The origins of SPWC

By Marilyn Kendall
On The Wild Side

The following is a monthly column designed to teach local residents about the wild animals that live among us. Marilyn Kendall is writing the column for the Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre, a Napanee-based facility that cares for injured wildlife.

Have you ever wondered how Sandy Pines got its start? I did and so asked Director Sue Meech. She told me that she has been attracted to the rescue of injured and orphaned animals ever since she was a small child in England.

In the ‘70s she moved to western Newfoundland where she found there was no humane society. She began taking dogs from “the pound,” had them vaccinated and “re-homed” them. Through that work, she heard of another woman who did the same. Sue contacted her and together they started a humane society in Cornerbrook.

When she moved to Ontario in the early ‘80s, she again discovered that, although there were humane societies in Kingston and Belleville, there was none in Napanee. And so she got together with a group of other like-minded individuals and eventually Napanee built its own shelter.

Along the way, Sue began to do her own rehabbing from her home on Highway 2, where she fostered animals for the SPCA. In the first year she took in seven raccoons, the second year 15, and in the third, 35. “I began to see a pattern,” Sue said, laughing.

At some point, Sue retired from nursing human patients and turned to caring for the animal world full time. “People heard about me and began coming down my driveway, bringing rabbits, squirrels and foxes, all injured or orphaned. It took off from there.”

Early on in Sandy Pines’ development, Sue’s husband, a retired local physician, built cages for her. “Every time he built a cage, I filled it,” she said, adding, “If you build it, they will come.”

Hesitant to register as a charitable organization because of the required paperwork, for years Sue functioned under her own license, managing with minimal donations. But as demand for her services grew, Sandy Pines became registered and developed its fundraising program – which has grown and blossomed and allowed the wildlife centre to do the same.

Highlights of that blossoming have been the building of an aviary for large birds, the establishment of an operating room and, most recently, the move from the old shed to the new building, which Sue says is a dream come true. “It has heating, cooling and even a bathroom. What luxury! The animals and birds all have their special rooms and there is a whole room for turtles. I can’t believe we managed in the old shed for so many years.”

When I asked, “Was all this beyond your wildest expectations?” she replied in the affirmative. “I always said that I would like to have a new hospital before I died,” adding, “But I am still not ready!

“Now we need a new aquatic centre for loons, herons and beaver. We just don’t have enough room for all the water-loving creatures we admit. We have started fundraising already.”

And so, from its humble beginnings, both the services Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre provides and the needs those services entail continue to grow.

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