A Fresh Start for Your Furry Friends

Sophia Schiappa, Photography Editor

The Hinsdale Humane Society is a nonprofit animal shelter located in Hinsdale, IL that strives to provide care and services to any and all animals, regardless of their condition. Kelsey Weisenberger is the Humane Educator at the Hinsdale Humane Society and she is thrilled to share her perspective of the effects that Covid-19 had on the shelter.


Along with being the Human Education Program Manager, Weisenberger recently accepted the role as being an adoptions counselor from July 2021 through January 2022, and found immense joy from being involved in the process of helping animals be adopted. Weisenberger also runs a plethora of different programs including the Compassionate Kids Corps and the Junior Board, all while livestreaming on Facebook and Instagram to discuss various animal related topics. The Compassionate Kids Corps and the Junior Board consist of children and teenagers, respectively, who volunteer to learn about animal welfare and plan specific events for the shelter. Weisenberger is also in the process of establishing new programs such as the Animal Advocate Club, which will focus primarily on bringing in clients from mental health facilities regularly for assisted animal therapy. According to her, one of the most rewarding parts of her job is “helping individuals struggling with their mental health find some peace and comfort with the help of animals,” and has received an immense amount of positive feedback from volunteers. Weisenberger reflects on her favorite part of her job, which is, “[getting] to visit high schools, elementary schools, middle schools, mental health facilities, and various organizations to give presentations about what shelters do, careers in animal welfare, and pretty much anything my audience is interested in.” Weisenberger’s job is constantly evolving, but she “[loves] the variability of it.”


Speaking of variability, Covid-19 has drastically changed the standard for every business out there, including the Hinsdale Humane Society. In the peak of the pandemic, Weisenberger says how most of the animals being taken in were from owner surrenders, transports, and strays. Weisenberger mentions how many people adopted pets during the pandemic in order to help satisfy their loneliness but “did not realize the responsibility it takes to own an animal, especially when they were able to once again work in person.” Many of these pets developed severe separation anxiety and began displaying destructive behavior due to being alone. “These animals had to adjust to a whole new lifestyle which has proven very difficult for many [of them]. [Many] have been relinquished back to us because they developed behavioral problems as a result of their lifestyle changing so rapidly,” says Weisenberger. On top of returned animals, transports (animals being transported from one shelter to another) also began to flood in when hurricanes affected southern states in 2020. The Hinsdale Humane Society made a successful effort to help relieve the shelters affected all while maintaining a responsible capacity limit. 


While the pandemic affected how many animals were being taken care of by the Hinsdale Humane Society, it also affected adoption rates drastically. According to Weisenberger, adoption rates dropped significantly at the peak of the pandemic in 2020. Adopters were only allowed to visit via a scheduled appointment, thus, choosing not to adopt. However, when the Hinsdale Humane Society opened up to the public in 2021, adoption rates soared. “Our marketing team does amazing work to promote our animals and I think that has contributed to our amazing adoption rates greatly,” says Weisenerger. Weisenberger says that the first two months of 2022 has brought amazing changes in adoption rates and strongly believes that, “[our] numbers for 2022 will far surpass 2021 and we will save more lives than ever.”


Along with adoption rates skyrocketing, donations and volunteers also began to significantly increase. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, many volunteer groups (like scout troops, schools, clubs, businesses, etc.) have chosen to show their appreciation through donations. With the recent passing of Betty White, an avid animal lover, the Hinsdale Humane Society’s marketing team put together a campaign to fundraise money in remembrance of Betty White. The campaign fundraised almost 15,000 dollars in her honor. Weisenberger says that she and her team were able to “put that money towards helping our shelter animals in various ways [and] waive many adoption fees for senior animals.” With over 500 volunteers, the Hinsdale Humane Society has been able to continually improve their shelter and take exceptional care of their animals. There are also plenty of ways that students can get involved such as volunteering to help clean and feed cats, help in laundry and dishes, and pulling toys out of dog kennels. Weisenberger is committed to hearing students’ passions and applying them to volunteer opportunities.


If you’d like to volunteer at the Hinsdale Humane Society, please fill out the youth volunteer interest form on their website hinsdalehumanesociety.org or email Kelsie Weisenberger directly at [email protected].