Fund in man's memory benefits ill pets

Zach Leathers Medical Fund covers expenses for most severe cases at the humane society

Sultan the German shepherd was hit by a car last November, leaving him with a broken front left leg. It was left untreated for months and, by the time he was taken in by Aurora Animal Care & Control and subsequently handed over to the Hinsdale Humane Society, the leg was infected.

Addressing the injury previously would have stretched the humane society beyond its financial means. But thanks to the newly created Zach Leathers Emergency Medical Fund, Sultan's leg was removed and his life saved.

"We were able to do the amputation, and Sultan is now up for adoption, doing great and hoping to find his forever home," said Jacki Rossi, the humane society's business development director.

Sultan's story is one of several heartwarming testaments to the fund's impact. It was established last month in memory of local resident and animal lover Zach Leathers to help provide care for prospective pets with special medical needs that have been taken in by the humane society's Tuthill Family Pet Rescue & Resource Center

Leathers, a 2008 graduate of Hinsdale Central High School, passed away in August 2014 at the age of 24. His mom, Winnie, said in a press release that Zach would often hop on his bike and ride to the animal shelter to look at the residents.

"Zach was always the one volunteering to bring the critters home from his class for the summer," Winnie Leathers related when the memorial fund was unveiled June 6. "Our house was the resort for all those animals."

Specifically, monies from the fund are to be used to

• allow the humane society to respond in a timely, urgent manner to an animal with great need so no animal will wait for emergency care

• help offset the cost of diagnostic radiographs, heartworm treatment, corrective and emergency surgeries, specialized diagnostic assessments and eye care, and laboratory testing for the special needs animals received

• provide resources for volunteer foster households who are critical in providing a quiet space for the animals to heal

• purchase surgical supplies and medications for the dogs and cats that are spayed/neutered for rescue groups and for other shelters, which average about 50 per month

• underwrite support for partner organizations when they are in need in keeping with the belief that a community is stronger when working together

Dr. Kristin Tvrdik, the humane society's medical director and staff veterinarian, said the fund will alleviate the scramble that occurs when urgent cases arise.

"Because pets often come to us in need of special medical help, this fund will help us provide immediate care without worrying about having to raise funds for the care that they need," she said. "It will offset the costs of special treatments and surgeries that might be required."

Tvrdik shares another success story in a video posted on the humane society's website, recounting the saga of Paco the stray cat who arrived from Chicago Animal Care and Control with an injured back left leg.

"He had a chronic injury to the hip joint, where the hip was very uncomfortable. His knee was also affected," Tvrdik said.

Treatment would undoubtedly require resources the humane society couldn't cover on its own.

"We were able to get him the care he needed through an orthopedic specialist to determine that amputation was the best option for Paco. He gets along fantastic on three legs," she related.

"We would not have had the availability (to do that) as fast as we did without the Zach Leathers Emergency Medical Fund."

Rossi said the fund affords the humane society a more effective fundraising tool to cover these kinds of services.

"A lot of people that have utilized our local clinic have been a big outlet for donations to (the fund)," she said. "It helps with those cases that we get in that obviously we wouldn't have planned for."

A total of four animals have been treated in just the few weeks since it launched, Rossi reported.

"It's just such a beautiful way to honor Zach," she said.

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Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean