Local Humane Society needs help as it looks to expand

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The core mission at the Windham County Humane Society is to take care of abused and neglected animals and to provide a variety of services to help prevent such abuse and neglect. An expansion plan approved this week by the Brattleboro Development Review Board would allow the organization to further improve on the already wonderful job it does.

The animal rescue group owns three properties on West River Road. A house that's currently being rented out to a family is expected to be turned into an administrative office and storage space for gear. A 4,119-square-foot addition is planned along with parking reorganization and new access points. Kennels will be added for use during regular business hours, not overnight.

The project — unanimously approved with conditions around landscaping and runoff — had been approved about two years ago, but the permit for conditional use had expired. The idea back in 2015 had been to "make sure we could use it for the purposes we wanted to," said Annie Guion, executive director of the Windham County Humane Society.

Now, with all of the proverbial ducks in a row, the WCHS is ready to move forward on renovations aimed at improving the experience of stray animals the organization takes in.

The local Humane Society can trace its roots back to 1887 when a group of animal lovers in Windham County formed The Brattleboro Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Jennie B. Powers served as humane agent for both Windham County, and Cheshire County, N.H. Armed with the powers of a deputy sheriff, she worked tirelessly in defense of animals, according to the WCHS website.

"She once jumped from a window in her Brattleboro home to stop a man from beating his horses," reads the brief history. "At the freight yards she watched the loading of cattle, inspecting them on the cars. At her own expense, she once fought in a court case against a man charged with starving his horse."

In 1968, the organization gained nonprofit status under the new name, Windham County Humane Society. In the early 1980s WCHS was an office downtown, with no housing for animals. From 1989 to 1991, offices were rented at Linda and Henry Hellus' farm. In 1992, the Humane Society moved to cottages on Route 30, and the first animals were housed in two small buildings. In the late 1990s a dedicated group of volunteers raised the money to build a new facility, which opened to the public in April of 2000.

"That is where you can visit us today, keeping the legacy of Jennie Powers alive, protecting and caring for the animals who share our lives," the website reads.

Services now offered at the animal shelter include pet adoption, surrendering animals for adoption (as opposed to abandonment), pet care assistance for local residents, vaccine clinics, spay and neuter clinics, and neglect and cruelty investigations.

The local Humane Society does this with no funding from state or federal sources, or from national humane organizations. Instead, it depends on generous local donors to support its mission, especially with an ambitious renovation project in the works. If you can't donate money, consider volunteering your time at the shelter, providing in-kind services for the renovation project, or serving as a foster home for animals awaiting adoption. For more information on how you can help, visit www.wchs4pets.org.

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