HINSDALE – A single light dangled from the wooden ceiling of an unheated shack and the only hot water provided was from the drool of the dogs it was intended to house.
“We started with six women and a little wooden shed,” said Humane Educator Kym Iffert of the Hinsdale Humane Society. “There were all these stray cats and dogs running around and they identified a need for trying to create happy, healthy animals.”
That was was the site of the Hinsdale Humane Society in 1953, when it was considered an unkempt dog pound. But because of the efforts of those Hinsdale residents, the humane society has become a DuPage County gem. Back then, the goals of the women were to educate the public and to provide safe and sanitary facilities.
“That same mission stands today,” Iffert said. “We started with a few random cats and dogs and now we run about 1,000 animals through our shelter a year.”
There also was a rabies outbreak in the 1950s DuPage County, prompting the women to start the humane society.
“Back then, dogs didn’t sleep in bed with you. They ran around the village, so the concern was over the rabies outbreak and just the inhumane treatment of the animals in the shack that kind of led them to start the humane society,” said Public Relations Director Christie Cuthbert.
When first starting out, the original six women paid for most of the supplies themselves and in 1959 raised $25,000 to build the shelter on the Hinsdale Humane Society’s present site. As opposed to the wooden shack, the new shelter had 11 kennels, a room for dogs and cats and a reception area.
Iffert said each day at the society is a constant cycle of cleaning, feeding and keeping the animals physically and mentally healthy. Three hundred volunteers assist the shelter or work directly with the animals.
“They’re a hardcore staff,” Iffert said. “They’re dedicated and they’re working all day.”
To celebrate how far the shelter has come in 60 years, the Hinsdale Humane Society hosted a birthday bash Saturday, featuring free food, music, tours and a cupcake eating contest for dogs.
The winner of the eating contest for medium sized dogs was Bella, a two-year-old Australian shepherd mix who was adopted from the society last year.
“It was very exciting,” said her owner, Laura Holewa, of Brookfield. “I didn’t think she’d eat it because she usually likes her treats broken up, but she seemed to enjoy it and she is motivated by food.”
Holewa said she wanted to come back with her dog to visit the site and also to bring her cousin, who is looking for a puppy to adopt.
Guests didn’t need a dog to get in on the fun.
“I love dogs and this was a chance to come out and support animals,” said 15-year-old Stuart Burkhart of Hinsdale.
The shelter has seen significant remodeling, doubling in size in 1974 and gaining a kitchen and a medical treatment room in 1983.
In the future, Cuthbert said the society will add programs, such as working with Adventist Hinsdale Hospital to provide comfort dogs for patients who suffer from depression.
In 2012, the society adopted more than 800 animals to families. Cuthbert said the society is looking to grow its programs and continue reaching out to the community.