Animal Shelter of the Week: Episode 47 – Hinsdale Humane Society

The Tuthill Family Pet Rescue & Resource Center operated by Hinsdale Humane Society is a nonprofit animal shelter providing innovative care and adoption services for all animals, including those that are harder to place. They educate, advocate and adopt out pets while acting as a voice for animals who depend on people for their care. They nurture the human-animal bond through community outreach and progressive programming, to help ensure the compassionate treatment of all animals.


Welcome to the ARPA animal shelter, the week podcast, where we introduce you to incredible organizations around the country that are focused on helping animals. We’re proud to be sponsored by Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal shelter.

The Tuthill Family Pet Rescue and Resource Center operated by Hinsdale Humane Society is a nonprofit animal shelter providing innovative care and adoption services for all animals, including those that are harder to place. They educate, advocate and adopt out pets while acting as a voice for animals who depend on people for their care. They nurture the human-animal bond through community outreach and progressive programming to help ensure the compassionate treatment of the animals.

Hi, Jackie, welcome to the show. Hi. Thank you so much for having me. Of course, I’m super excited to learn more about your organization. You’re the Director of Development at the Hinsdale Humane Society in Illinois, is that right? I am. I’m the Business Development Director. Oh, okay. Perfect. So can you tell me a little bit about your organization and how you got started there. Hinsdale Humane Society was started in 1953 and it was actually a group effort of six women that lived in Hinsdale, appalled at the local conditions of the dog, at that time, you called it the dog pound, and so they decided to band together to do something about it. They took an unheated shack, they had no water and one light, and they turned it into a rescue shelter. And 66 years later, here we are. What is really unique about that is last year,in November 2018, we moved from the original building that we were in, to a new building called the Pet Rescue and Restore Center. So is that where the Tuthill Pet Rescue and Resource Center, is that the official name of that? Yes, that is the official name. So is that kind of separate from the Humane Society or they kind of conjoined? The building is called the Pet Rescue and Resource Center, so it’s operated by Hinsdale Humane Society. Very interesting. Well, that’s a huge step from that little shack that you were mentioning.

So, Jackie, how did you get started there. I have been in nonprofit work for 15 years throughout Northwest Indiana, in the Chicago land area. The job I had previous to working at Hinsdale Humane Society dealt with the humane treatment of farm animals and food safety. Leaving that nonprofit I knew I really wanted to stay in youth programming or work with animals again, and a position opened up at the Humane Society, for their Humane Education Director. I interviewed for that and receive that position. And then in the last few years, I’ve just moved up the ranks. You had dealt with farm animals before. Do you still deal with farm animals with this humane society? Or what kind of animals come through there? I don’t deal with farm animals anymore in my professional life. I still work on those kind of issues in my volunteer life. But in my professional life, we work with dogs and cats. Occasionally, other animals that are found in the community are brought here. Two months ago, we had to deal with having a rooster at the shelter. Sometimes we have rats brought in or a rabbits or goats, but the animals that we adapt out are dogs and cats. Would you say that you guys accept those animals that come in or you guys just kind of prefer the cats and dogs. We take any animal that comes into us through the police department. If they’re not dogs or cats, we work with our community to find an organization that will help them. So we were able to place like, the rooster that was brought in, on a farm in the suburbs, or if we have a reptile come in, we’ll work with the local zoo. So we just work with different organizations to get them where they need to be, to be successfully adapted back out into the community.

So what is the overall mission for Hinsdale Humane Society. If I start with our vision, it’s to prevent animal suffering and neglect throughout our community and beyond. And to ensure that all animals in shelters and in homes are well cared for and treated with compassion. We educate and we advocate to adopt out our pets. We act as a voice for animals who depend on people for their care, and then we nurture the human-animal bond through community outreach, progressive programming to help ensure the compassionate treatment of all animals. Amazing. I love that you had mentioned that you guys try to strengthen that human-animal bond because without that, that’s nothing. Absolutely.  It’s important for us to have that bond with animals. So you kind of said that you guys are willing to work within your community. Can you share with us a little bit of what the community is like in your area there in Illinois? We serve about 47 communities, and there’s more than about one million people within a 10 mile radius of the western suburbs of Chicago land. Into that community we’re able to facilitate the adoption of about 1200 animals a year and return over about 200 pets to their families straight–through our straight services.

