Animal Planet awards finalists include a WB woman – October 18, 2006

Animal Planet awards finalists include WB woman
By David Wallace C & G Staff Writer
Published: October 18, 2006WEST BLOOMFIELD — A national cable television network has already honored Pam Porteous’ special love and commitment to animals. That’s because Porteous is one of 10 national finalists for Animal Planet’s Hero of the Year Award. The West Bloomfield woman has spent 15 years volunteering in Pontiac to help mistreated animals and to help low-income and homeless people care for their animals.

Pretty much seven days a week, Porteous helps people and animals in some of Pontiac’s most depressed neighborhoods. After doing so for 15 years, with the Animal Rescue League and the Animal Care Network, Porteous said, most of the people in the neighborhoods know and respect her and the other volunteers.

It is dangerous work.

“The neighborhoods that we go into, there’s a lot of crime,” she said. And injured animals — sometimes animals that people use for fights — do pose a danger of their own. But Porteous has a lot of experience and relationships with the people in the neighborhoods.

“I felt very safe there,” said Hanna Gibson, who wrote Porteous’ nomination for the award and who spent six years volunteering with Porteous on Pontiac’s streets. “The people of that community know how much they need her, and I think that’s part of her magic.”

Amy Wettlaufer, network manager with the Michigan Animal Adoption Network, noted that pets don’t come on their own to those seeking to help them.

“She’s working with people, heavily, as well,” Wettlaufer said.

Both Gibson and Wettlaufer spoke about Porteous’ unmatched commitment to animals.

“Her life is taking care of those animals, and she is a person with a mission,” said Gibson.

Gibson remembered Porteous working two jobs, yet still making time to help animals.

“Because they needed her every day,” said Gibson.

“She’s just nonstop,” said Wettlaufer. “Literally, she is available to people and pets around the clock. Her phone is always on. If anyone calls with an animal in need, she goes.”

Nothing special drew Porteous to Pontiac, except that she started volunteering with the Pontiac-based Animal Rescue League. She stayed there 12 years and became assistant manager. She then joined the Animal Care Network because she wanted to be on the road more.

Of course, Porteous and volunteers like her see some horribly cruel crimes against animals. In August, she cared for a puppy that someone had set on fire and, sadly, the puppy’s injuries were too great for it to survive.

“That’s probably the most heart-wrenching rescue that we had ever seen,” said Porteous.

Such scenes might drive people away after a while, but Porteous explained what keeps volunteers going.

“We just feel good about what we do and that we are able to get these animals out of the bad situations that they’re in,” she said.

Some of the services Porteous helps provide are dog houses and straw for outdoor dogs and low-cost shot clinics for low-income pet owners. She’s helped thousands upon thousands of animals. If she wins the award — Animal Planet’s Web site notes that the winner will be announced sometime in November — Porteous will receive a trip for two to Hawaii, including $1,000 spending money and a $10,000 gift to the animal charity of her choice. Of course, that money would go to help animals in Pontiac.

But if she doesn’t win, being a finalist is already quite an honor.

“I was not expecting to be one of the top 10,” she said. “I’ve got a pretty huge support group and people that respect what I do, so that’s pretty good.”

And award or not, she’s already a hero.

“It’s so rare to be able to know your hero,” said Gibson. “I think I was so lucky to know her in my lifetime.”

Because of Porteous, Gibson went to the University of San Diego to study animal law. With Porteous, Gibson saw so many cruel cases and saw a breakdown in the justice system that she wants to correct. At the moment, she’s studying for the bar exam.

Because of her experience with Porteous in creating a dog-fighting database in Pontiac, Gibson said she was able to create a similar database for the Los Angeles Police Department and that the department is now investigating crimes against animals.

“Her work has really affected the entire country,” said Gibson. “It’s about time that she gets recognition.”

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