Wayne County Humane Society
Written in 2005 by Elizabeth Riddle, president of the Central Illinois German Shepherd Dog Rescue

Wayne County Humane Society is located in Fairfield, IL. It deserves much recognition for its newest management group. A devoted pair, the manager and animal control officer are gems in the midst of one of the hardest regions to work when you love animals.

Please check out their Petfinder listings for some of their recent adorable and sweet dogs. Please see their web page for more information.

Wayne County Humane Society
518 SE 4th Street
Fairfield, IL 62837
Phone: (618) 847-4012

To understand their work load and commitment to their animals, some background is needed on the region as a whole. Southern Illinois is a particularly difficult area to manage as a professional in animal management and control. There is a surplus of animals due to pet overpopulation and lack of owner compliance with spaying and neutering of their pets. A severe lack of funds, lack financial support, and lack of reliable volunteer help to aid the animals that are in need, compounds their task. Animal controls and private humane organizations work tirelessly in these regions trying to educate people about spaying and neutering. The animal control officers and humane investigators try desperately to shut down puppy mills and backyard breeders, and, with increasing meth operations, drug dealer "guard dog" problems and dog fighting.

Keep in mind there are little-to-no finances, little-to-no re-enforcement help, even with solid legal cases built against offenders. Also, humane investigators are often working for free and animal control officers are working at minimum wage or just above. The ones who love the animals are on call 7 days a week and spend much of their own personal time trying to better the lives of their charges during their stay. They use their own equipment, own computers, own cameras, own vehicles and their own money to put gas in the car to drive animals to rescues or other shelters in more populated regions and to weekend showings. This is all done in an effort to increase adoption rates. Areas that are lucky haveare full time animal control officers that may have one or two staff members. Most people in these positions have other jobs to live on, and the city or county only supports part time help with no staff.

Keep in mind that upon visiting a very large shelter in the suburbs that boasted managing 5000 dogs a year with an enormous staff of vets, vet techs, shelter care workers, secretaries, etc., a very large budget and full education programs and a full fledged veterinary facility in house, they bragged of their management skills and ability to care for their animals in a several hundred kennel and cage facility.

I [Elizabeth, president of the Central IL GSD Rescue] just left a facility that had a white board with the hand written numbers ranging from well over 1500 animals a year, some 800+ euthanized in a facility with no veterinary care outside of a cooperative group of local veterinarians (they do not volunteer their help or medications, there is a cost), and a 70 animal facility. By the way, two people run the show. I will never down play the work of any rescue, but think for a moment the magnitude of what the tiny shelters are handling, basically alone.

Many of these smaller, southern Illinois shelters are managing not hundreds, but thousands of animals a year under these conditions. Some towns just have a garage, with no on-site staff, in the local industrial park, where they place the animals. You have to call the police to visit the lost or abandoned pets and they are often euthanized without even the slightest chance of finding a home.

Volunteers in these small towns are working tremendously hard to give all of these pets their best chances of exposure. We certainly have not met them all, but we commend Crawford County Humane Society who has an outstanding group and had some blessed contributors to make their dream come true of a safe, beautiful shelter to save animals, but often they arrive in the morning to another box of kittens or puppies and a dog tied to the door. Second Chance Pet Adoptions was a tiny group of very hard working people who took over the local pound and have saved and bettered the lives of all of the animals there by getting groomers to help clean and prepare animals for showings and getting them in the local papers and out on weekends for showings and in festivals and parades for exposure. Their volunteers clean the cages and have had nutritious food donated to the animals. Western Illinois Animal Rescue ( WIAR) is a foster network of die hard animal lovers. Olney has a great Animal control officer that cares and calls rescues to try to move her animals out to good, safe homes. More and more Animal Control officers take the time to set up Petfinder.com pages and photograph the animals or have volunteers have access to the animals to get their pictures and stories online. And there are dozens of others.

The lower region of the state has to deal with the same number of animals and crimes against animals with one problem. They have over 1000-2000 animals a year dumped at a 60-70 animal facility in a county that only has 20,000 people. They have the counties that rank #1 and #2 in the country for puppy mills and have to deal with all those dumps and strays that escape. While no vet likes the euthanasia task, these facilities don't even have the luxury of the professional veterinarian coming in to end the animals' lives. The same people who rescued and picked up that animal, fed and watered and cleaned the cage of that animal, took it outside and played with it in the exercise yard for days, weeks, or months, prayed for a loving home to walk through the door, these same animal devoted, tireless folks have to insert the needle while looking into the eyes of that animal they love to put it to sleep when there is no more room, no more funds, or no more food.