Within your community, the animals that come in, do you guys have, like, specific issues or challenges with the animals? Do you guys get a lot of strays? Do you have a lot of dumping of animals or what is that aspect like? So we get our animals–our dogs and our cats– in three ways here. We transferred them from other shelters, so there’s shelters throughout the area whether that’s in Chicago, or Southern Illinois, or even Alabama, Tennessee. Sometimes even Texas. We partner with shelters that are high intake and are able to show all the animals that get in. So we’re able to transfer the animals from that particular shelter to Hinsdale. So that’s one way we’re able to get the dog or cat. That’s especially important, say, during, like a national disaster or a hurricane or a flood, we’re able to take the animals that are at the shelters in those communities that are under direct impact of the disaster and get those animals out to free up cages for, inevitably, the strays that they’ll be dealing with. We also get strays, so we partner with 10 police departments throughout our communities and any strays they find they’re able to bring to us. We have a door in the back that they have a code. So they’re able to leave the animals in our cages overnight and in the morning when we get to the shelter, where we’re able to get them, and see them, and make sure they’re comfortable.

I think that’s a really important service to the community because animals get loose, they to get lost, and if the police get them, they’re able to bring them to us. We’re able to reunite them with their families, and that’s very important. The last way we get our animals is that we take owner surrenders. So sometimes, for whatever reason, people aren’t able to keep their animals whether they’re moving, or sometimes people just entered different phases in life. So we’re able to take animals for them and get them adapted to another family. Sometimes I feel like people kind of take on “Hey, we’re gonna adopt a pet”, but they don’t really understand the need of the pet. Between their vet bills, and their food, and their toys, and all those different things, they all add up. And it’s not just, “Hey, let’s bring home this happy puppy and we’re good to go”, right?

So would you say that your organization works with the people of your community to kind of help educate them? Do you guys have any type of programs that you guys offer the community or just programs, in general? I think that’s one of the really unique things about Hinsdale Humane Society, in addition to the wonderful services that we offer for the dogs and the cats. We have some pretty amazing programming as well. One of the programs we have is a pet therapy program, so an effort to enhance the well being of hundreds of children, and elderly people, and patients in the community. We provide just a little bit over 1000 hours of pet therapy annually to libraries, and elder care communities, and local hospitals. And that’s the thing. I was touching on when I mentioned at the beginning of this, is the human-animal bond, that’s so important. And that’s what our pet therapy program is able to do, is to facilitate that human-animal bond in our communities and with people who need it the most. That one really stood out to me, and I didn’t go into detail on the website because I wanted to learn from you about what that program is. Can you kind of elaborate. When you go to these hospitals and you go to all the places, what do you guys exactly do? So, we have three components in the pet therapy program. One is called the CARe Program, so that’s where we work with Amita hospitals in the area.

So we look with three different hospitals in the area and we go to certain wings to visit with the patients and for that, it’s less education and more comfort for whatever reason, that the patient might be in the house, and they need that bright ray of sunshine of having an animal spend some time with them. Oftentimes, we let the patient kind of dictate how that goes. It could be just them, interacting with an animal and and not really any kind of talking with the humans. Or it could be conversational tone with the animal in its handler. We kind of let the patient dictate how that goes. Another first that we do is called the READ program, and that is when our teams go into libraries and mostly children– a subset of it is special education children, are able to sit and read to our animals. What’s really neat about that is, it’s a two-fold goal of that program is, a) to help the animals just be in the community and the second one is, reading literacy for the children. So they’re able to read in a very non-judgmental environment, and they flourish when they’re able to do that, and it’s really cool to be out in the community and watching them do that. And then, the last part of the pet therapy program is called Pet a Pet, and that is where we go to rehab facilities, or we work in nursing homes, or extended living facilities, and we just bring comfort to those who need it there. We also work in hospice environments, as well.

