Puyallup: News

After some bumps, Puyallup’s only no-kill animal rescue on steady ground

Volunteer Dani Pederson holds Oreo, a puppy who was recently adopted along with its sibling, at Sunny Sky’s Animal Rescue in Puyallup on Dec. 29, 2017.
Volunteer Dani Pederson holds Oreo, a puppy who was recently adopted along with its sibling, at Sunny Sky’s Animal Rescue in Puyallup on Dec. 29, 2017. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

Sunny Sky’s Animal Rescue has come a long way.

There have been many changes since the rescue at 1102 E. Main Ave. in Puyallup first became a nonprofit in 2010.

“Five years ago, this was a different place,” Sunny Sky’s board member Krisy Lee said.

Five years ago, this was a different place.

Krisy Lee, Sunny Sky’s Animal Rescue board member

When Lee, who lives in Bonney Lake, first started coming to what was then East Main Animal Hospital in the 1990s, there was no rescue.

It wasn’t until veterinarian Illina Berton helped animals displaced from their homes from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that her passion for rescue jump-started, Lee said, and a rescue was formed.

Now, Sunny Sky’s Animal Rescue finds homes for about 800 dogs and cats annually, and is the only “no-kill” shelter in Puyallup. The rescue is also one of the only shelters in Pierce County not subsidized by the government, Lee said — it operates solely on donations, adoption fees and hospital services. And every night, Berton takes home about eight to ten animals from the shelter, some of which are disabled, to care for herself.

800 animals taken in every year

But in the beginning, Sunny Sky’s was a small operation. There were only a few kennels, and it was mostly local dogs being taken in.

And there were some major bumps along the way. Four years ago, the rescue was facing foreclosure, but was able to continue operating after former Puyallup Mayor John Hopkins bought the property.

At one point, Sunny Sky’s owned a rescue bus that drove down to California to rescue animals from “high-kill” shelters. But a few years into it, the engine gave out.

“It’s been bumps, misses, hits,” Lee admitted.

But that still doesn’t stop Sunny Sky’s staff and volunteers from taking a trip to rescue animals from those shelters, and take in an average of two to three dogs from “high-kill” shelters a month.

“Most of the dogs that come here were on a euthanasia list,” Lee said.

We take sick, we take injured, we take seniors — if it’s an animal in need, we want to help.

Vicky Dumonceaux, volunteer at Sunny Sky’s Animal Rescue

“We take sick, we take injured, we take seniors — if it’s an animal in need, we want to help,” added Bonney Lake resident Vicky Dumonceaux.

A Sunny Sky’s volunteer for five years, Dumonceaux has seen gradual upgrades to the shelter building as well. Due to budget restrictions, improvements to the property have to start small. Recently, floors and cages have been repainted. A year and a half ago, IKEA donated time and materials to create a backyard for the dogs to run around in. The shelter now has three yards, and is working on more yard renovations.

The building, which Lee guesses dates back to the 50s, is not an easy thing to renovate.

“We do the best we can with what we’ve got,” Dumonceaux said.

Both Dumonceaux and Lee also acknowledge that the shelter isn’t perfect. There have been some complaints from those looking to adopt that the adoption process is long and strenuous, but Dumonceaux said the shelter is only making sure the family is a good match for the animal.

“I think our biggest downfall is how long it takes to process applications, but we’re cautious for a reason,” Dumonceaux said. “We don’t take this stuff lightly.”

Sunny Sky’s Animal Rescue is always looking for more volunteers.

Currently, there are three office staff members, four kennel staff and 40 active volunteers at Sunny Sky’s, but the rescue is always looking for more volunteers. And volunteering is more than just playing with the cats and dogs—there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it, from cleaning kennels to witnessing the struggles of disabled or injured animals that are taken in.

The shelter has also grown in the number of adoptions, Lee said. In the early years of Sunny Sky’s, more outside events were held to try to match animals with their forever homes. Now, the rescue has cut its events by half as more and more people come to the shelter directly to adopt.

“When the public finds out why we have (the animals), they come pouring out of the woodwork to help,” Dumonceaux said.

Last week, Sunny Sky’s Animal Rescue was presented with a city coin and Hopkins read a proclamation declaring the nonprofit’s value to the city, highlighting the work the volunteers and staff have done over the years for the community.

“It’s a very caring facility,” Hopkins said. “The place deserves recognition for what it does.”

Sunny Sky’s will continue making small improvements to its facility moving forward.

“We’re not without imperfections, but we’ve come a long way,” Dumonceaux said.

Allison Needles: 253-597-8507, @herald_allison