Marty - a puggle, who was adopted in January of 2020
A Closer Look
Humane Society of
110 Years of Serving the Community
Story and interviews by Teresa Nguyen
"It’s a bigger job that one can imagine!"
~ Mike McManus, Executive Director
Puppy dog eyes, the softness of a cat’s fur, a wagging tail, the rumble of a steady purr...any pet owner is familiar with these signs of animal joy. The importance of our pets can truly be difficult to put into words. They take their place as a family member, serving as our companion and creating different relationships with each person in the household, just as we all do. They bring us immeasurable joy, much like a new child, filling our hearts with love and our days with amusement.
In turn, we want to make them happy. We take them for walks, buy them toys, play with them, scratch their ears, provide good food, a cozy shelter and fresh water. We take them for walks and tend to their daily needs. They are dependent on us like a toddler. And unlike a human child, they don’t grow up to tower over us, change dramatically and eventually leave the nest. They stay with us, loyal and dependent until the very end, either theirs or ours. That shared bond, the mutual respect that grows in a healthy pet/owner relationship also endures the test of time.
The shared experiences vary from family to family, pet to pet, but they encompass everything from holidays to vacations, good times and sorrow, to adventurous outings and simple cuddling on the couch, while reading or watching TV. They communicate with us in a myriad of ways from tail thumping to pacing, meowing and purring to facial expressions, which often only the owner can detect. They ‘talk to us’ through cries, barks, meows, whimpers and panting, crazy behaviors and sweet gestures. We know their personalities, and no two pets are exactly alike, even two from the same litter.
When we discover an illness or lose a pet, our hearts break for the pain the animal must endure and for the loss we will feel when they are gone…the unbelievable reality that the relationship at its end. The grief is real, and a reflection of the love between animal and human, transcending species. The love is real, connecting pet and owner through the senses, the eyes, the smells, sounds and especially through touch. We remember them forever in our hearts.
Chloe - a calico, who was adopted in December of 2019
When we think of finding a new pet, we can be thankful our society has become more educated and aware of the high numbers of animals who need to be rescued. We look to adopt and that search is right at our fingertips. But how aware are we of the people behind the scenes who care for those animals in need while in limbo? The animals come from all sorts of situations, some of them terribly heartbreaking. Who are those special people who are there to welcome an abandoned cat or an abused dog with open arms, saying, “You are safe here…we will take care of you”?
The Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin provides services not too many would be willing to do. It is a huge responsibility and the number of animals coming into the shelter is incredibly high. But HSSW makes it work, even though they are now so cramped for space, it makes all of their jobs difficult. Yet, they continue to take in the animals, both day and night, and the HSSW is very proud to be a “No Kill” shelter for the southern Wisconsin community.
We often take for granted the importance of this wonderful not-for-profit in the heart of Rock County. Yet their needs are so great, it’s important we take a few minutes to learn a little more than we think we know.
Through this series of interviews, discover the variety of services provided by the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin, the day to day operations, the people who work so diligently to keep it running smoothly, and the incredible need for community support toward the new facility on the horizon.
I graduated from Seton Hall University with a degree in Marketing. I also played basketball for the university with the Seton Hall Pirates and played on the golf team, as well.
In October of 2018, I took over as Executive Director of the Humane Society in. Prior to that, I was involved with an association management company as an Executive Director and then became their President. I helped the company merge with another before I left. We managed 19 not-for-profits. I lived on an airplane.
A number of years ago, while living in Naperville, Illinois, I was on several nonprofit boards. One of them was the Naperville Area Humane Society.
I served on that board for several years. All of my dogs have come from humane societies throughout my life, so it was near and dear to my heart.
The traveling with the association management business was getting to be too much for everyone. I wanted to find one meaningful not-for-profit organization and narrowed it down to three possibilities. One interest was working with the blind, because I have a son who is blind. Another was with ALS, as I’ve lost a couple of family members to ALS. The third was with animals. When I saw the opening here, I thought this would be a great match.