How often do you guys go? And, you know, kind of put on these pet therapy sessions? How do you guys go about scheduling stuff like that? The teams, there’s about 50 teams. Right now, say, about 47 of them are dog, their hammers. We have three pet therapy cats, and they work multiple times, everyone. But the demand for pet therapy in our communities far, far, far outweighs what we can provide with the team. We’re in the middle of a recruitment campaign because we hoped to keep on extending and growing, and people just really love that service. I find that amazing that you’re taking the time to realize that it’s not just good for the animals, but it’s good for the people of your community as well. That’s awesome that you guys take that initiative to do something like that. Well, a story I’ve often like telling is when I’m out at meetings, and chamber events, and meeting with funders. I talk a lot about our animals and what we do here. And then when I start getting also into the Pet therapy and Humane Education programs, and able to bring these testimonials, people really just perk up and pay attention, and they’re really interest did in it. A few weeks ago, we had Rogers Behavioral Health who deals with adolescents, who may suffer from anxiety disorders or depression. And for their Fridays, they have Fun Fridays. They’re able to come to the pet rescue and resource centers and just spend time with the animals.

And a couple of weeks ago, we had a young boy in here who had severe, severe O.C.D disorder. I mean, he washes his hands 100 times a day. You know, we want this young man to live a high quality of life is possible. So they worked with him, and bringing him here, and spending some time with the dog, and spending some time with our different animals. And afterwards we got an email from the caseworker and she’s like, she let us know within 15 minutes he was sitting on the floor with the dogs. And then after 45 minutes, we have a therapy rat that lives in our shelter. This boy, who has such severe anxiety over things like this, was letting Neville, our pet rat, run on her shoulder. It was really neat. And to see like, animals and what they can bring, that the human spirit is amazing. I love that you’re sharing all this because it’s so important. And it’s so amazing to hear the benefit that you guys are offering to the animals and people. That’s truly awesome. I hope that our listeners are enjoying. This is well, because it’s great.

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Thank you. Next program, then as a mom and as someone who really values that connection between human and the animals. We have a humane education program, too. So that program actually teaches both children and adults to respect and protect and just kind of understand the animals that share our world. And it focuses on animal welfare and safety, and it definitely encourages compassion and empathy. We mostly work with Children ages 15 to 18. And we’ve worked really hard over the last year, or so, as to not just have one off experience with Children. And you know, have multiple touch points in these kids life. The more we can install the compassion and respect, the better. So we do that. We have camps. We have a program called Books Barks Meow!, that is really fun. It’s a parent’s supervised drop in reading program, so kind of like, with our therapy reading program, we have a reading program at the shelter. And kids are able to come with their mom or dad, and read to our animals. The two-fold goal of that is the same, it’s definitely enrichment for an animal and also reading literacy for the kids.

And I don’t want anyone listening to this to think I’m making this up, because I’m not and I tell this story often. But we had a long time dog, he was here for probably 8–9 months. His name was Louie, and he was a Pitbull mixed, and he was a volunteer favorite and a staff favorite. And there was really no rhyme or reason of why he wasn’t getting adopted out, besides, she was just a big black dog, and, as you know, black dogs tend to get overlooked in shelters. So the kids would come and read to Louis, and Louis had a big teddy bear, like one of those you win at the amusement park, in his kennel, and every time a child would read to him, he would go from the back of his kennel, bring up the teddy bear to the front and lay on it while the child read to him. And I honestly thought, like our staff was like, “You guys had to post that.” He what? Yeah, I know, he did it every time. It calmed down, Louis. What, also, it does, It helped the kids be able to read, in this case the dog’s body language. So they saw Louis when they started reading in his kennel. Kind of popped up and excited and energetic and maybe sometimes, too, a little stressed out. People have to remember these animals in shelters, as nice as they’re living environment is here, it’s a shelter. So they’re on some, the moment we open to the moment we close and there’s people coming through constantly, and it’s noisy and it’s loud. So any time that they’re able to just kind of decompress and to relax, is amazing, and the kids are able to read that body language, and pick up on trust signals in real time. And that’s definitely important for them to know too. I think the programs that you have are awesome.

