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A.D.O.P.T. clarifies mission, vision - Part I of a III-Part Series

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TribLocal Aurora
By Linda Kane, A.D.O.P.T. volunteer
November 10, 2010

Missy, now a healthy, happy 12-year-old border collie mix, came to A.D.O.P.T. from Kentucky. In addition to having little growths all over her body, Missy was heartworm positive, deaf and arthritic.

They come to Naperville from many places—from as close as Aurora, Chicago and Gary, IN; from as far away as Kentucky, Tennessee and Louisiana.

They are the lucky ones, the ones who defied the odds.

“Four million cats and dogs—about one every eight seconds—are put down in U.S. shelters each year,” according to the Humane Society of the United States’ website.

Missy, a 10-year-old border collie mix, came to A.D.O.P.T. (Animals Deserving of Proper Treatment) from Kentucky. In addition to having growths all over her body, she was heartworm positive, deaf and arthritic.

Renee Hix-Mays, an A.D.O.P.T. volunteer since 1999, said the shelter asked her to take Missy home. “I said, ‘Well she has to be able to get along with cats,’ said Hix-Mays, a cat owner. “Today the cats just walk on top of her! I’ve had [Missy] for two years now.

“[Many shelters] would not have brought her in; [many shelters] would not have the resources to treat a 10-year-old dog for heartworm.”

Tom Schmitt, one of A.D.O.P.T.’s six or seven founders back in 1989, said he and the others had volunteered with another local shelter, but said “there was a change in our philosophies. Animals were disappearing, and we didn’t know where they went. We wanted everything out in the open.”

A.D.O.P.T.’s “no-kill” philosophy had begun.

Because A.D.O.P.T.’s founding fathers wanted transparency, they formed their own organization. “We met in Camille Stelter’s living room and started throwing down our $25. Everything was dollars and dimes on the table,” Schmitt said. “Man, oh man, what we went through to get it all started.”

Schmitt and his wife Chris, who now live in Stewart County, TN, said the founders “lived and breathed those animals. We worked with Dr. Robert Cortesi [of Boulder Terrace Animal Hospital]. The medical bills were [exorbitant] at the beginning; we were paying out of our own pockets at first.”

A.D.O.P.T.’s non-profit philosophy had begun. The shelter funds itself completely from private donations.

Mary Ann Gajda, who attended the group’s third meeting and continues to volunteer today, said in the beginning all animals were in foster homes.

“Boulder Terrace started letting us use their facility on Sundays,” she said. “They gave us some cages in exchange for helping them clean. “Dr. Cortesi opened the building to us, and many fosters would bring [the animals] in for adoptions.

“It was amazing how many people would come to Boulder Terrace for adoptions; there would be a 2-3 hour wait.”

Now, 20 years and 25,000 animal adoptions later, the original group of 7 has increased to at least 300 volunteers, said current A.D.O.P.T. Board President Sandy Boston, a member since 1990.

And in 2010, adoptions remain top priority for the group.

Boston said A.D.O.P.T.’s original mission was to rescue dogs and cats, [to rescue] special needs animals—both behavioral and medical—to end overpopulation by spaying/neutering, and ultimately, to get their own building.

A.D.O.P.T.’s philosophy remains the same today, and the mission has evolved.

“We take [animals] that often nobody else will take and give them a chance,” Gajda said. “Think of all the [animals] who have heartworm or are at high risk for parvo or need [orthopedic help].”


A.D.O.P.T.’s Vision Statement sums it up, stating: “A.D.O.P.T. envisions a community where every pet has a permanent and loving home, every companion animal is spayed or neutered and all pets are treated with respect and compassion.”

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