Day to Day Work
When I joined, I was told that we were kicking off a capital campaign to build a new shelter. So, I jumped in with both feet, joining the Morning Rotary Club and I became involved with Forward Janesville, Inc. I’ve enjoyed this. I had missed being tied to a community.
In addition to the fundraising, I took a look inside at the shelter's procedures, the staff, looked at what works and what we needed to work on. The main focus here is to reunite pets with their original owners, to help lost animals find a new home, to help animals who are on the verge and working to spay and neuter.
Current HSSW Building at 222 S Arch St, in Janesville, Wisconsin
We make sure they’re up on their proper vaccines, etc. We have a lot to do here.
Our mission is to provide shelter and humane conditions to the animals of Rock County, reunite lost animals with their owners, promote positive pet adoptions, provide education, inspire compassion and to serve the community and pets of Rock County.
Capital Campaign Goals
We had a pretty good year raising money. It’s a 4.8-million-dollar project. We still have a little over a million to raise.
Fortunately, we were able to purchase land smack dab in the middle of Rock County at the intersection of the Highway 11 Bypass and Prairie Avenue. It’s 44 acres, which is a lot of land. We couldn’t have a better location!
Hayes - a 2yo male APBT mix, who needs a forever home!
We hope to break ground this spring of 2020. Al McKnight, of McKnight Excavating, is donating the excavation services, which is a huge start for us! We still need to raise a little over a million dollars. The board would like to have everything paid for first.
We’re very lucky that the community helps support us. Last year, we technically lost money. But with the capital campaign, we actually gained. We need money for the new building and we need it for operations.
There are many ways to donate to the new facility, including naming and recognition opportunities. An “Unforgettable Pet” initiative allows your pet to be permanently listed in the lobby of the new building.
To learn more, click here and contact Kaitie Swedlund about this initiative.
Sketch of the donor area and lobby of the new Human Society of Southern Wisconsin building
Serving the Community
We are not affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States. We are an independent not-for-profit and we do not do animal control here. We contract with the local police departments who do the animal control. They bring the animals to us. At one time, we did have a couple of Humane Officers who did that kind of work. It’s been several years since we have done that.
When the animals are brought in, sometimes by the police in the middle of the night, they put the animal in the holding area. The holding areas fill up fast, especially during the summer. We get a lot of strays around snowstorms, too.
The Sherriff’s Department and/or police bring animals to us; a stray, one involved in bites, etc. We are the open arms; they bring them here and we help. It’s a bigger job that one can imagine!
“The Janesville Police Department is thankful that we have a full-service humane society to assist our community. Officers often encounter animals in need. Having an animal shelter available allows the officers to promptly care for the animal and return to other duties.
Volunteer and monetary donations provided to the Human Society of Southern Wisconsin are important so the organization can be self-sustaining without reliance of tax dollars.”
~ Chief David Moore, Janesville Police Department
Chief of Police, David Moore
History and Changes
(Mike McManus Cont.)
The Rock County Humane Society began on Christmas Eve in 1910. A small group of concerned citizens got together, recognizing the need to control the dogs and cats of the community. Back then it was a major problem. It was a grassroots organization.
In the late 1950’s, they purchased some land in this area. Things were not handled very humanely at that time. There was a lot of euthanasia going on.
Then in 1976, the 9,000 square foot building on Arch Street was built to be used mainly as an animal holding facility. It hurts me to say that as late as 2008 or 2010, the euthanasia rate was over 40%!
Officer Severson with K-9, Fred
If a couple of animals get along, they will room together at the shelter to save space.as well as to have company.
In the 1990’s, the need for more space grew, and a million-dollar addition to the current building was added. A number of board members raised the money for the project.
Little did they know, things were going to explode. There was really an issue of growing service to the county and the space here quickly filled up. Now we’re in dire need for more room. The number of animals coming in kept increasing!
In the 2000’s, we were looking to expand. To do that here, at the Arch Street area, isn’t ideal. There are neighbors who don’t want to hear barking dogs in the middle of the night. We knew there had to be a better way than euthanasia.