So with all this wonderful stuff that you’re sharing, it kind of brings me to the thought of what’s a challenge that your organization is facing? I mean, it seems like you guys have a great supportive community and you guys have that great vision and you’re enforcing it. So I want to know what a challenge is for you guys? There’s definitely challenges. One of them, I think, is probably not unique to Hinsdale Humane Society–just animal rescue, in general is that we’re such a fast, instant society now, and most people take a lot of their news from social media. And we’re all fighting to capture someone’s attention with a cute picture of a dog or a really cute a picture of a cat. And we’re not able to, oftentimes, get out the whole story behind the animal. So, like, I share a picture of like, Louis, I was just talking about, who was here a while. I could tell that story, like, I just with you, in 2–3 minutes, with one on one with someone, and it really has impact. But to capture on social media, you just need a cute image or a cute picture.

So I would really, really, really urge people when they fellow rescues–or they follow humane society, is take a second and to get to know some of the animals behind those pictures that you see. I love that, that’s a challenge for you guys, not in the way that it is a challenge. But I love that it’s different. It’s a unique challenge that you don’t hear of. I think that is one of the biggest challenges facing our animals is that we just talked about, some of them don’t show off, in the shelter, and that’s for all the reasons we just talked about it’s loud, it’s sometimes scary, they’re stressed. And people, they’re able to capture someone’s attention for just a few minutes. So in that few minutes, if they’re barking or jumping or doing whatever, they don’t necessarily capture the attention of people. But if you get them out of kennel environment and you take him outside, we have wonderful dog walking volunteers that are able to get our dogs out each day and spend some time with them, decompress, let him be quiet and then let him enjoy outside, and they’re able to give us the testimonials of, like, this is the dog’s real personality. When you strip all that away, you know this dog hates wheels or this dog love chasing squirrels. We really need to know that heavy stuff to be able to tell their more complete story. Exactly, and that’s important to get to kind of, know that animal, because if they’re going to potentially be adopted out, we want to make sure that we provide the potential of adopters with the information of what this pet likes, and what they do, and what they don’t like.

What kind of enrichment programs do you guys have for the animals that come into your care? We have a training program here that focuses on two things as well. One of the focus is to offer classes the community for their animals. So if I’m living in Hinsdale, or a close suburb around, and I adopted a dog from here or anywhere, and you know I decided, “You know, I think I really need some basic obedience”. For this class, they can come take those classes at our shelter, and then the mission based part of our program is working a trainer to work with our animals, while they’re in our shelter. And that could mean enrichment. So, peanut butter kong, or offering them snuffle maths, and keeping their minds healthy each and every day. And then there’s also the animals here that worked with our trainers that you know, need behavioral training. We have a pup now named, Luca, who was with us from eight weeks and now four months, and he’s growing up with us, right? He’s growing up in the shelter environment. It’s vital that we not only keep his mind healthy, keep him physically active, but we need to teach him manners. He’s a baby, and just like human kids, they need to be taught and they need to learn, and they need all that kind of enrichment. So we’re able to do that.

We’re very fortunate. to have a room in our new shelter called the Puppy Bowl, so it is a football field style floor and had stadium seating, murals painted on there, and the dogs are able to get off leash in there and run, and trainers are able to work with them, and the staffs are able to do enrichment things with them. Especially in the winter months here, it’s so important. And play groups with dogs that get along. So I think that that’s an important thing that you guys are doing with those puppies because it helps them. And it helps the potential adopters, you know, to kind of get over that little. “Okay, it’s okay to chew on stuff”, but at least they know what they’re getting that training to kind of let them know, “Hey, this is okay. And this is not okay.” Yes, exactly.

