’ temperaments with owners’ lifestyles, but volunteers will not dissuade anyone from adopting a particular pet. It does have an open-door policy for returning pets.
“We get very attached to these animals. They’re like our babies,” Thorsen said. “If someone can’t keep a pet, we’d like to know it’s coming back to us.”
The shelter does insist that all owners adopting puppies pay an $89 deposit for three training sessions. The money will be refunded when the owners complete the classes.
“We get so many puppies back at eight or nine months because they are now 50 pounds and terrorizing the house,” Thorsen said. “We’ve seen dogs kept in basements simply because they weren’t trained.”
The real heroes of Help Save Pets are its foster parents. A shelter, Thorsen said, is only as good as its foster parents and those volunteering for Help Save Pets show exceptional dedication and commitment, to the point of caring for ill dogs when they already own several. Nevertheless, Help Save Pets could always use more foster volunteers.
“If you don’t want to take care of an animal for 15 years, fostering is a wonderful way to go,” Thorsen said. “Your kids can get their cat or dog fix and no one thanks you more than the animals.”
To volunteer or foster, call 815-436-2700 and leave a message or email firstname.lastname@example.org.