Twenty years of service – November 17, 2010

WB woman to celebrate 20 years of animal service
By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

Photo by Erin Sanchez. Pam Porteous of West Bloomfield poses with a dog in Auburn Hills. Porteous has served the Animal Care Network by rescuing animals and assisting low-income pet owners with supplies

WEST BLOOMFIELD — In dog years, it would be more than a century. But an animal welfare organization is getting ready to celebrate one of its members and her 20 years of service to pets and their underprivileged owners.Pam Porteous, Animal Care Network manager, was one of the group’s first volunteers. The nonprofit program tours the streets of Pontiac and Inkster to try to help pets that have inadequate food and shelter.

During her time at ACN, the group has rescued more than 12,000 dogs and cats, and has spayed or neutered 5,000 pets.

Porteous said a tour of the streets of Pontiac convinced her that the area needed help.

“You look either way, and there are dogs chained up, dogs running loose, cats getting hit by cars,” she said. “It just kind of clicked with me. … That’s what I should be using my skills at.”

Porteous, who lives in West Bloomfield, said she began her animal activism in January 1991 as a volunteer with the Michigan Animal Rescue League in Pontiac. Then, she joined the Animal Care Network when it was founded in 1994 to do the street program.

Her efforts to help pets have been recognized by Animal Planet, which honored her with sixth place in a 2006 Hero of the Year contest.

Animal Care Network President Marie Skladd said she has known Porteous for 20 years.

“You will never meet anyone like her in your life,” Skladd said. “She is totally woven into the fabric of … both the human and animal community in this city.”

Today, Porteous works in Pontiac with her volunteers to help rescue dogs and cats or to assist low-income pet owners. Often, that might mean providing straw and doghouses. Other times, that might mean neutering animals or even taking them to a pet shelter.

Michigan’s economic downturn over the years has only heightened the demand for these services, she said.

“Since the economy started to decline, a lot of people, their houses are being foreclosed on,” she said. “People are just up and moving, leaving animals behind as well.”

Porteous explained that some retired people living on fixed incomes have also had trouble maintaining their pets with food and supplies, and shelters have become much more crowded with animals over the last few years.

About 95 percent of the time, pet owners are grateful to have some assistance, she said.

“There’s a percentage that is hostile … but the majority of the people know that we’re there to help. Our name and our phone number is out there, so that’s why we get so many phone calls every single day.”

Sometimes intervention can mean the difference between life and death.

“I think, probably last winter, we rescued two dogs in the middle of a really nasty snowstorm,” she said. “They were both near death, and we were able to save one of them.

I think it’s situations like that, that if it had been a day later, they both would’ve died.”

Porteous said she worries that her network won’t be able to continue its current level of services much longer. The charity is surviving on donations, but funds have been down for many nonprofits across the board, she said.

However, she hopes that people will be generous as the holidays draw near. “We do the best we can,” she said. “We basically are just scraping for anything we can get. … Something always comes up, and something usually comes.”

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