So how many animals do you guys usually keep in your care? I mean, I know it varies, but I’m just kind of curious as to how many animals you guys have on hand, as opposed to how long their stay is, usually, there with you guys. So our cats, we’re able to have between our intake area, our locked area, and our cat lodge, which is our adoption areas. We have the space for around 99 cats. Cat adoption times are typically a little bit longer, than dogs. So that, like the 10 to 13 day period, just because cats, in general, are slower to adjust to shelter life. And that’s why we have a cat loft. So, if we get a cat in that we could see this cat really needs some time to decompress before they’re around hundreds of people a week. We put him in our cat loft, which is not accessible to the public but has a huge window. So all the cats in the loft, can see everyone in the shelter but not have to interact with them. And then once you’re up there and they kind of decompress a little bit, then they go to our cat lodge, which is an equally fun room, just different. And they’re adapted out from that. Dogs, we have 26 kennels and those are a 5 to 10 day period, and that is an average. Some of our puppies are adopted out, you know, in a day of being brought up, we have a few long term dogs now that have been with us, 2–3 months. So it just kind of depends on the time of year. Now that the winter is getting colder and especially around Christmas time, when people are busy, adoption slow down a little bit and then they’ll pick back up around March, so it just kind of fluctuates.

So you’ve shared so many stories with me. And that’s my favorite part of this entire podcast, aside from learning about the great things you guys are doing. But if you have another memorable story that you’d be willing to share with us, whether it’s how you got started in the animal field or just one that really stood out to you like I know you had mentioned, Louie, and that is a great story, So do you have any others that you would be willing to share with us today? Sure, I’d love to share that with you. I’ve met a dog about four or five years ago that came into Chicago Animal Care and Control that was found locked in a cage and in an abandoned building. And for whatever reason, the dog, who we called Lizzie, a policeman was able to respond to a calling dog, and they were able to go to the building and get to Lizzie prior to her having a very bad outcome. And she was the most emaciated. She should have weighed, probably about 75 pounds. She weighed 32. She was healthy and the love of this animal from when we pulled her from there, to getting her to the vet, to getting her to a foster. Animals, I don’t think, I could ever describe even I, communicated gratitude. So we were able to get her to the vet, and thankfully, there was no huge medical problems. It was just going to be a long road and something with that, as a mom, you want to feed everyone and you want to take care of everyone. Kind of, counter-intuitive to do that with a dog like that that needs to gain that much weight, you have to do it really slow, and really carefully. So one of our foster’s was able to really work with her for about four or five months, and then, it turned out, when she was 100% healthy. Turned out that Lizzie was a crazy dog, who needed training. Oh goodness! So we got her healthy to learn, that she needed to learn some manners. So, we got her into training, and she got adopted out, and is now a therapy animal and, like, the full circle of her story, and I’m sure anyone that works or volunteers in rescue, has a story like this that just keeps you going to work every day. It keeps you volunteering every day.

And you see the result of animals and it’s amazing. This is why I love this part of the podcast, is because you hear this tragic story and it really pulls at your heartstrings. And then on top of that, you get to hear the amazing outcome. And that animal is showing their personality. And, like you said, she needed training. But, hey, she’s alive to get that training because of the great work that you guys did. It’s amazing. I can’t imagine actually being in your shoes and having to see her at, probably, her lowest point. But I can imagine the joy that you feel, you know, you get to see her outcome and how amazing she is doing now, so. Yes, it is. And those are the kind of dogs and the people that you stay in touch, like, you build long lasting, like, lifetime relationship with. I’m still friends with the doctors 4–5 years later. And I love that you stay in contact with them and you know you get to continue that relationship with Lizzie and how special she was. And clearly she made an impact on your life, which is amazing. Yes, I think so.

