In March 2017, the original Humane Society's building sustained enough damage from an overnight fire that it became unusable. Business continued as best it could with animals housed at various sites.

Last year, a new and considerably larger building was obtained, and as of November 2018, a new manager was hired. A new manager with a progressive agenda.

Tracy Drufke's watchword is that she and her staff are “here for the animals.”

A former Downer's Grove, Illinois resident, Tracy has experience working with the public having held various positions including management in the retail industry.  She has also worked for an animal shelter, animal hospital, and her last job was as an office manager for a Chiropractic Office.  

Tracy also spent most of her growing-up summers taking a family vacation to Shady Beach Resort on Lower McKenzie Lake. She and her family would spend their days on the lake and visiting the downtown Spooner businesses and restaurants. But when they were looking to adopt a dog, they went to Hayward, not knowing there was a shelter in Spooner.

After graduation, Tracy attended college in Ashland, and when she was back in Illinois, it was an ad on Facebook that alerted her to a job opening at the Washburn County Area Humane Society's new facility in Spooner on Roundhouse Road.

Her first four days as manager were spent at the Northwoods Humane Society in Hayward at their shelter. They taught her procedures concerning adoptions, and contracts, etc., and it “became like a Bible to me.”

In combination with the knowledge she brought from the Illinois shelter and the vast information from Hayward, things started to change.

Formerly if someone wanted to adopt an animal, they had to wait several weeks until the animal was neutered and received its shots. Now, each animal that enters the shelter gets neutered and vaccinated, so the day someone says, “I'll take this one,” they go home with the animal, along with a supply of the type of food the animal was eating.

But before they can take home their new best friend, the person doing the adoption must pass the questions on the pre-adoption form which asks if they own other animals and would they be willing to bring in the animal they already own to see if the pets would be compatible.  Other questions on the form ask if they understand dog behaviors and do they agree to license their new pet?  If they answer "yes" to owning another pet, a call is put through to their vet to see if it has received proper care.  When everything checks out, the adoption goes through, with a fourteen-day return cash-back policy in place.

Adoption fees for dogs run $200 for animals six months old or younger, $150 for dogs from seven months to five years and those six years and up are $100.

For felines, the charges are $65 for a cat five years or younger, and over age six, they're $30. The fee is completely waived for senior citizens who are willing to adopt an older cat or dog (8 years and up).

Tracy and her staff of eight paid part-time employees, and a couple of adult volunteers per day tend all the animals by doing laundry, cleaning cages, washing the feeding dishes, and walking the dogs. They also tend the animals waiting to go to the vet in their own group of kennels, the animals in isolation, and the new surrenders.

Some volunteers sew a variety of doggie coats that are for sale at the shelter, and other volunteers foster animals in their homes. Often the animals who need to spend time in a safe and quiet environment are nursing mothers, injured animals, those who are too frightened to be housed at the shelter, and animals that need end-of-life hospice care.

Even though this shelter isn't a No Kill shelter, animals are only put down out of necessity, which does not include a lack of space. Before an animal is put down, it's a decision shared by an employee, a board member, a vet, and the manager.

Interestingly, not all of the dogs are local surrenders. Every three weeks or so, dogs are brought in from states like Texas and Oklahoma. Each new dog is neutered, heartworm tested and receives all of its shots.

Cats, on the other hand, are continually being brought in. When in the past, the shelter had 90 cats, thirty of them were transported out to other shelters.

An intelligent new service by Vet Angie Ruppel is called the Purple Cat.  It's a mobile surgery unit that offers low-cost cat neutering to prevent homeless, starving and diseased cats.  Purple Cat is the service that Tracy uses to make sure all of their current count of sixty cats are fixed and healthy.

One of the items on the shelter's March board meeting agenda is fund-raising. There's the money from adoptions, and there's a lot of fund-raising. Pins for Pets seems to be a perennially popular event at Northwoods bowling alley, as is the Christmas Tree of Lights that honors pets, both living and dead. The Potter's Shed in Shell Lake holds a yearly Shed Fest with a portion of the proceeds going to the shelter. This year the plan is to be more of a presence at local events.

Through a Facebook shout out, two people who are grant writers have come on board to help find funds, and the shelter is looking for any business that might still have the plastic banks that were set on various counters so people could donate their change. "We would really appreciate any business that still has a bank to either return it or let us know so we can stop by and pick it up." Another source of funding comes from the county since they also function as the county's pound.  The charge is $20 a night until the stray is found by its owner, usually within twenty-four hours.

On their to-do list is the increasing the number of dog kennels to accommodate single dogs or dogs that are siblings that are housed together, which would require a new drain.  An outdoor play area for the cats that they could access from small doors in their "community room." This is considered a Catio and needs a cement floor in addition to the fencing.

Any tax-deductible donation received from the public goes for such things as bleach, canned food, kitty litter, paper towels, garbage bags, toilet paper, tissue, laundry soap, fabric softener, and vet bills.

If you would like more information about the Washburn County Humane Society, go to or find them on Facebook. Donations can be sent to WCAHS P.O. Box 328, Spooner, WI 54801 or stop in Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Friday from 2pm-6pm or Saturday from 12pm to 4pm.

About the Author

Diane is a features writer for She started her fifteen-year career as a features writer for the Washburn County Register and has written for assorted newspapers and national magazines. She has also just released the third novel in her Chicago series of books – Scott Free in Chinatown. You can visit Diane's website at or her facebook page at

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