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Illinois Country Living

Illinois Animal Rescue
Giving homeless pets a second chance

By Catrina McCulley Wagner

Blue and family

(L-R) Marley Reynoso and Delaney and Brennan Auth pose with Blue.

Kim and Blue

Kim Auth says rescuing Blue was one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.

Blue is living every dog’s dream. She goes for long strolls every morning, plays fetch and gets kisses on her nose. But life hasn’t always been easy for this beautiful blue-eyed Husky. It wasn’t long ago that she was surviving, not living, with 23 other dogs and 28 cats under unruly conditions without food or water. Her owner was what some would call an animal “collector” or “hoarder.” Nine of Blue’s friends had already died. It was too late for them. But Blue was a survivor. She had to be. She was pregnant.

By the time Blue, her pups and her friends were rescued by Corn Belt Energy members Pat and Garrie Burr, owners of Central Illinois Small Animal Rescue (CISAR) in Colfax, she had parasites and tumors and was in need of medical treatment. “It was a sad sight and the worst case of neglect we’d ever seen,” says Garrie. “We just love animals and hate to see them suffer,” Pat says.

Fortunately, Blue’s luck changed when Kim and Tim Auth and their children, Marley, Delaney and Brennan contacted the Burrs at CISAR wanting to rescue a dog. “We went to their facility and were immediately drawn to Blue. My husband loves Huskies,” says Kim. “We knew right from the start that she would be a challenge because she had lived at the shelter for a year and a half and had been adopted once before and was brought back to the shelter due to a severe separation anxiety issue.”

Kim and her family were up for the challenge. “Every dog has its problems. People give up too easily. You can find the answer to any behavior issue online or in books. And if you’re willing to devote a little extra time at the beginning, you can get the behavior taken care of. The extra effort is so rewarding,” Kim says.

“The problem people have is that they try to humanize their dogs,” Kim says. “Dogs are not human and don’t have the same thoughts or emotions. The way to have a successful relationship with a dog is to learn as much as you can about a dog’s behavior and natural instincts. If you do that, you’ll find that owning and loving a dog is very easy.”

The Auths have had Blue for a year now and say that Blue has been such a wonderful addition to their family. Lucky for Blue, her story had a happy ending, but unfortunately, for so many other animals out there, that’s just not the case.

The Burrs opened their non-profit, no-kill shelter in 2003 because they felt the kill ratio at the other local shelters was far too high and unacceptable. “Most of the animals being killed were perfectly healthy. We knew we could help find those animals homes,” Pat says.

“We firmly believe that there is a home out there for every animal. We’ve made it our mission to do whatever we can to find homes for them,” says Garrie, who says 80-85 percent of the animals at their shelter were rescued from animal control after being picked up in rural areas. “Animal dumping in the rural areas has become a real problem,” Garrie says. “People think that’s more humane, but it’s really cruel. Those animals don’t know how to survive on their own. They get hit by cars and if they aren’t spayed or neutered, they create more unwanted animals to fill the shelters.”

“Our society is too disposable,” says Rose Rebbe, Executive Director for the Animal Protective League in Springfield. “If a pet is inconvenient, they just get rid of it. If the animal is going to require some medical attention (money) or behavior training (time), they are no longer desirable. It’s easier to just get rid of that animal and get a new one.”

Penny Standerfer, wife of Shelby Electric Cooperative Board Director Jeff Standerfer and Telecommunicator for the Shelbyville Police Department, has seen this epidemic firsthand. “Living in the rural area, I see a lot of animals that have been dumped. People think the animal stands a better chance. They are wrong.”

Standerfer, along with her friend Peggy Martz of Shelbyville, and like the Burrs, was tired of the amount of healthy animals being euthanized by her local animal control shelters and decided to take a stand to help. Together, and without any funding, Standerfer and Martz have helped save hundreds of dogs and cats in Shelby County. “We started seven years ago on a small scale, just featuring one animal a week. But in the last three years, it’s escalated and we’ve really gotten the community involved,” says Standerfer.


Central Illinois Small Animal Rescue owners Pat and Garrie Burr opened their rural shelter in 2002 to help cut down the amount of animals being euthanized each year.

Working very closely with their local animal control, they’re able to get photos of those animals whose lives are teetering near the end. “We send those pictures to every possible news media we can. Our local paper, the Shelbyville Daily Union, gives us a full page every Tuesday and posts our pictures online. Both of these venues help us free of charge. We wouldn’t have the funds to do as much without the community support,” Standerfer says.

