A.D.O.P.T. Pet Shelter—A local nonprofit’s effort to rebuild needs community support

April 2017 View more

A shelter that has given hope to thousands of animals is facing challenges of its own. A.D.O.P.T.—a no-kill animal shelter in Naperville—says its need for funds is   greater than ever. Executive Director Chris Stirn admits: “It costs about $1,500 a day to operate. We have no government funding or resources, so we rely on fundraising, donors, adoptions and grants.”

The challenge has come about in part because of publicity following a lawsuit filed by board members in 2012. “That has been resolved and now we have a new board so I am hopeful we can sustain ourselves long-term, but we need to bring in funds,” she says. “With the new board and a new group of volunteers, we are in a rebuilding phase. Community outreach is very important to us.”

Stirn came to the shelter in 2009 as a medical tech. She has worked with animals for more than twenty-five years, both in veterinary clinics and in animal welfare. She has focused on growing A.D.O.P.T.’s spay and neuter clinics. “We help over a thousand animals yearly,” she explains. “We offer reduced-cost neutering for low-income families, plus we neuter feral cats.”

It’s not surprising that Stirn is a lifelong animal lover. “I’ve always had a fascination for helping them,” she says. Her family owns both a cat and a dog and she says she curbs her desire for adopting more by fostering. “It satisfies my need and it lets you take home multiple animals without commitment, yet you know you are helping them,” says the mother of four. “We help animals all we can here, but it’s not the same as being in a family—that’s where they thrive. It’s hard to let go sometimes, but ultimately we are happy to see them go because that’s why we are here.”

Black cats and dogs find it more difficult to find new owners. “I don’t really know why, but they are often overlooked,” says Stirn. “I don’t know if it’s because they look more spooky or you can’t see their eyes as clearly.”

One dog Stirn remembers well is a black Lab mix who came to the shelter as a puppy. “Typically our cats and dogs only stay for two to three weeks before they are adopted, but we had one dog who was here for two-and-a-half years,” she says. “Richie came to us as a six- to eight-month old puppy. He was very rambunctious and kind of mouthy.” Luckily he responded to training and is now doing well with his new family.

April will likely be a busy time for the shelter as it is kitten season. “We always recommend people choose their pets from a shelter unless they are maybe looking for a particular breed and find a reputable breeder,” Stirn adds. “Pet stores tend to use puppy mills. We’ve seen animals here who have never touched grass or had human contact.”

The shelter’s no-kill policy means that no healthy animal is put down unless they pose a behavioral risk. There are many ways local animal lovers can help the shelter fulfill its mission to improve the quality of life of animals by placing them in loving in homes. Volunteers can contribute time, supplies or money, or foster/adopt a new pet. “Unlike other agencies, we will take in elderly animals,” explains Stirn. “We don’t shy away from treating dogs with heartworm—we always go above and beyond.”

Strides for Strays
On May 7th A.D.O.P.T will host its twenty-fourth annual fundraiser, Making Strides for Strays Walk-a-Thon, in downtown Naperville. The two-and-a-half mile sponsored walk is open to all. For more info, adoptpetshelter.org.