Metro-East News

Firefighters step in to help raise money for humane society

Metro East Humane Society executive director Anne Schmidt with an Austrailian shepherd mix puppy and one of the smoke detectors at the animal shelter in Edwardsville.
Metro East Humane Society executive director Anne Schmidt with an Austrailian shepherd mix puppy and one of the smoke detectors at the animal shelter in Edwardsville. News-Democrat

When new director Anne Schmidt reviewed the state of the Metro-East Humane Society’s building, she was surprised to find that smoke alarms were only required in the lobby.

The alarm system needed replacing. The older building, which has housed the no-kill shelter for more than 20 years, has a lengthy list of issues that need to be addressed. Even then, the building codes only required a smoke alarm in the lobby, because because no one sleeps in the building.

No humans, that is.

But the dogs and cats who live in the building deserved safety too, Schmidt said. “These guys are just as important as people,” she said. “If there was a fire in the kennel or feed room, (smoke alarms) wouldn’t go off until it was too late.”

The humane society’s leaders wanted the new smoke alarm system to extend through the building, including the back room where the washer and dryer are located. It’s an alarm system that will alert the local fire departments in case of a fire, so the animals would have a chance to survive.

The new system cost $3,500, but George Alarm Co. donated labor and some equipment to bring the cost down to $1,750. That’s when the Edwardsville Firefighters IAFF Local 1700 stepped in. They donated $250 and set up a GoFundMe fundraising site for the project, which has surpassed its goal and raised $1,775 as of Wednesday.

Edwardsville isn’t even the responding district for Metro-East Humane Society. Technically, they’re in Marine Township Fire District, Schmidt said.

“It wasn’t anything we asked for,” she said. “But they’re all pet lovers; they saw the need and they knew the current system was not doing the job.”

Schmidt, who became executive director in September, said she didn’t think they’d raise nearly as much as they needed, and neither did Capt. James Whiteford from the firefighters’ union.

“We are amazed at how the community has stepped up to help out in this situation,” Whiteford said. “All it takes is for people to find out about a need and they are there to help out.”

But the money will come in very handy, particularly since the Metro-East Humane Society is in the middle of fundraising for a number of other projects.

The most expensive is replacing the dog runs in the kennel, at an estimated cost of $32,000. Built with chain link, they were the cost-effective choice at the time, Schmidt said. But dogs become overexcited seeing each other through the chain link, and disease can spread easily. They also chew on the chain link and can get their paws stuck, which has rendered four of the 20 kennels unusable.

The new kennels will be made of a lifetime-guaranteed laminate material, which will be opaque to waist level so the dogs won’t be as overexcited or aggressive and will help stave off disease spreading from kennel to kennel. “It’s much safer and creates less anxiety for the dogs,” Schmidt said.

They are also removable, in case the shelter ever relocates, Schmidt said. But that isn’t the plan right now; instead they’re raising $8,000 for an erosion problem on the hilly property, located next door to the Madison County Animal Control center.

The humane society also has raised $5,000 to convert a room full of cat cages into a free-range cat room, allowing the cats to wander and climb instead of being trapped in small cages. The cats will be more relaxed and will interact with people better, Schmidt said. In turn, better-socialized animals are more adoptable.

The cat room will be painted with a St. Louis-themed mural, which local artist Maggie Puchner-Hardman will paint this summer. She is a 2015 graduate of Edwardsville High School and is volunteering her artistic services to make the new cat kingdom attractive, Schmidt said.

If the smoke alarm fundraiser gains more money than is needed to pay for the alarm system, Schmidt said the extra will go toward the other improvement projects.

“It’s important to keep up on these things,” Schmidt said. “It’s easy to let them get neglected, money is tight and other things come up... but we’re getting on schedule.”

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at or 618-239-2507.

For more information:

Metro-East Humane Society:

Edwardsville Firefighters’ GoFundMe Site: