Interviews Pets

Questioning the Locals: Shelley Janke

chatting with the executive director of the E.C. County Humane Association

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

FURBALLS GALORE. Shelley Janke communes with some of the kitties available for adoption at the Eau Claire County Humane Association.
FURBALLS GALORE. Shelley Janke communes with some of the kitties available for adoption at the Eau Claire County Humane Association.

Shelley Janke has been a leader in a number of Chippewa Valley nonprofits, including the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts, but three years ago her career went to the dogs – and cats – when she became executive director of the Eau Claire County Humane Association. A mother of three and (unsurprisingly) an animal lover, Janke recently relocated to Eau Claire. Here, she addresses an epic controversy: cats vs. dogs.

What’s your name?

Shelley Janke

Neighborhood you live in, city:

Putnam Heights, Eau Claire

How long have you lived in the Chippewa Valley?

Just officially moved in June, although I have worked in the Chippewa Valley for the past three years and grew up in Menomonie!

What’s a rewarding experience you’ve had in your current job?

When COVID hit, there were so many unknowns. Because we wanted to keep the animals safe, we put into place an immediate call to action to our foster families to help us clear the shelter. We figured the best place for our animals to be was in a home and with a foster families. Typically, we have between 80 and 100 animals in house at one time. When we put out this call to action, we cleared the shelter of all but 10 animals, which was amazing! With staff being asked to stay at home, this allowed us to operate safely during the lockdown, but more importantly it gave our animals a chance to be in a new, loving environment. It was such a cool experience!

What is the most wholesome adoption story you’ve ever heard or witnessed?

There are so many stories – how to pick just one? I think the stories that resonate the most to me are the adoptions of our harder-to-place animals. Many times, we have animals that are older, or have special needs. Because of these factors, it sometimes takes longer to find their new forever homes. The animals become attached to our staff over the course of their stay with us, and sometimes it is hard to say goodbye. There was one special dog for me named Beau. He was a smaller mix dog that was actually transferred in from Jackson County Animal Shelter. Many times we help other shelters transfer dogs to our shelter to help them out. Beau didn’t really love everyone, but since I was the one that picked him up from the Jackson County shelter, he loved me. I was one of the few staff members that could interact with him. Because he was so attached to me, he sometimes did not display the best behavior with potential adopters (especially if he could see me). He was finally adopted by a nice man and is happy in his new home. I ran into him several months later on a walk, and he remembered me. The adopter was happy with his new companion, and I was happy Beau found his place.

What place in town considers you a “regular”?

I love Carson Park –we spend hours playing at the awesome playground and also the trails. As far as a regular, hands down Casa Margarita. They know me by name and what I love to order! I lived in Austin, Texas, for years so I am always searching for good Tex-Mex, and this place is the absolute best in my opinion!

What’s your passion?

Traveling and exploring this great world! Whether it is a local adventure or visiting another county – I love exploring new places and teaching my kids about our amazing world. This area has so much to offer. We have a boat and love to spend as much time on the area lakes as possible in the summer.

What is one of the best experiences you’ve had in the Chippewa Valley?

I met my husband in the Chippewa Valley. In 2011 we met for the first time at the Acoustic Cafe for coffee. The rest is history. :)

Water Street or Downtown?

Downtown for sure! I love the Confluence and the vibe that you get each time you walk over one of the bridges. Attending the music on Thursday night in Phoenix Park is a favorite with my family!

Cats or dogs?

Both! I have a cat named Katie right now that rules the house, but I am looking to add a dog to my family in the not-so-distant future. I wish I could bring home all the animals at the humane association at times. We have the best pets available for adoption here (in my opinion).

What do you think the Chippewa Valley really needs?

More help for the homeless, especially the kids. I am heartbroken when I hear about all the kids in the Eau Claire Area School District that are considered homeless. I am so glad that programs exists to help, but I think we could improve.

If you could play kubb with one person from Eau Claire, who would it be?

Anyone who could teach me how to play kubb!

Death bed, one meal from a local restaurant, what would it be?

Gino’s Pizza with pepperoni, green olives, and extra cheese!