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Capital watch

Capital watch

Stay tuned for updates on the breeder bill.

At the time this edition of Animal Tracks went to print, Animal Humane Society was involved in a number of efforts at the Minnesota Legislature, including supporting a bill that would require licensing and inspection of large commercial dog and cat breeding operations.

Because action was expected in both the Minnesota House and Senate between the time this magazine was printed and when it arrived in your hands, we have created a page on the AHS website to give you access to the most current developments in our legislative efforts.

Building better vets

Building better vets

An AHS/U of M partnership provides valuable experience.

University of Minnesota veterinary students are getting hands-on surgical experience through a partnership with Animal Humane Society, Kindest Cut and the Melrose Animal Clinic, located at AHS’s Golden Valley facility.

Tales from the Road

Tales from the Road

The Rescue Waggin' program gets some star power.

Animal Humane Society plays a starring role in a new eight-part documentary series that debuted online in March.

“Rescue Waggin’: Tales from the Road” follows 21 dogs on their journey from the Carthage (Mo.) Humane Society shelter to Golden Valley, where AHS staff and volunteers help them find new homes with loving families in Minnesota.

First-class felines

First-class felines

Cats get the suite life while they await new homes.

The cats at Animal Humane Society’s adoption centers now know a little about how we humans feel when we get an upgrade at the Hilton.

Pine River update

Pine River update

Where are they now?

By Jeff Moravec

It’s been nine months since Animal Humane Society was called upon to rescue 133 dogs and puppies from a breeding facility in northern Minnesota. But to many involved in the case that has become known simply as “Pine River,” after the Cass County town where the seizure occurred, it feels like it was only yesterday.

Mainly, though, the memory of Pine River is so fresh because the emotional impact of the case continues to be felt – the incredible work on the part of AHS staff and volunteers to care for the dogs and the outpouring of support in the community to find them homes will not soon be forgotten.

“I continue to be amazed at that effort,” Brayshaw said. “It was phenomenal how an entire organization, and an entire community, could pull together to accomplish such great things.”

“Our staff and volunteers worked themselves ragged taking care of these animals. We had staff and volunteers who normally did not work in animal care who agreed to pitch in, and we still needed assistance from the local volunteer community and rescues to provide these dogs with the care they needed. It was truly a team effort,” he said.

Adopters lined up at AHS’ five facilities when the dogs were first available for adoption on October 12, and by the time it was all over, a total of 167 Pine River dogs and puppies had found new homes through AHS. In addition, Twin Cities rescue organizations helped place many more of the dogs.

“It really was inspiring to see how many stepped up in such a tough situation,” Brayshaw said. “It’s something we’ll feel and talk about for a long time to come.”

The Pine River case touched many Animal Humane Society staff in ways that went far beyond their professional capacities. They were reluctant to grow close to animals that could very well have ended up back with the breeder from whom they were seized – but they couldn’t help it. So when the long-awaited day came when AHS was allowed to put the dogs and puppies up for adoption, several AHS staff were happy to be able to join the wonderful adopters from the community in taking home their own animals. Here are three such stories, told in their own words.

Kathy Johnson & Shelby

Kathie Johnson is senior director of operations at Animal Humane Society.

Many of the Pine River dogs required foster care to help ready them for adoption. I decided to foster a little Chihuahua we called Shelby Ann. The minute Shelby walked into our home, she touched our lives and just seemed to “fit.” Before the case was resolved, I overheard my kids talking about how much they loved her and how awful it would be if she would have to go back to the breeder. I also heard them say, “I don’t think Mom will take it very well if she has to go back.” They were clearly concerned, but because we are seasoned “fosters,” they knew the drill and were content with just caring for Shelby and giving her a great life while she was with us.

The day I was able to share with my family that the dogs were released for adoption, we all cried a bit and then looked at Shelby. “What now?” Everyone knew in their hearts that she wasn’t going anywhere. How did she change a “big dog” family into a family that adores this little dog, spoils her rotten and buys her sweaters? It’s beyond me. She brings so much joy to our lives and the people that she meets. Our friends and neighbors just love her and so do we. There is truly something special about this little dog and we feel so lucky to have her in our lives.