Standerfer even has the support of her employer, the Shelbyville Police Department. She says that sometimes when they have puppies or kittens that need rescued, she’ll bring them into the station and everyone pitches in to care for them until she can find homes for them. “Sometimes the ladies at City Hall have even taken some of the animals home with them when I’ve needed extra help,” Standerfer says.

Shelbyville Chief of Police Dave Tallman says, “We’re very proud of what Penny is doing. I believe there is a void that needed to be filled that she is filling. The amount of animals being euthanized now compared to seven years ago is just a fraction. She works hard and has really stepped up to the plate to find these animals homes.”

Penny Standerfer and Slick

Penny Standerfer cuddles one of her rescued cats, Slick, who was among a litter of kittens that were thrown in a dumpster outside of an oil change business. “When we found the kittens, they were covered with motor oil. I cleaned them up and found homes for the rest of the litter,” Standerfer says.

Standerfer says too many animals are needlessly dying around the country. She says it will literally take everyone doing their part to end animal cruelty, overpopulation and unnecessary death. “Spaying and neutering your animals would be a great first step,” Standerfer says. “Every cat that’s not fixed running around free, could potentially be responsible for thousands of unwanted cats down the road. There are a lot of programs out there that can help with these expenses both locally and statewide.”

In December of 2005, the Illinois Public Health and Safety Animal Population Control Act was passed into law. This law states that controlling the dog and cat population would have a significant benefit to public health and safety by aiding in the prevention of dog attacks, reducing the number of automobile accidents caused by stray animals and it would also save taxpayer dollars by reducing the number of animals to be handled by animal control facilities.

“Anyone on public assistance can apply for grant money through the Illinois Department of Public Health. That person would then only have to pay $15 to get their animal fixed,” says Rebbe. She says when people tell her they can’t afford to get their animals fixed she tells them they can’t afford not to. “No one considers the expense they could incur if there were complications with a pregnancy, the birth or the offspring. What if the puppies contract Parvo? What if the kittens are born and the mother dies? How will they afford these expenses?” asks Rebbe.

Rebbe says that spaying or neutering does not affect an animal’s personality or make them lazy like many people believe. “It only makes them happier, healthier and calmer. I’ve heard men say they would never neuter their dog - like it’s a personal thing. Dogs have no sexual identity and don’t relate to neutering like people do. It’s an absurd way of thinking,” she says.

Rebbe believes that part of her job and any animal shelter’s job is educating the public about animals, whether that is giving them reasons why they should adopt the homeless rather than buy from a puppy mill, or simply teaching people how to crate train. “If we can assist someone and prevent an animal from coming to the shelter or ending up on the streets, we are very happy,” Rebbe says.

It’s startling to learn that only 12 percent of the nation’s pets are adopted from animal shelters. The rest are purchased from breeders or pet stores, or are either picked up as strays or transferred from one family to another. “When you think about all the competition for homes out there and then compound that with the number of kittens and puppies being born, it’s not hard to see why there is a problem,” Rebbe says.

“When you’re looking for a new pet, try your local shelter before searching for a breeder. If you give them long enough, I’m sure they can find exactly what you’re looking for,” says Standerfer. “There’s truly no greater reward than knowing you’ve rescued an animal from death.”

“With any animal there is an adjustment period, but it’s a lot less time when you’re dealing with an adult cat or dog than with a kitten or puppy. If you buy a puppy, be prepared to devote two years on training and re-directing behavior. But if you rescue an older dog, your adjustment time is an average of only two months,” says Auth. “If you went to a shelter and just walked around, you would be instantly drawn. The animals in there are just dying for attention and they truly, truly appreciate you when you rescue them. You’ll have a friend for life.”


Sad Beagle
Help Your Local Shelter

Help save lives by donating your time or money to one of your local non-profit animal shelters. “It’s very expensive to operate a shelter. Last year it cost approximately $10,000 a month to run our shelter,” says Garrie Burr, owner of CISAR in Colfax. “There are so many costs involved that people don’t think about. We’re completely non-profit and we depend solely on people who love animals to help. Every bit of money we get goes right back into our business and every donation is acknowledged.”

To help, contact your local animal shelter or visit one of the shelters listed below:

Adopt-A-Pet, Benld

Animal Protective League, Springfield

Assisi Animal Foundation, Crystal Lake

Central Illinois Small Animals Rescue, Colfax

County Animal Rescue & Education, Charleston

Illinois Humane, Springfield

My Mathew’s House (Shelter for Cats), Carthage

Pets In Need Midwest, Ringwood

Quad City Animal Welfare Center , Milan

For more Illinois shelter listings and for information on pet care and/or adoption, visit



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