Gastineau Humane Society celebrates 50 years

A visitor at the Gastineau Humane Society open house peeks into a playroom as a man considers adopting Avery, a 2-year-old Miniature Pinscher. GHS hosted the open house on Saturday to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

The Gastineau Humane Society celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and it hosted an open house on Saturday to mark the occasion.


The private, nonprofit animal shelter has come a long way since it was founded in 1963, according to Executive Director Chava Lee.

Lee said concerned citizens banded together then to care for unwanted and stray animals that were roaming the streets. The first shelter was a shed under the old Juneau-Douglas bridge that was donated by the city.

“This was back in the days when sacks of kittens and puppies were just thrown in the channel,” Lee said in an interview. “It was grim.”

The shed, which was stocked with air kennels, quickly became too cramped to hold the increasing number of animals the shelter was taking in.

In the 1980s, volunteers raised money and bought the building on Glacier Highway where the shelter is currently located.

Today, the shelter still provides pet adoption services as well as runs its own animal care clinic. It also provides a variety of services from rabies and microchip clinics to pet behavior consultations, and it contracts with the City and Borough of Juneau to perform Animal Control and Protection Services.

The building itself houses 45 dog runs, quarantine areas for recently arrived animals that have not yet had a medical check-up, an isolation ward for sick animals and medical kennels for animals recovering from surgery or serious injury, according to its website.

But Lee says the number one goal of GHS in this day and age is to control the pet population by spaying and neutering. The shelter provides low cost spay and neuter services for pet owners who cannot afford a veterinarian.

Lee said GHS has done 55 spays and neuters this month alone.

Lee, the third person to hold the executive director position, says it’s been interesting to watching the shelter grow and adapt over the years.

“We’ve come a long way, and we’ve grown with the city,” Lee said. “We’ve grown — people’s concerns about animals have changed in 50 years. We view them differently, we consider them parts of our family.”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at


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