Humane Society Dawson is celebrating a milestone birthday this year. The “small shelter with a big heart” turns 20 years old, and shows no signs of slowing down.  

The Humane Society’s mandate is to provide shelter and care for abandoned and surrendered animals, educate and raise awareness for responsible pet ownership and to work towards preventing cruelty to animals.

As a registered charitable organization, the Humane Society relies heavily on donations, fundraising, memberships, animal boarding, surrender and adoption fees, as well government grants to help keep the shelter running. There is a board and a coordinator, and volunteers are always needed to do everything from walking dogs to cuddling cats.

Board member Aedes Scheer is the one who started it all. After moving to Dawson during the summer of 1994 and working as an animal health technologist, she noticed that there was little animal protection legislation and no animal shelters in the Territory at that time.

She decided that something needed to be done.

“I started making phone calls and began working on the requirements for a non-profit society, [as well as] sussing out what organizations might already be in operation in the Yukon,” she wrote in a biography on Humane Society’s website.

“In 1995, I advertised a meeting and crossed my fingers that interested people would attend. That first meeting was a success.”

The new board worked hard to get dogs out of the city pound, where they faced euthanasia, and place them into suitable homes. Scheer also made suggestions to reform the animal control bylaw in Dawson City, which she says was a convoluted and complicated document at the time.  

The city manager asked the Humane Society to be involved in writing the new bylaw, and once completed, animal control in the community improved.

In 1996, location became a problem. The Humane Society was still using the dog pound as a temporary shelter. Cats stayed in airline kennels on Scheer’s porch, which was also serving as an ad hoc vet clinic. The Humane Society needed a new home.

Soon after, Scheer heard that the Yukon Government was selling off some of their buildings. As the Humane Society was still struggling with funding, Scheer approached city council for help. The council offered to donate land if the Humane Society bought the building.

Scheer put in a bid and was awarded a building for one dollar. The council then set aside space at one end of a newly acquired property in the Callison industrial subdivision just outside of the city. The building was moved to its new home, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The shelter manages to do a lot with just a little.  Grant money goes to programs such as SNIP and SNAP, which provide pet owners the opportunity to apply for subsidized spaying and neutering. Fundraising occurs all year long and has included such events as Pet Pictures with Santa, the Thaw di Gras Spring Carnival dog show, movie nights, concerts, and yappy hour at the Westminster Hotel. And of course, there’s always the popular, and now trademarked, Dog Ball High Ball, a take-off on the infamous Sour Toe Cocktail.

Over the 20 years of their existence, the Humane Society Dawson has played an important role in the health and welfare of animals in the communities. Thanks to their efforts, it is estimated that several hundred animals, including some from Mayo and Old Crow, have been placed in forever homes. In all that time, the Humane Society coordinator, board members and many volunteers have never stopped working hard towards the prevention of cruelty to animals, to provide shelter to unwanted animals and to foster a compassionate atmosphere for our furry friends.

For more information on the Humane Society Dawson go to www.HSDawson.com