Laundry and donations area - one of the many crowded spaces at HSSW
So we set our goals on becoming a “No Kill” shelter. That means the rate of euthanizing needs to be under 10%. We work on spaying and neutering instead.
Currently, our maintenance/boiler room is also our storage room. The laundry area is crowded next to a break room/locker room with only a tiny break table for all of our staff. We have cramped holding areas and our vets are operating out of a semi-trailer, which has no plumbing. In the winter it’s a challenge for the staff to have to leave the truck, brave the winter winds to go wash hands inside the main building, then venture back out in a blizzard to the truck!
The truck where the veterinarians perform surgeries due to lack of space
Veterinarian, Dr. Kara Wallisch, performs surgery on a cat out in the truck
The boiler room also serves as extra storage space at HSSW
The need for a new, fully functioning facility with ample space is here.
So Many Animals!
In 2018 we had 4,882 animals come through. I’m still going through the numbers for the previous year, but it looks like it will surpass that.
There are a lot of feral cats. Many come in from farm lands and they breed a lot. People drop off a lot of cats at our doorstep. With dogs, we need more education. Many are afraid of dogs and some don’t treat them like a living creature. Some people fall on hard times, maybe become homeless and can’t keep their pets.
We help shelters in the south. The south started reaching out to the north a number of years ago. They contacted shelters to take transports. We take two groups out of Texas and one out of Alabama. We get three transports a month in, each one from 10 - 30 dogs at a time. Dogs get adopted pretty quickly and what we have found is that 98% of them are adoptable and find great homes here.
We offer low cost spay and neutering every Wednesday at the cost of $50.
We also have vaccine clinics. We’re trying to do four to six this year at the Janesville-Beloit Kennel Club down on Hwy 51. The last time we did the clinic, we had more than 120 animals vaccinated each Saturday!
And, of course, we offer the chance to adopt the animals.
Cupid - a 4yo male lab mix, who needs a forever home!
How do the animals come to us? One is through transport. One might be a stray, and others are given up by people. If it’s a stray, there’s a 5-day holding period.
First, we scan for a microchip. If there is a microchip, we have information to try and get in touch with an owner, a number to call, a way to investigate. We see what we can do to get them back home. After that 5-day period, the animal belongs to us and we can put it up for adoption.
When an animal comes in, a dog, for example, he has to be weighed and checked over by the vet. We take time to get to know the animal, we walk them, the animal care people learn about the animal and the vets check them over. It’s a fairly complex system. People think they can just look on the website and it’s straight and simple. But there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.
Butternut - adopted in February, 2020
We have a website page for adoptions. Click here for info: People then come in and we help them to get to know an animal, maybe they meet the cat or dog and spend some time with them and play with them.
With the cats, because we’re so short on room, when people want to play with the cats and there are multiple families here looking, we have to use the handicapped bathroom for them to spend time with the animal.
Then, our Adoption Counselors will meet with the people interested and ask a series of questions such as:
Have you ever had a pet?
Who lives in the home?
Do you have children?
Are there other pets?
These kinds of questions are used to determine if the adoption is a right fit. Then they need to fill out an adoption form, get a license and pay their fee. We add that if they have any questions, we want them to call us. It’s a life we’re saving, not a product. We welcome people to return the animal to us if it doesn’t work out.
Pen Pal - a 3 yo mix breed, male, who needs a forever home!
Most times it works out well! We have a social media group for people who have adopted and they can share their stories on that page.
Any of the staff, med staff or adoption staff can name the cats that come into the cat holding area. We also have a Birthday Program, which allows a child to donate money for a chance to name a cat. The shelter has had cats named Beanie Baby and Sock Puppet. One of our more creative names was Sparkle Pants Pickle Pop.
Shannon Iseppon, Animal Care Team Lead and Hannah Hathaway,
Social Media and Marketing Coordinator
We are a small animal shelter. We have had guinea pigs, rabbits, reptiles, ferrets, you’d be surprised. We’ve had snakes, birds, turtles and some unusual reptiles. A lot of times we refer people to other places if it’s not a good fit.
My staff fosters some of the animals. Some of the animals are what we call a ‘foster failure’. We go the extra mile with them, even though we can’t always afford to. My staff will often adopt them. They’re good, compassionate people.
We get no government funding. We do a low cost spay and neutering here, but we have no surgical space so they’re using a truck for animal surgery. Every animal who leaves here is spayed or neutered, they will have a microchip, they have gone through the animal behavior training and we send home medications if needed. If you look at an adult animal and see the low cost for adoption, you’ll realize we don’t make much money here. We rely on donations.
Straw and Bricks - two guinea pigs, already adopted!
The community has been wonderfully supportive. Sometimes people put us into their wills or estates. Blaine’s Farm and Fleet donate animal food and litter to us. That’s huge! We are thankful to them.
Sometimes the public comes in with donations. People donate dog/cat food, liter boxes, animal toys, blankets, towels, dog beds and many other things. The community does help tremendously!
Another way to help is for people to volunteer here! They can do a number of things from walking animals to cleaning chores and a variety of duties.
Blaine's Farm and Fleet generously donates pet food and cat litter to HSSW
Staff member, Josh Highnam works in Animal Care.
Walking Little Lady down the halls
I’m married to Dawn and we have two sons, Brian and Keith. I don’t let my wife come here often. She wants to take them all home! We have two shelter dogs at our house. All the dogs I’ve ever had are shelter dogs.
My youngest son, Keith, his wife, Katie, and grandson, Finn, live in Virginia. They have always fostered cats. Katie had always loved cats, but she volunteers in a shelter there…and now they have a dog! So, they have two cats, a dog and are fostering two more cats.
My other son, Brian, lives in Chicago and has a service dog named Ziggy. They are really close. Brian can go four or five blocks in Chicago and Ziggy knows the way.
My goal is to be here to see this through. I’ve told them that I’ll be here until January 29th, 2027, if they’ll have me. That’s when I’ll turn 70 years old and will say, “That’s enough.”
I’m very excited about this, about the people of this community, our mission and what we do!
I’ve been with the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin since 1996. I process all the donations and see first-hand the need for more space. I’ve about run out of room for my papers! It’s about time for a new building and I look forward to it. It will be a little closer drive time for me, too, right in the middle of Rock County.
I love all the animals. They walk by my office when the strays come in. Sometimes, they stop and talk to me. All of my pets are from here, a dog, a cat and I also have a bird, a parakeet, which I adopted 20 years ago. He’s my little companion and talks, but only when he wants to. My son adopted a dog, as well. This was his first job, working at HSSW.
Even after all this time, I still enjoy the work.
I had previously served with the Humane Society. A few years ago, I came back on board to help them do the building. The land is in good shape. Beyond the animals, the need is for the people, for the staff, so they can do their job with the animals better. They are in real need.
HSSW - Important to the Community
The big issue is how truly important the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin is to the community. It returns animals to their owners and provides wonderful pets for people in the community. Additionally, and what is largely overlooked, is that they help in taking care of the strays, keeping them off the streets and from running all over the place.
It’s a major saver of public money, that could have been left up to the city. The Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin is really helping with the wild population of animals.
The New Building
With the new building and location, the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin will be able to perform their functions a lot better. It is centrally located in the county, which is so much better for those bringing in animals from the various communities.
The community can help in all sorts of ways from in kind services or small donations or large donations. It would be great if we could also secure public funds.
Interestingly, the Human Society of Southern Wisconsin doesn’t have a lot of major donors, but they do benefit from smaller contributors, people giving 100, 500, or 1000 dollars. Any contribution is so welcome. We depend on community support.
Jaxon - a lab mix, who was adopted in December of 2019
Dr. Heather Les
Chief Shelter Veterinarian
I received my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Class of 2014. Prior to working with HSSW, I worked with the Humane Society of Charlotte Spay/Neuter team in Charlotte, NC and prior to that I worked at the SPCA of Brevard animal shelter in Titusville, FL. March 1st will mark a year with the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin.
