If you’re an animal in need of a home, the Humane Society of Skagit Valley will work magic to find you one. “I had an individual bring in a cane corso,” recalls Executive Director, Janine Ceja. Given the uniqueness of the breed, Janine did some research and found the original breeder who flew from Ohio to reclaim the dog. Another dog considered too high drive for traditional owners received her service diploma from the training partnership Monroe Correctional Institute has with Summit Assistance Dogs. Cases like these are few and far between, but they speak to the creativity and dedication Janine and her team employ to find homes for the animals in their care.
Founded in 1974, the Humane Society of Skagit Valley started in a small, volunteer-built building. When Janine started working for the humane society in the 80s, they were receiving upwards of 4,000 animals a year. Pinpointing the problem as too many unplanned litters, the shelter turned to education and began a spay and neuter program. The strong education paid off and by the early 2000s the annual intake of animals had dropped to 2,100. The humane society also raised enough money to build a much-needed larger facility.
The new building was designed with the idea in mind that animals are living beings that need space and fresh air. “I spent the first two weeks getting lost,” Janine says as she gives a tour of the various wings. She describes the dog kennels as posh with their radiant floor heating and private outdoor play areas. Cats are given free rein in special roaming rooms and each one needs to learn how to use a cat door if they want to play outside. The upgraded accommodations, combined with the effects of the spay and neuter program, have opened up new opportunities for the Humane Society of Skagit Valley.
“By 2013, we’re realizing we have a beautiful facility and we don’t have it full like we used to,” Janine explains. To utilize the space, the Humane Society partnered with the ASPCA and Wings of Rescue to become a rescue shelter for animals around the country. These animals typically come from shelters in heavily congested areas, or states with a high volume of euthanasia.
Rescue efforts initially began with dogs, but have transitioned to include cats in recent years. This led to another partnership with PetSmart Charities, whose adoptable animals are provided by shelters and rescues instead of breeders. The Humane Society supplies local PetSmart branches with kittens, which frees up space for adult cats back at the shelter. This “musical chairs” of animals proves there’s an art to animal rescue and adoption that the Humane Society team have mastered. But they need your help.
Supporting the Humane Society of Skagit Valley’s adoption, rescue and educational endeavors goes beyond just monetary donations. “I’d love a volunteer who wants to do laundry,” Janine says with a laugh. “If someone wanted to do laundry and fold, that would be amazing.” She’s also hoping to expand the Humane Society’s ability to be at more local adoption events and needs outreach ambassadors to make it happen. Volunteers are also needed for animal transportation to and from vet appointments and for airport pickups. For anyone who wants to be involved but finds the Humane Society’s location to be too out of the way, they have a charity thrift store in Mount Vernon you can support. Janine also encourages supporting the Humane Society of Skagit Valley the good old-fashioned way: through word of mouth.
“The more you know about us, the better you can be an ambassador for us,” Says Janine. With a facility that’s open seven days a week, this is the place to come if you’re missing a pet, adopting a pet, or surrendering a pet. Some individuals have had so much love and trust in the Humane Society of Skagit Valley over the years, they’ve put the shelter in their will. It’s a lasting legacy that leaves Janine flabbergasted and humbled every time.
“We have some amazing individuals in our community,” she says. “Our local Skagitonians are very kind and help us make it through.” In return, Janine and her team create new families and lasting relationships for every person and animal who comes through their doors.
Humane Society of Skagit Valley
18841 Kelleher Rd., Burlington