I love all of the animal rescuers in this state and hold them all above retribution, but there needs to be a special recognition for the men and women really in the trenches. There are really no rescues or facilities that are living a cushy life, none of them have everything they need, there will never be enough money and there will always be too many animals. I also know that several suburban shelters have staff that euthanize the animals they know and love, I don't need to be reminded of who I may have forgotten to list in this note, I care and my heart breaks for all of the animal injustices world wide, my concern today was the huge gap in they way things run regionally in the state and ask that potential adopters and contributors take the time to evaluate the smaller towns that are kicking butt all by themselves with almost no support.

The overworked, emotionally taxed, no days-off, tears at the brim of your eyes every hour, power bill half paid on the kitchen table, tires worn out on the truck, forgot to eat breakfast and lunch, oh my god 9 more puppies today coming in, shelter could use some medicine, food, cat litter, help, folks; that a bag of food makes their day. One less pet to kill makes their year. I know I just met 10 dogs that I could have met at any shelter, 10 dogs that had no business in the shelter because they were too cute, too small, and too sweet to possibly be homeless, 10 puppies that never should have existed but for irresponsible humans, 1 dog that has to die because of 100% human error, and I looked into the eyes of dogs that may or may not be alive in a week. I also looked into the eyes of devoted, loving people, desperate for someone to care, someone to love their animals as much as they do, someone to make the shelter a better place for its occupants during their stay,someone to tell them they are doing a great job, someone to compensate them fairly so they can continue their great job without a second job, someone to provide education materials, funding for local spay and neuter programs, someone to help clean, someone to transport the puppies and adoptable dogs to higher population areas where they have a chance at a good home, someone to spend the weekend washing and showing the dogs at a public place, someone to donate gas cards for transport, someone to provide professional services on a pure volunteer basis, someone to sponsor dog food for the shelter animals, sponsor pet shampoo, new collars, new leashes, the simple things that improve their lives.

Feed your local animal control officer or humane worker, buy them a cup of coffee, just tell them when they are doing a great job, sometimes it just seems futile when you gets chased after and cussed at all day as you remove a malnourished unkempt pet. Send a card, adopters, don't forget updates!!! These overworked folks don't have time to follow up much, a picture and a card of a successfully spoiled pet would make their day. My old boss taught me one thing in rescue, "It matters to this one". It helps, when you know you successfully helped "that one", it charges you for the next one. I felt pretty comfy as I walked into my house with our dog sleeping on the couch, a webmaster typing on the computer, new collars for rescue dogs on the table, a medicine cabinet full of supplies, and my vet open on Monday, surely knowing we'll be calling soon. (Yep, putting their kids through college, I'm sure...)

I can't complain. But my heart is broken for my colleagues we met today and the many we have worked with over the years. Time has not brought improvement in the south. Only devoted volunteers, with tiny budgets, an occasional miracle, and tons of their own time and money have brought change. I've worked with rescues for 19 years now, its time for at least a baby step of change. Petfinder.com made a huge difference with Internet exposure, but humans will bring about the difference. One last thing and I'll hop off my soapbox for a little while... In purebreed rescue, we often stay mentally alive, by arriving at a shelter and waiting in the front room to pick up our new dog that we are adopting into the program, and leaving. It is easy to feel good when we leave with our one dog that we are helping, its easy to feel a little difference. We intentionally do not walk the shelter lines, because every pair of eyes in a soul we know we can't take home.

We go to animal showings and I get asked every time, "certainly there aren't pure bred dogs at the pound!?!" by people. Guess what! There are pure bred dogs, small, medium, large, extra large, there are adorable mixed breed dogs of all sizes, there are purebred and domestic kitties, there are rabbits, snakes, guinea pigs, horses, farm animals, hamsters, all at local pounds and shelters. The kicker is the majority have absolutely nothing "wrong" with them outside of having been owned by the wrong person or being born in the wrong place. I know how easy it is to pretend there isn't a pet overpopulation problem or think there are proper care facilities available in your town or other places when you don't have Muffy digging in your trash at night, or Scrappy begging at the door; thank your local animal control for that, but it IS still there. I broke the rules today, I walked the lines. I died inside, I feel for those workers, I feel for those pets, I felt the pain of forgotteness. I felt pain pulling out of the drive, I am haunted with wagging tails and deep, dark eyes. Don't pretend and don't forget and change will occur.

Don't ignore those who cannot help themselves and the humans doing 20 peoples' work to stay afloat. Don't be daunted by the fact the animals are a few hours away, it is a beautiful drive! If you walk in to a shelter and think it should look more professional or be cleaner, start painting and hose the runs! We turn our backs on so much today, take back your soul and help. Oprah and Dr Phil are replayed at 9 and 10pm, go scrub a cage or adopt a dog you can walk around the neighborhood on these coming beautiful summer days in the Midwest. I think you'll find you no longer need Dr. Phil, just a wagging tail and puppy kisses ( and a warm lap for kitty!).

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