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A closer look at the Humane Society of Huron Valley

Credit: Matt Giles
Credit: Matt Giles

ANN ARBOR – The first thing you feel when you walk through the front doors of the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV) is love. Whether it's seeing one of the many animals available for adoption, or simply talking to a staff member, you quickly get the sense that everyone who works or volunteers at this wonderful organization loves what they do and cares deeply for the animals. 

Catherine Pappas, HSHV's Leadership Giving Officer, graciously provided us with a tour of the entire facility on our visit. We asked about working at such an inspiring place and what the experience has been like. "Every day, I am in awe of our amazing donors and volunteers who selflessly give their support, time and love to the homeless animals," she said.  

"Their dedication has played a huge role in making possible our 96.5 percent save rate and record of more than 4,000 adoptions so far this year. HSHV is an incredibly special place and I feel lucky to work for the animals!" 

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(This is Harvey Kneeslapper. He is one of HSHV's pets of the week and he is perfect.)

Those numbers are impressive on their own, but Pappas was kind enough to provide us with even more details about HSHV's recent successes. To date, HSHV helped 404 animals find their way home, performed 5,152 spay or neuter operations to stem overpopulation and distributed 30,195 pounds of pet food to families in need. Their volunteers even gave temporary loving homes to 1,297 dogs, cats, puppies and kittens and 85,238 hours of their time to help homeless and abused animals.

Again, we come back to one word: love. 

Wendy Welch, marketing director at HSHV, echoed that sentiment. "Working for the Humane Society of Huron Valley is an honor and a privilege. I know that sounds cliche, but it couldn't be more true," she said.

"When I first started working at HSHV, it became very clear that it was full of real-life heroes - people who had done and would continue to do anything possible to save lives, through helping both people and animals. They push themselves to continually do better and do more."

Welch went on to say that those heroes include HSHV's humane educators, who run the programs like Little PAWS Storytime, an event that we were happy to attend when we visited. 

Little PAWS started in 2015 and has grown in popularity since its inception. "We were fortunate this year to have the staff and resources to begin offering the program every week now, and are thrilled to provide families more of an opportunity to attend Little PAWS," said Karen Patterson, director of volunteers and humane education at HSHV. 

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(HSHV's staff leading the Little PAWS Storytime program)

For the families who come, staff members read animal-themed stories, conduct finger plays, allow the kids to play with crafts and provide the opportunity to meet some of the adoptable animals. Getting the program to where it is today required a bit of tweaking along the way, but it's all worked out for the best.

"Throughout the years, our staff has developed a better understanding of how the 2 to 5-year old age group interacts with animals, which has allowed us to design our program to create the best experience possible for everyone involved, the animals too," Patterson said.

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(Parents and their kids meeting Cletus) 

It is a great event for many reasons, not the least of which is educating young children about the importance of kindness toward animals. Welch agrees. "When empathy for animals is lacking, violence takes over - and there's a disturbing link between animal and human abuse. But the more we help children build empathy, and show compassion and respect for all life, the better off we all will be," she said.

Little PAWS is just one of many great examples of the amazing work being conducted daily at HSHV. Even if you stop by just to look around, you can't help but leave feeling inspired by the work being done. There are so many animals in need of loving homes and HSHV is doing everything it can to help. 

When we asked if there's one thing HSHV would want parents and their children to take away from a program like Little PAWS, Patterson said, simply, "If we can help children to grow up valuing and respecting animals as well as give parents some tools and resources to help their kids interact with and care for animals safely, we are a happy team." 

They are a happy team indeed. We're PAWSitively certain of it. 

Little PAWS occurs every Thursday at 10:30 a.m, for a cost of $5 per child and up to two adults; children under the age of 1 are free.