Animal Medical Services
For the public, we offer a low-cost vaccine clinic, typically every other month, at the Janesville-Beloit Kennel Club.
We also offer low cost spay/neuter services for cats every Wednesday. Owners can also get low cost vaccinations for their cat at the time of spay/neuter. For more information for our services by click here:
For the shelter animals, each animal gets spay/neutered, microchipped, vaccinated, flea prevention and de-wormed prior to adoption. Dogs also get heartworm tested and heartworm prevention. We also provide other services as needed for the shelter animals, including bloodwork, medications, heartworm treatments, and additional surgeries (enucleations, amputations, mass removals, etc.).
Most of our animals come in as strays, so we do not know any history for them. We do not know if they have been vaccinated, what they have been eating, whether they have had any chronic problems, etc. Sometimes they will be brought to the shelter in bad health and we do not have the ability to ask an owner the questions that would help us get to an answer for the problems we are seeing. Instead, it takes a lot of guesswork and diagnostics to get to the cause of a problem, and sometimes we never find a cause.
However, this also can be very rewarding, seeing their transformations in the shelter and getting them into a new, loving home.
Dr. Les currently shares office space with Linda Maze, HSSW Office Manager & Bookkeeper
Seeing animals that are homeless getting to go home with excited adopters is so rewarding. Helping those animals that do not have someone to speak for them and give them the opportunity to thrive in a new environment is very special. I also love helping the community have access to our low-cost services, so people who may not otherwise be able to afford care for their pet can get them preventative care such as vaccines and spay/neuter.
Favorite Animal Surgery Success Story
We had a kitten, who we named Miracle, and we suspect she was hit by a car. She had a broken leg and a diaphragmatic hernia – her diaphragm tore when she was hit, and her abdominal organs were in her chest, making it difficult for her to breathe. We took her to surgery and my technician had to manually breathe for her throughout the surgery because she would not be able to breathe on her own while we did the repair. We were able to pull her organs out of her chest, repair her diaphragm, and then re-inflate her lungs. She did amazing post-op and was playing like a normal kitten within days. Her leg healed with some cage rest and she was adopted into a loving home.
The New Building
I’m very excited for the new building. We do what we can with the space we have, but obviously we have outgrown our current building. Also, while our surgery area is well-equipped right now, it is a very tight space and moving into the new building will allow us to perform significantly more surgeries each day. This will allow us to increase the support we can give to other rescues and to the public.
Patrick - a male black cat, who was adopted in January of 2020
We have very generous support from the community, whether it be from volunteers, donations, and from larger corporations that donate food and supplies. Being a non-profit, the time and donations given to us by both community members and community businesses are crucial to the functioning of this institution.
We would not be here helping animals without this tremendous support.
Eggnog - Bull terrier adopted December of 2019
I recently retired from the Beloit Police Department’s records department, which allows me time for humane society pursuits. I have a Bachelor's degree in business management.
I grew up on a dairy farm in Monroe, WI. As a tomboy, I was always outside with the animals. My first word was “horse” and I got my first pony, Barney, when I was ten. I was the farm's assigned “kitten tamer”. All of the cows had names and I rode Lucky, my favorite cow, which may have been the impetus for Dad getting the pony.
Why the animals?
I adopted my first dog as an adult from what was then the Rock County Humane Society.
I was not a supporter at that time and didn't really know much of the workings; I just knew adoption was a good thing. Later in my life journey, I adopted a border collie/Springer Spaniel. Amelia was heck on paws. She was very active and extremely smart. She would retrieve all day long and we became best friends. She camped with me and we explored many adventures in life.
I saw an ad for someone to train a shelter dog for the humane society and I figured, "Hey, I can do that!" Soon I was walking more dogs which led to training dogs and ballooned into going on pet outings. That led to photographing cats and dogs for Petfinder, a pet adoptions website. I studied what I could about sheltering and got involved.
