Animal saver up for ‘Hero’ award
Thursday, September 28, 2006 3:00 AM EDT
PONTIAC – Pam Porteous saves animals.
She plucks them – often starving, abused, injured or stray – off Pontiac’s streets. Some of them make their ways into her home.
Well-known locally, Porteous is now receiving national attention as a finalist for cable channel Animal Planet’s Hero of the Year Award. People can cast votes for their favorite of 10 finalists through Oct. 8. The person with the most votes will win $10,000 for a rescue organization of his or her choice and a seven-day trip for two to Hawaii.
“I don’t like being in the spotlight,” Porteous said. “I didn’t think I was going to be in the top 20, so I was surprised, and proud � that people respect the work that I do that much.”
Porteous has worked for three years as the manager of the Animal Care Network, a Ferndale-based rescue group that primarily operates in Pontiac. Porteous and volunteers travel throughout the city and provide food, water and shelter for outdoor animals while trying to educate their owners.
Before her work with the network, she was assistant manager at the Michigan Animal Rescue League shelter in Pontiac for 12 years.
Porteous has visited tens of thousands of homes and rescued nearly 10,000 animals. She helps put on lowcost shot clinics in the city.
She has loved animals since she was a child. Her passion takes her through some of the city’s roughest neighborhoods, where she isn’t shy about knocking on doors and traipsing through back yards.
“Animals need people to watch out for them, too, like kids,” said Porteous, of West Bloomfield Township. “I feel that it’s my calling, that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”
The cases she sees are heartbreaking, but one that tugged on her heartstrings more than most was the story of Melvin. The tiny pitbull-mix puppy was doused with a flammable liquid and set on fi re, and severe wounds burned into his face, legs and back.
Porteous, who was severely burned in a car accident when she was a teenager, took him home and cared for him for three days. He was eventually put to sleep.
Her phone often rings off the hook.
“Pam knows most people in Pontiac, and most know her, from drug dealers and prostitutes to pastors, children, the police department and city employees, and all call her whenever they or an animal need help,” Hanna Gibson, a former coworker and law student, said in a letter nominating Porteous for the award. “The effect of her approach is profound.
“There are thousands of stories of lives she’s touched nationwide.”
Porteous, and other volunteers, spent five days last year rescuing stranded animals caught in post-Hurricane Katrina chaos.
Pontiac resident and animal lover Shari Scott said she pleads with Porteous to spend more time taking care of herself.
“Relentless. She’s just out there (all the time),” Scott said. “It would be devastating not to have her. You would have these animals without houses, you would have them without food. The animals would miss her.”
Porteous was told that thousands of people were nominated for the award. She was in fifth place as of Wednesday afternoon on the Animal Planet Web site.
She said that if she wins, she would want the $10,000 put toward rescue efforts in Pontiac.
And the Hawaii trip would be a long-overdue break.
“I haven’t taken a vacation in 16 years,” she said.
On the Web
To vote for Animal Planet’s Hero of the Year Award, visit www.animal.discovery.com.
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