Jackie, what does the future look like for the Hinsdale Humane Society? We just had a fundraiser this summer and the theme was the future is definitely bright. One of the things that I love about Hinsdale, and this comes from our executive director, and the board, it comes from the top, is that you know, we’re very welcoming to anyone that wants to come in, and just spend time at the shelter. You can come to the Pet Rescue and Resource Center to have coffee. We have free WiFi. You can look at the animals. You can help our staff and talked to our volunteers. You don’t have to come here, to our shelter, to adapt animals. We actually have artwork from the community displayed. We want it to feel like a place in the community, you can come to, and have coffee or water and just spend time. And that’s why our lobby areas, kind of situated like a living room, with our couches. So it’s a very comfortable setting, and I think that is key, to our future, is getting people to come to visit us to see us, that necessarily wouldn’t, they might not be in the market to adopt an animal. So why would I go to humane society? I have fund raisers all the time. So I have wine and cheese night, and I have people say, “Why would I go to a wine and cheese night at the shelter?” Because we want to be that place, where people can just, and you know, an inclusive organization where you can just come be. And our future is going, our programs. We have a low cost vaccination and clinic programs that we’re growing. So we’re offering pet owners and lower income areas to get the costs to the basic care they need to be healthy and happy.

We’re growing our program for veterans and adopting out emotional support dogs to veterans, who need it and offering veteran services at the shelter. It’s definitely bright. The key is to, in our future, is to grow slowly and strategically in a meaningful way. And honestly, it seems like you guys are doing such an amazing job of that right now. So I’m so excited to see what the future holds for you. You guys have something to be proud of, and the fact that you guys do, include your community, in so many ways. It’s not just about the animals, it’s about the people, too. And the fact that you guys are opening your doors to people, who may not necessarily be there to adopt an animal. But at least you know you’re bringing people in and they get to see that work that you guys are doing. And that’s truly inspiring. I think there’s room in the rescue in the animal rescue world for everyone. There’s room for the big places that adapts out hundreds and hundreds of animals. There’s room for the smaller foster race rescues that don’t adopt out huge numbers, but take on the harder dogs, dogs that need specialized training and able this spend time. There’s room for everyone in this world, and the key is collaboration and working together. That’s where the future needs to be, for sure. Yes, definitely.

So, Jackie, you’ve shared so much information with us already, and so many stories, but I really want our listeners to kind of take something away from this, and I kind of always liked to allow you to kind of share with us, how can one go about getting in contact with you guys or engaging, you know, with your organization. How can they go about doing that? I would encourage everyone to go to our website at, And from there you’ll read more about the programs that I touched on, and you’ll read about our volunteer opportunities. We have almost 300 volunteers that work in all sorts of capacities, here. So if volunteerism is something you’re interested in, we have a lot of opportunities for that. And then you also find, on our website, all our social media sites. So Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram, and Pinterest, and that’s where you can really follow and get a feel for who we are, organizationally. We have a blog on our website, Rescue Road, that gets a little bit more in detail about our big picture vision. You can email me you can email any of this staff members any time. And if you live in the near vicinity, I encourage you to come over drop by. I’d love to give anyone a tour, take you behind the scenes and show you what it takes to operate day to day of taking care of life. Yeah, And I hope our listeners really grasp that because I’m jealous that I’m not in that area. Because if I was, I would take a little advantage of that because I love what you’re doing.

One more thing that I wanted to point out your website. It provides so much information and the great work that you guys were doing. And you guys do a very good job of displaying that on there. One of the things that stood out to me that I absolutely loved. And I wanted to share before I let you go. Was the memorial bricks that you guys do. Can you please share with our listeners what that is all about? Our memorial brick garden is something really special that is in the front of our shelter. And people are able to purchase the bricks in memory of their animals and memory of people in their life that they want to memorialize and remember and honor. And it’s a very serene setting in the front of our shelter. There’s benches, and our dog walkers often would sit out there with our dog. We wanted a really peaceful place to be able to honor all those that support us and love us, and I think it’s a really special part of who we are. A lot of things stood out to me, but this was an amazing thing, And or for our listeners, if your in that area, I encourage you to go check it out. If you’re not in that area, and you’re in a completely different state, for that matter, go to their website and check it out. It’s truly amazing. They do have pictures on there.

Jackie, thank you so much again, for taking the time to talk with me today and sharing with us all your memorable stories, and the great work that you guys are doing there at Hinsdale Humane Society. Thank you so much for having me on, and giving me a chance to tell their story. Absolutely.

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