Jen Gackstetter & Winnie

Jen Gackstetter is the animal transfer liaison for Animal Humane Society

Winnie, a chocolate lab puppy, was born at AHS to a mom that was pregnant when she was seized from Pine River. Although Winnie didn’t have to live in those terrible conditions, I watched her and feared so much that she would somehow end up being sent back there. It was such a relief that she and her family and her canine friends didn’t have to be returned. And then I knew that her home had to be my home. Winnie has been so much fun, and it’s been a joy watching her grow. Winnie and my Dachshund hit it off right from the start but it took about six weeks after Winnie’s adoption for my Westie to stop being crabby about the new pup at home. The first time they played I almost cried I was so excited.

Winnie is just the happiest dog I’ve ever known and just loves to be around people. I can’t imagine my life without her now. We weren’t looking for a third dog but there was something about this little brown chubby pup that just got to me, and I knew I couldn’t let her go. It breaks my heart to think that so many of those Pine River dogs went through years of life without knowing what the love of a person is like, but it’s so comforting knowing that they are in good homes now.

Nicole Wallace & Kodiak

Nicole Wallace is a wildlife veterinary technician at Animal Humane Society

My Pine River guy is Kodiak, but we call him Kodi or Kodi bear. He is one of the Pine River dogs that had to go through our adoption preparation program. When I first got him he was so shell-shocked. He didn’t know how to climb stairs, jump into the back of a car, or play.

He would flinch if I raised my hand to pull my hood over my head. He had no idea what it meant to be a beloved house pet.

When Kodiak first came out to live on our hobby farm, he couldn’t even run without falling down. The veterinarians assured me it was nothing medical; he just didn’t have any muscle mass. It was so sad to watch this big beautiful boy be so excited to get outside and run, only to have his legs give out. But it didn’t slow him down much. He loves to go on walks and help with the horse chores. He instantly got along with the other dogs and cats.

It has not been an easy transition and not without challenges. Every day I pray to St. Francis for patience, but he is truly a great dog with a heart of gold. He is making huge progress and has even recently started to play with some of the plethora of toys he has at his discretion!

It is unbelievable to think of him back as one of the Pine River garage dogs and now the beautiful, beloved house pet he is becoming. He is the light of my life and I could not imagine my life without him, or his without me! Today he is a strong healthy boy with a forever home. It almost brings a tear to my eye to read this and know what he has gone through and where he is today.

Social Animals

Social animals

It takes a network to get pets adopted

By Dorothy Grinolds

With more than 20,000 animals coming through our doors each year, Animal Humane Society needs to use every tool at our disposal to match up pets with adopters.

In this day and age, that means engaging not just the hearts, hands and minds of the community to help animals, but engaging their newsfeeds – and their TV sets -- as well.

AHS’s website may be our most prominent and important marketing tool, a place where thousands of people see their next pet for the first time. Increasingly, though, both new and “old” media are being used to introduce animals to prospective adopters, especially those animals that might need a special showcase.

Here we look at some recent stories about how animals looking for a second chance found their new loving homes through social media and the airwaves.


When Elvis arrived at AHS last October, he was like any puppy – playful, active and attention-seeking. But Elvis had a few challenges to face before finding a home.

Our veterinary staff discovered Elvis was suffering from Sarcoptic Mange, a disease caused by small mites on the animal’s skin, which if left untreated results in itchiness, hair loss and even infection. Elvis received extensive treatment from the vets, and because this type of mange is highly contagious to other dogs, Elvis had to be isolated for a large portion of the time.

So we convinced Elvis to pose for a photo and we posted his story on our Facebook page. After 594 likes, 314 shares and three days, Elvis was adopted by a family who saw him on Facebook. They already had a pit bull/terrier mix at home and decided Elvis would make the perfect companion.

AHS joined the world of likes and shares back in 2008 and since then we’ve gained more than 30,000 fans who share in and help us promote the work we do for animals every day.

Through the use of our social media channels, we are able to engage with supporters in a variety of ways: to promote our lifesaving programs and services, gain new supporters who will donate time and money to help animals, and share the stories that take place at each of our five locations.

We are fortunate to have a supportive community of people who believe that adoption is the best way to add a companion animal to their family. The length of stay for animals on our adoption floors averages only 10 days.

Occasionally however, there are animals – like Elvis – who need an extra push; animals who are passed over by potential adopters, senior animals, or those with special medical needs.


