Huntley's Animal House Shelter celebrates 10 years

 
 
Updated 7/19/2012 2:58 PM
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  • Moseley, a Chihuahua-beagle mix, is one of the dogs available at the Animal House Shelter in Huntley, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

      Moseley, a Chihuahua-beagle mix, is one of the dogs available at the Animal House Shelter in Huntley, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Adult cats are everywhere in one part of the Animal House Shelter in Huntley.

      Adult cats are everywhere in one part of the Animal House Shelter in Huntley. Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Animal House Shelter staff members Tyler Stratman and Bonnie Sutton walk two of the dogs currently living at the shelter in Huntley. Jay, a Labrador retriever mix, and Layla, a shepherd hound mix, get several walks each day as do the other dogs at the facility.

      Animal House Shelter staff members Tyler Stratman and Bonnie Sutton walk two of the dogs currently living at the shelter in Huntley. Jay, a Labrador retriever mix, and Layla, a shepherd hound mix, get several walks each day as do the other dogs at the facility. Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

  • Marcus Bunda, one of the managers at Animal House Shelter, tends to one of the kittens Wednesday at the shelter in Huntley.

      Marcus Bunda, one of the managers at Animal House Shelter, tends to one of the kittens Wednesday at the shelter in Huntley. Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

The inspiration for opening the Animal House Shelter came from a phone call.

"In my junior year in college, I got a phone call that a dog was dumped in the Barrington area and was dodging cars," said Lesley Irwin, the shelter's executive director. "It kind of ended up being a life-changer."

The no-kill shelter, now headquartered in Huntley, is celebrating its 10th anniversary on Saturday, July 21 at the shelter and kicking off a fundraising effort to build its own vet clinic.

You are invited to help them honor that milestone during Pawfest, an event that runs from noon to 4 p.m. and involves discounted microchipping and vaccines, a raffle, a caricature artist, a dunk tank, a pet photographer and a demonstration from the McHenry County Sheriff Department's canine unit. The event is free and open to the public. People who adopted pets from the shelter are also invited to attend with their furry family members.

Irwin, of Huntley, grew up rescuing dogs and horses with her mother and has always had a soft spot for animals.

In 1996, Irwin was "pre-vet" University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, when she received the phone call from a friend about the homeless dog.

Irwin, who was home during a break at school, adopted the dog, which she named Kiley and nursed her back to health. Kiley lived a nice long life before passing away in 2008 of adrenal cancer.

Irwin decided to devote her life to rescuing, rehabilitating and finding homes for unwanted dogs and cats.

In 2002, she opened Animal House on private property in Barrington. She started out with between 15 and 30 dogs and with five to 10 cats at a time that she was fixing up and arranging to get adopted.

In 2005, the shelter moved to bigger digs in Huntley.

Today, the shelter houses 175 dogs, but in foster care, there are anywhere from 150 to 200 puppies and adult dogs. As for cats, 80 of them call the shelter home, while 100 kittens and adult cats are living in foster homes.

The shelter estimates it has rescued and found homes for about 20,000 animals to date. Many would have been otherwise euthanized at high-kill animal control facilities all over the country. The shelter accepts all breeds of dogs and cats, regardless of their special needs.

Every animal has a story.

There was Rose, a dog who was left to die on the side of the road in the southern part of the state. "You could see every bone in her body," said Cindy Ritter, the shelter's director.

The dog was terrified of human contact and tested positive for heartworm. She was put into a foster home, treated for heartworm, fed and socialized.

Rose was eventually adopted by a family who saw her story on the shelter's website.

Irwin is hopeful to write another chapter at the shelter with an on-site veterinary clinic that will cost between $500,000 and $750,000 to build -- the shelter now uses vets from two other clinics.

Irwin also envisions opening the clinic to the community for low-cost spaying and neutering services.

"We need our own vet with our own building," Irwin said. "It's extremely needed at this point, with how many (animals) we have coming in ... with all kinds of surgeries."

Animal House Shelter is at 13005 Ernesti Road, Huntley. Call (847) 961-5541 for details.

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