Animal advocates reuniteA dog with a habit for wandering sparked nearly 40 years of advocacy for area animals.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
A dog with a habit for wandering sparked nearly 40 years of advocacy for area animals.
It all started when Jean “Bean” Prettie, who had recently moved to Douglas County, went to Superior to pick her neighbor’s dog up from the animal shelter. She was shocked by conditions in which animals were kept.
“That old brick thing was so horrible,” she said. There was no hot water, cages were crammed in and “You couldn’t stand to smell it. It was gross.”
So, she decided to do something about it. By 1975, the Humane Society of Douglas County was born.
“Jean was the instigator,” said Fran Anunti, who missed being a charter member of the society by one meeting. Prettie’s main goal was to advocate for a new city shelter. But the group also began to volunteer at the shelter and foster rescue animals in their homes, giving them needed time.
“Unfortunately, in those days, there was no such thing as no-kill shelters,” Prettie said.
Strays had to be kept for seven days, but that was all.
“Animals had one week and they were gone,” said Connie Jackson, another early humane society member. She recalled the pride she felt when she cleaned every one of the cat cages, only to find them all empty the next day.
Surrendered animals didn’t even need to be kept seven days,
“It was barbaric compared to now,” Prettie said.
Thursday, many early humane society members met at the Billings Park home of Barb McKay. The recalled holding rummage and bake sales, selling T-shirts, judging cutest pet contests, collecting change in cans and holding pet tag days to raise money for animal care. They volunteered for hours at the site, dipping cats, washing dogs and seeking to find homes for the pets.
Anunti remembered bringing animals to schools to educate children and TV studios to try to find them a home. They took part in parades and the Tri-County Fair as well as encouraging children to join their junior group.
“I enjoyed those years I was working with the humane society,” said Anunti, who now lives in California. “They were happy years.”
Prettie, meanwhile, attended city council meetings regularly to make sure council members remembered the need for a new shelter. In the 1970s, the current shelter was built.
“Barb (McKay) and I were the first ones in the office when they built the one we have now,” Jackson said.
There were dismal days, when these volunteers took in more than 100 animals at a time from puppy mills in Superior and Douglas County. Some went out with Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputies to check suspected animal hoarding or cruelty cases. And each of them opened their home and hearts to rescue animals.
“I was bottle-feeding puppies, kittens, squirrels, raccoons,” Anunti said.
Volunteering prompted many of these charter members to own rescue animals.
McKay said her first rescue dog was an emaciated Afghan hound, formerly owned by a drug dealer. She took him in to find a home for him, and he stayed for the rest of his life.
“Another dog my niece brought in,” McKay said. “I was supposed to have him for the weekend. He died 10 years later.”
In 1990, land was secured for the Douglas County shelter. The building had wooden kennels and one big open run for the dogs, Jackson said. The site had no running water, so they had to ferry it in from Superior in big tubs. Today, the 5,000 square foot building has cat condos and a socialization room, along with a dedicated base of supporters. The purpose of the society is “the prevention of cruelty to animals, the relief of suffering among animals and the extension of human education.”
Many of the early humane society members remained active for years after the opening of the two shelters. Others stepped aside. Prettie, for instance, left the humane society after serving as president for the first six years.
“I had accomplished what I wanted to accomplish,” she said, referring to the new city shelter.
But they have remained animal lovers, adopting rescue animals over and over again. They encouraged others to do the same. These days, shelter pets come spayed and neutered with all their shots and a complimentary screening so families know how the animal will behave.
“Great dogs, great personalities,” said Prettie, who estimates she’s opened her home to about 18 rescue dogs.
For more information on the Humane Society of Douglas County, go to www.hsdcpets.com or stop by the shelter at 3302 S. Humane Society Road, South Range, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily or 5-8 p.m. Wednesday. For more information on the Animal Allies city shelter, go to www.animalallies.net or drop by the shelter at 2225 Hill Ave. from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.