Dakin's First 50 Years
Animal sheltering - The beginning
As knowledge of animal welfare and public aversion to animal cruelty increased, focus set in on the prevention of unwanted breeding in the 1930s. The start of the spay/neuter message began to address the crisis of unwanted animals being euthanized in shelters due to a shortage of adoptive homes. In the 1970s, the invitation to the veterinary community sparked a new frontier of preventative care and medical management of then-homeless animals.
Janet Wilder Dakin
June 3, 1910 – October 7, 1994
Janet Wilder Dakin is the cornerstone of what Dakin Humane Society is today. Originally a native of Berkeley, CA, she settled in the Pioneer Valley. For her philanthropy, work as an educator, and dedication to the welfare of animals, Janet Wilder Dakin is remembered in western Massachusetts as The First Lady of Amherst. Janet went on to become the founder of Friends of Amherst’s Stray Animals (FASA).
Sister of playwright Thornton Wilder and poet Charlotte Wilder, Janet was a highly educated woman with a passion to teach and solve the problems in her own backyard; animal overpopulation. After receiving her B.A. in zoology and M.A. in biology, she earned a Ph.D. and taught zoological studies at Mount Holyoke College. In 1941, Janet married accomplished lawyer Winthrop S. Dakin.
Developing standards - The Animal Welfare Act
On January 20, 1968, an eight-acre tract of Greenfield along French King Highway was donated by Greenfield resident Mrs. Florence Harding. The Greenfield Area Animal Shelter was to serve as the region’s first animal shelter. The land had originally been purchased in 1861 by John Wunsch, Harding’s grandfather. Onetime Greenfield industrialist Frank J. Wells left $100,000 of his estate to the shelter in memory of his mother, which helped build the shelter in 1969 on the donated land. In its 36 year history, the Greenfield Area Animal Shelter served over 36,000 pets and people and became Pioneer Valley Humane Society.
Friends of Amherst's Stray Animals
Gifts left behind
The Janet Wilder Dakin Animal Shelter
Teaching for a humane community
Animal Transport Program
Janet's vision came to fruition in 2003 when Dakin Animal Shelter launched its Animal Transport Program. As the northeast led the country in spay/neuter and Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR), it was soon realized that there was room to help others in need. Through a network of partner shelters, volunteer foster homes, and drivers, the transport of dogs to New England from the south began.
Many areas in the south do not have access to high-volume spay/neuter services to combat overpopulation. Barriers such as affordability, transportation, and distance play big roles in accessibility to help. With nearly constant warm weather throughout the year, animal welfare organizations in the south get very little relief from active breeding in their communities. The Animal Transport Program allows New England shelters to pull dogs from overpopulated shelters that would otherwise be at risk for euthanasia. With a healthy demand for dogs in the northeast, the birthplace of the animal welfare movement, these at-risk dogs are finding homes at record speed. The transport program was then expanded to include cats and has shown similar results.
The evolution of Dakin's logo
The logo of each organization that led to the existence of today's Dakin played an important role in designing a familiar beacon of hope and compassion to the community. Dakin’s logo has evolved since its initial creation, but still upholds the history behind the original design. The block logo was created by designer Allison Bell in collaboration with Dakin's Board of Directors. In a 2004 Dakin newsletter, Executive Director Dee Boyle-Clapp said, "We worked to create an image with some whimsy to show the joy that animals bring to our lives, and selected a color found in nature, which we call Irish Setter or Orange Tabby. To me, the solid block envelopes and protects the animals in a substantial way. The umbrella shielded the animals from the elements, but the block represents stability and substance."
Programs for pets and people
Extended family - Dakin's volunteer network
Vaccine & Microchip Clinics
Keeping people and pets together
Keeping people and pets together is a multi-faceted effort. The public perception that low-income families should not have pets is damaging to the concept of a humane community of loving homes for animals. In 2013, Dakin launched the Pet Food Aid program. It was created to ensure that people have a place to turn when their dogs and cats need food and that families stay together. The program is maintained through generous donations from Dakin's supporters and local businesses.
In 2018, Dakin delivered over 27,000 pounds of pet food to area human service agencies, in addition to offering pet food to those in need who visited our resource centers in Springfield and Leverett.
New England's First Kitten ICU
Until 2014, animal sheltering and services were strongly tailored to dogs. While the Community Spay/Neuter Clinic was a huge success, there was still an unprecedented number of orphaned kittens as well as pregnant cats entering the shelter system. In July of 2014, with the support of the Piepul family, Dakin's kitten intensive care unit was launched in an effort to save lives and bring awareness to spay/neuter programs. The ICU is the first of its kind in New England and is run by staff and volunteers. The ICU treats pediatric kittens in need of critical medical care due to illness or injury and is most active in the warmer months where we see higher numbers of kittens in distress.
Saving more lives - Spirit and Barn Cats
There was a time not long ago in animal sheltering when unfriendly, unsocialized cats were euthanized due to a lack of resources. In tandem with the successful Barn Cat program, the Spirit Cat program launched in 2016. This became a way to combat the needless euthanasia of cats who present intense fear responses, excessive shyness, and other withdrawn behavior. Spirit Cats live in homes but are rarely seen. Enjoying the company of other cats, Spirit Cats take a long time to trust and understand humans.
Dakin’s Barn Cat program is tailored to feral cats and otherwise outdoor-loving cats who cannot be confined to life inside. These cats have proved to be excellent hunters and have symbiotic relationships with their adopters who offer farms, breweries, and other large facilities with room to roam.
Jackson Galaxy's Cat Pawsitive Pro
Training was a dog’s world until feline behavior was better studied and understood. The concept of the positive reinforcement training of cats was adopted in an effort to better enrich shelter cats and train behaviors that would find them homes. Cat training is also beneficial in limiting undesirable behaviors such as scratching furniture. In February 2018, Dakin was selected to participate in the Cat Pawsitive Pro training program in partnership with The Jackson Galaxy Project, a program of Greater Good. Under the supervision of skilled mentors, staff and volunteers began training shelter cats simple and complex behaviors. Also in 2018, Dakin was selected as the grand prize winner of the Jackson Galaxy Project's National High Five Day Contest. The win was thanks to Mimi, a Cat Pawsitive Pro cat. Mimi came to Dakin with a severe front limb injury, but defied the odds and kept high-fiving even after surgical amputation. The grand prize included a $5,000 grant and 10,000 bowls of cat food courtesy of Halo Pets. Dakin continues to run Cat Pawsitive Pro and has guided over 300 cats through the program.
Today in New England, the number of animals in shelters is rapidly declining. These changes are due to increased adoption, continued spay/neuter efforts, and TNR programs, which work to eliminate unwanted litters of kittens born outside. Where there was once only space for high-volume sheltering, there is now room to help those in areas still suffering and offer individualized treatment and care for the most complex cases. Through research and firsthand experience, we’ve learned that people love animals and will go to great lengths to care for their pets. For the last 50 years, Dakin has been rooted in forward-thinking and compassion for all. With your support, we believe these values will propel us into a new animal welfare landscape where we can continue to serve our community and offer hope for a compassionate future.