Jeff Manes: Animal lover wants to make a difference
June 8, 2012 4:48PM
Rachel Delaney, executive director of the Humane Society Calumet Area in Munster, is pictured with Reggie, a 10-year-old cat up for adoption at the shelter. | Photo provided
At a glance
For more information about the Humane Society Calumet Area, call 922-3811 or visit 421 45th Ave., Munster.
Updated: July 11, 2012 6:01AM
“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”
— St. Francis of Assisi
When you enter the Humane Society Calumet Area in Munster, there is a large sign on the wall that reads: “We believe in the power of volunteers because the Titanic was built by professionals and the Arc was built by volunteers.”
Rachel Delaney is executive director of the HSCA. She has lived in Highland with her husband, Kyle, for four years. They have a daughter, Hannah, 2.
Delaney, 35, grew up in Calumet City, Ill., and attended Thornton Fractional North High School.
Memories of Cal City?
“It was a very tight-knit community,” she said. “All the neighbors knew one another; it was a great place. Unfortunately, not much is left since I was a kid. I remember Winkler’s candy store and State Line Bakery.”
The Humane Society is about to expand.
“Yes, we’re making a corporate office in Highland. I’ll still have the same position, but will be working out of the corporate office.”
How long have you been here?
“Seven years; I started out as a volunteer. At the time, I was working as a paramedic three days a week. Eventually, I was offered a part-time position here on my days off. After a few months, the executive director wanted to hire me full-time as a customer services representative.”
You took a leap of faith.
“I called my dad and said: ‘Dad, I’m going to quit this job. I want to do something that really makes a difference.’ ”
What did he say?
“ ‘What are you doing? Don’t quit your job!’ ”
“I learned everything I could from the executive director. Not long after she left, she recommended me as the interim executive director. The board voted me in, and I’ve been here ever since. I truly believe in this place.”
Have you always been an animal lover?
“Yes, we always had animals. At one time, we had a duck, a pot-bellied pig, birds, cats, dogs — everything.
“I learned a lot from my parents. My dad was always helping people, like helping them alongside the road. My mom was always taking in animals. Yeah, they’re good people.”
A friend of mine told me his work place is getting overrun with cats. The place stinks like dead mice and birds because the cats put their kills under the building. If someone collected these feral cats with humane traps, could they be taken to the Humane Society?
“That is a perfect example of why we’re branching off into a corporate office — so we can start helping all the communities in the area. Right now, we’re partnering with Whiting, Dyer, Munster and Highland as far as things like animal control.
“There is a huge epidemic right now with feral cats. East Chicago and Hammond really have problems; they’re everywhere.”
How are you helping?
“We just opened the Estelle Marcus Animal Clinic. Estelle recently passed away; she was one of our biggest donors. We have a spay-neuter clinic now.”
The mispronunciation of the word “spay” is one of my “pet” peeves. It’s amazing how many folks will say, “I had my dog ‘spaded’ last week, rather than spayed. Proceed, please.
“Feral cats can be rehabilitated, but it’s a rare thing. It’s best to spay or neuter them and take them to a farm where they can’t reproduce. Kitten season is going to start soon, so that community of cats in East Chicago is going to quadruple.”
Is your agency no-kill?
Has it always been that way?
“No, it changed right before I came in. The downside of being no-kill is, sometimes, we have to turn away animals because we have no space. So they have to go to another shelter. When that shelter runs out of room, they have to pick which animal has to be euthanized.”
How long has the Humane Society been in Northwest Indiana?
“The Humane Society started in 1941 in Hammond on Columbia Avenue. We moved here in 2000.”
Do you get anonymous calls regarding animal abuse?
“Yes, the animal-welfare laws in Indiana aren’t very strong. Recently, there was a study put out listing the animal-friendly states. Illinois is No. 4; they’re doing a great job. Indiana is No. 35; we’re decades behind.
“We do the best we can to work with the municipalities and animal control to come to a solution. The Humane Society doesn’t have jurisdiction to go in and take an animal. We rely heavily on animal-control agencies.
“Each municipality — and this is unique to Indiana and really unique to Northwest Indiana — has its own animal control. I won’t mention any particular municipality, but if you call some of them about a stray, they’ll say, ‘Just let it go’ or, ‘Call pest control.’ ”
Do you have pets?
All from here?
“Yes; they’re all Chihuahuas.”
“We had a hoarding situation about a year ago with cats. Most of them were very sickly and fighting over food. It was one of the most awful things I’ve ever seen. If you saw the woman, you never would have thought it in a million years.”
Hoarding cats and dogs has to be some kind of mental illness. Do you think the woman loved her cats?
“Yes, I do; I don’t think she expected it to get that far out of hand. A good portion of the cats were living in the ductwork of the basement.”
What did you do?
“We took all the cats. Unfortunately, once they were outside of that situation, a lot of them they didn’t make it. They were just so sick. But, a lot of those cats did get homes.”
I notice that a good portion of the dogs are pit bulls.
“In this area, there seems to be a lot of pit bulls. We get a lot of pit bulls coming in through Gary.
“We do as much education as we can with the pit bulls. If we know their backgrounds, that’s really great. We temperament-test all the dogs here. We have a behaviorist who works with them. She makes sure they are adoptable and don’t have any aggressive tendencies.
“Pit bulls aren’t a bad breed; it’s usually the owners. We had a priest from St. Andrew Church in Calumet City (Ill.) adopt a pit bull. He runs with the dog every day; he loves that pit bull.”
How many people work here?
“We have 25 paid staffers and 350 volunteers. We couldn’t run this place without the volunteers.”
How many animals can you house?
“At one time, we were pushing 500. Right now, we have about 200. We found that illness was greater when we kept larger numbers.”
Does someone walk the cats and dogs?
“The volunteers do at least twice a day. We have a big dog run in the back with a playground.”
Like babies at an orphanage, cuddly puppies and cute kittens at the Humane Society are the most sought after. Eight- and 10-year olds can be the last to get homes — if ever.
Rachel Delaney will be the first to tell you that middle-aged mutts, stray cats and abused creatures need love and caring, too.