Tinkerbell found a new home just a few hours after her adopters saw her video on our Facebook page. She was just two months old when she came to us a stray with a shattered hind leg. After surgery and lots of love from our staff, she was as sweet and playful as ever. So we shot some footage of Tinkerbell playing, created a simple video and encouraged our supporters on social media to share our post.


Dabit’s wishes came true when his new person John saw his sweet face and read his wish list on our Facebook page last December. A 6-year-old lab mix, Dabit had been waiting longer than the average dog for a home and was now what we refer to as a “forget-me-not.” When they met, it was as if it was meant to be. A total of 184 people shared Dabit’s wish list and helped us find Dabit a home. File that under #madeourday.


Everyone at AHS, and our Facebook friends, love to hear how pets are doing after they’ve been adopted. That’s the concept behind Success Story Saturdays, when we let our adopters take center stage and provide updates about their new companions. For example, Holly told us about Bear, a 13-year-old lab who came to us after his owner passed away. Senior pets aren’t always people’s first choice when adopting, but Holly saw something in Bear she couldn’t pass up, and a month after adopting him, we passed along her report on our Facebook page: “He was so depressed when we first got him and now his tail never stops wagging! I just adore this old boy! Please don’t forget the senior dogs!”

Sharing these success stories has helped us spread the word about the benefits of adoption. Each adoption is a happy beginning and brings thousands of likes and hundreds of shares, not to mention a lot of smiles.

As valuable as social media is these days, we also take advantage of good old-fashioned news media through a partnership with WCCO-TV, the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis. Every Friday on the noon news, WCCO features a “Pet of the Week” segment, where we introduce viewers to an adoptable animal live on the air.


Barney, a senior Chinese Shar-Pei mix, was found in early December, roaming free in subzero temperatures. A Good Samaritan brought him home, and made an appointment to bring him to AHS. It appeared Barney had been through a lot recently and was in need of some TLC. Our vet staff prepared Barney for adoption, and because older dogs often take longer to find homes, he was featured on WCCO. That day, Jean was at home watching TV and saw Barney’s appearance. She and her husband Dave had said goodbye to their family dog earlier in the year, and were ready to start looking for a new furry family member. Jean told Dave about the sweet dog she saw on the news, and they adopted Barney that evening.

We’re happy to report that Barney, now named Bosco, is doing great in his new home. As he discovers he is in a warm and safe home, his personality is shining. He’s enjoying exploring the outdoors when temperatures allow, and he’s getting along great with the three other dogs in the family.

For the past four years, Carrie Libera, AHS public relations associate, has taken dozens of dogs on the WCCO Pet of the Week segment. “It’s such a pleasure getting to choose a lucky dog each week, knowing that their perfect match may be tuning into the news that day,” Libera said. “Many times when we return to the shelter, the phones are ringing off the hook with interested adopters – and sometimes there is someone already on the way.”

The segment has a loyal following, with people telling us they watch the Friday news just to see the Pet of the Week. “The best part is when I get updates from viewers that have adopted,” Libera said. “Sometimes I get to meet them that day, other times they come back for a visit. I’ve even received Christmas cards from dogs that I’ve taken on TV. It’s a special thing to be a part of and we’re grateful for the opportunity.”

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

By Jeff Moravec

Animal Tracks: Spring/Summer 2014

Animal Tracks: Spring/Summer 2014

Animal Tracks Are you a cat person or a dog person?

You may wonder (or you may not): What in the world compelled these Animal Tracks editors to devote such a large section of the magazine to this examination of “dog people” and “cat people”? 

Social animals

With more than 20,000 animals coming through our doors each year, Animal Humane Society needs to use every tool at our disposal to match up pets with adopters. 

Pine River update

It’s been nine months since Animal Humane Society was called upon to rescue 133 dogs and puppies from a breeding facility in northern Minnesota. But to many involved in the case that has become known simply as “Pine River,” after the Cass County town where the seizure occurred, it feels like it was only yesterday.


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About Animal Tracks
Animal Tracks, the magazine of Animal Humane Society, is published twice a year in March and October. It is mailed to donors and individuals enrolled in our Training School and educational programs.

Grant brings subsidized spay/neuter to Frogtown

Grant brings subsidized spay/neuter to Frogtown

Sterilization services are brought to a neighborhood in need

In June, Kindest Cut began offering subsidized spay/neuter services for pets of qualified low-income animal owners in the Frogtown/Thomas-Dale neighborhood of St. Paul, through a grant from PetSmart Charities®.

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