Animal Education & Rescue focuses on bringing people, animals together
Sandy Kamen Wisniewski sits with her foster dog Star and 4-year-old grandson Danny Wisniewski inside of the Central Bark day care facility. Wisniewski started an animal rescue and education organization based in Libertyville. | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Time
Updated: February 11, 2013 6:07AM
LIBERTYVILLE — Animal Education & Rescue will celebrate its 10 year anniversary this year.
The nonprofit organization’s founder, Sandy Kamen Wisniewski, is a passionate advocate for animals and for educating humans how to best care for them. She took time out from her busy schedule to talk about how she came to do what she does and why it’s so important.
Q: Is Animal Education & Rescue affiliated with the Humane Society?
A: There is actually no national Humane Society. I wish there was. I think this is something that most people don’t understand. Each organization that calls itself a humane society is their own unique organization. Each one has a slightly different mission and different goals.
Q: What is the primary mission of your organization?
A: Our tag line is that we bring people and animals together through education, therapy and rescue. I believe education is the key to change and there is an educational component to everything we do. I use the analogy of the revolving door. An unwanted animal goes in, is adopted and goes out and their place is taken by another unwanted animal. How can we stop the door from revolving? We have to educate people, that’s the only way.
Q: What compelled to you to found Animal Education & Rescue?
A: I’ve always been a huge animal lover. I actually wrote a book about my experiences called “The Animal Warrior.” It goes back to when I was a small child. I remember we got a poodle puppy. We named him Pepsi, and my sister Marcy, who was the oldest of us five kids, became best friends with him. He slept with her every night. I remember thinking I didn’t realize that an animal and a person could form such a strong bond. Pepsi was killed by raccoons when I was 7, and I will never forget my sister’s reaction. She was devastated. She just crumpled. I realized then that the relationship between a person and an animal was a sacred and special thing.
In 1987, I started a pet-sitting business that I still run today, but I always wanted to start an animal shelter. Then one day I saw two geese get hit by a car. One died right in front of me. I ended up rescuing the second one, and I decided there and then that I had to do this.
Q: What are your goals in the coming years?
A: I would like to eventually have a facility where we can temporarily house the animals we work with. We don’t have that right now. It would be a place for education primarily and the environment for the animals would be home-like so no cages.
Q: What are the challenges of running your organization?
A: The day-to-day challenges are juggling everything, fund-raising and working with volunteers. We have six part-time employees and 30-40 volunteers. You walk a fine line with volunteers because you’re expecting them to follow through on things and they don’t work for you. They’re doing it purely out of love though which is the definite plus.
Q: What is most rewarding about what you do?
A: The humanity, the miracles I see and the experience of seeing that human and animal bond. One example is a young man who started volunteering with us at 16. He has some social issues; he’s very withdrawn and shy. People don’t get him, and he doesn’t get them. He has a pet rat named Sandy, and he asked me if he could bring it to the nursing home we visit with our animals. I was hesitant, but thought let’s try it. You should see him when he takes that rat there. He is warm, open, kind, animated. It just lights him up. And you know what? They love him over there. They talk about him and that rat all month.
To learn more about Animal Education & Rescue, visit their website at www.aear.org or go to the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/aear.org.