I didn't set out to be a board member but it seemed like a logical progression. I've been involved with HSSW for twenty years and am still learning!
These animals need a forever home! Find out more here:
Currently, I have one dog, Maggie, a lazy border collie. I have two cats, Leo, an orange tabby and a tortoise shell named Lily who I took on as a foster cat last summer. She just seemed to fit into the family. I also fostered eight others over the summer. The HSSW foster program is one of the big reasons we are saving lives. Over 550 cats and dogs were fostered last year, many of them kittens.
Changes at Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin
The single MOST important thing is achieving a “No Kill” status for the last four years. We no longer euthanize for space. The staff works hard to place all adoptable animals no matter their age, breed, their color, length of stay, medical conditions or lack of decorum.
They recently placed a bonded pair of 13-year-old dogs, one diagnosed with cancer. There are wonderful people out there who believe an animal deserves a loving and safe environment in those senior years.
Another key development was adding another veterinarian to the staff enabling us to improve animal health and pursue a goal of community outreach in our spay/neuter program.
The obvious goal is to see the completion of our new facility. We have been dreaming and longing for this for so long and we are so near to achieving the goal! With the condition of the current building, time is of the essence.
The New Building
Completing the shelter is not the end, it is a means to an end. We will have space for community programs; training for both animals and people, opportunities to help neighborhood cats, a chance to develop youth programs, help our community rescue partners and above all to continue our “No Kill” status. I believe if we pursue the continuing “No Kill” standard all else will fall into place.
Stop in, see what we do, adopt our animals, think about volunteering, and of course, donate and support our work. Take care of your own animals; respect them and respect your neighbors.
The best community is a caring community.
A closet used as an office due to lack of space at the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin
Board Vice President
I am a lifelong pet owner. I grew up with dogs and cats and horses. I am originally from Ohio, but have lived most of my adult life in Wisconsin. I have spent my entire career in marketing and advertising, mostly in the field of outdoor advertising.
Involvement with the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin
I first became exposed to the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin when it was still the Rock County Humane Society.
It was around 2004 when I reached out to the current Executive Director at the time, Chris Konetski, to offer donated advertising to help promote adoptions, spay/neuter, etc. I joined the board of directors in early 2013 when Brett Frazier was Executive Director. I got involved because I felt passionate about helping pets. As I learned more about the evolving mission of the humane society, I felt that my business and marketing experience would be beneficial to the board.
In early 2005, we found ourselves adopting two, 11-month-old golden retriever mix dogs (litter mates), Bear and Romeo, who were added to the family of our two other dogs Jack, a golden retriever, and Tar, a black lab. Years later, we found ourselves adopting a senior yellow lab, Boomer, who we were fortunate enough to have for two years before we lost him to a lung tumor. 8 months ago, we adopted another senior, a black lab, who came in as a stray. The shelter called him Grandpa Cutie, but we now call him Rocky.
I have seen a big outpouring of support from the community as the Humane Society has succeeded in becoming a “No Kill” shelter. Innovative programs like fostering and transfers in from other high kill shelters have reinforced the commitment by staff and the board to continue these successes. The addition of a staff veterinarian has been incredible in allowing for us to really enhance the animal care and health of the animals who get adopted out.
Bear, Boomer and Romeo
The New Building
I am excited for a new building because it will enable the dedicated staff to do an even better job caring for and saving lost and homeless animals. It will also allow us to do more in education and advocacy. The current building has served us well, but it is definitely beyond its expected life span. The new location is centrally located in our service area and has a lot of land for future expansion and walking trails.
I want to see the shelter to continue to be healthy financially so that it can continue its mission.
A drawing of the new building for the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin
We are very blessed already with strong community support and appreciation. It’s important that everyone continue to realize how a strong humane society enhances the quality of life in Rock County communities by reducing stray animals, and providing a source of loving animals available for adoption.
To learn more about the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin, click on their logo.
Visit the HSSW Facebook page: Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin