The Adirondack Animal Welfare Society was started by Manny Bernstein in 1942 when he was 12 years old; when he was 17, he was recognized nationally as the youngest president of a humane society in the United States.

The Tri-Lakes Humane Society was started in December, 1972.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 2, 1953

Letters to the Editor

Dear Sir:

How are things in Saranac Lake? How are things with the people and the animals? I include animals, because it soon will be Be Kind To Animals Week. But maybe I would have included animals, anyway, because I think they're almost human!

I'm a little behind times, because I've been living in the city most of the past five years. It's funny, but I clearly remember a certain K. T. A. Week, as April. 1947, stared out at people from their calendars. A handful of teenagers (among the leaders of this group was Beverly Tyler) were working with the people and animals of Saranac Lake. They were trying to keep those people and animals happy with each other. Many people knew them in 1947 as The Adirondack Animal Welfare Society.

But a lot of other people in Saranac Lake thought that animals are almost human, like Bill Wallace. It was that year that Bill solved our "Case of the Chicken-Cooped Horse." The thin, pitiful horse was suffering from old-age, hoof-rot and daily beatings (sometimes administered by a board with a nail on one end). Besides that, he was stuffed in a tiny chicken coop every night. Many people saw the horse being mistreated, but they just said the usual, "Too bad."

It was some time before word came to the group of teen-agers whose motto was "Speak For Those Who Cannot." They told Bill, and he spoke. It was Bill Wallace who told the cruel owner to be kind, or give up the horse. And it was Bill who led a tired, old creature to the dump, and put it out of its misery.

A few months later in 1947, Be Kind To Animals Week was being celebrated as it never had been before. The Saranac Lakers joined the teen-aged Adirondack Animal Welfare Society in raising their voices against the thoughtless dog-poisoners who not only stopped several pets' hearts from beating again but also broke some human hearts.

People were not just saying, "Too bad."

They were beginning to do something about sad situations! They were saying: "Have a heart!"

Manny Bernstein Brooklyn, N. Y.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, January 18, 1985

Town's early animal activists barking up right tree


Sleepy, indolent Saranac Lake didn't really know it had a dog problem until the 1920's when "Rest Hour" became one of the Ten Commandments of the local tuberculosis industry.

Everything in the village that made a noise of any kind was told it had to shut up. Rest hour was 2 to 4 p.m. It was a police-enforced, sacred mandate inspired by cure cottage operators. The doctors made it stick.

Before 1933, downtown quiet had become an accepted courtesy and the commercial arteries of the community played along since most of the business was "by the patients, for the patients and of the patients." Twelve taxi stands, seven drug stores and three undertakers tell you something!

A barking dog was a special brand of "Rest Hour" nuisance. If you had a dog that couldn't stop barking, it was taken to a dog surgeon and the dog was "debarked." A simple operation, it involved deactivating the vocal apparatus of the canine offender.

Most dogs never missed their barks. An active rabbit or pursuit beagle would have been driven to suicide, however. Some dogs salvaged a kind of hoarse, throaty whisper like Mae West. It was a very soft woof and could not be heard more than a few feet away.

Emily Durell ran "The Circulating Library" and her "whispering" spaniel was kept on a velvet-covered chain affixed to her desk.

But dogs were only a small minority and composed but a tiny segment of the "Rest Hour" violators. Humans, on the other hand, were callous! If someone dropped a tire-iron on River Street it could be heard on Park Avenue and was specially loud on Hemorrhage Hill, a forbidding and explicit reference to the Helen Street, Franklin Avenue section.

Mechanical and man-made noises were both irksome and spontaneous and doubly difficult to pinpoint as they occurred in transit as often as not.

Motorcycles with their barking exhausts were taboo along with outboard motor boats on Lake Flower. Blacksmith shops were considered a curse as were jackhammers and the sawmills near the railroad station. Abbreviated train whistles at local crossings were requested of engineers.

Fire engines and the ambulance driven by Joe Asselta were the only exclusions from the noise ordinance. The ambulance was a powerful four-wheel drive Cunningham with a 16-inch nickel-plated bell on the side. Joe often rang the bell just for the hell of it!

Once in awhile, to break the tedium of hauling dying patients, Joe would get up on the Pontiac stage before the feature and sing in beautiful broken English. . . "Where do you work oh John? At the Delaware Lackawann!" Joe, the consummate miniature Italian, was only five feet tall, but he had a plaster-cracking voice.

The Enterprise couldn't be delivered in cure cottages until after the 4 p.m. rest hour ended, but that worked out fine since school didn't get out until 3:45. By the time the newsboys got their papers from circulation manager "Bud" Dysinger, the daily curfew was lifted.

The happy, whistling, rinky-dink, horse-around, ebullient youths sometimes called "Destiny's Tots" ended up as bank presidents, ship designers, doctors, mercantile wizards and members of the Stock Exchange. It was a "something for everybody" world!

Today there is no rest for anything. The Animal Control Officer works in close harmony with the humane society. But he also harvests a wider menagerie of pets and four-legged vagrants than has occurred here since the 1930's.

And you may think of kids as cruel and unthinking about animals, but this is hardly the truth. In fact the first humane society was started by Manny Bernstein in 1942 when he was 12 years old.

Manny set up a backyard animal shelter enclosed with chicken wire. Anytime he got wind of an act of animal cruelty or neglect, he bugled his volunteers into action. A cart pulled by a bicycle with an orange crate would suffice to get the animal to Manny's shelter.

New members of Manny's organization took a "kindness pledge" before being initiated into the Adirondack Animal Welfare Society.

Success of the venture spread far and wide. Manny was head of the charter group that met weekly in the Saranac Lake Free Library. Here they set goals and worked out the means to accomplish the goals they set.

Dr. Alton Bouton was not only their spiritual leader, but, as one of the North Country's most dedicated veterinarian practitioners, he was able to inculcate the boys in first aid, proper animal care, mistreatment and every facet of humane animal reclamation that could be assimilated by young crusaders of that age.

By the time Manny was 17, he was recognized nationally as the youngest president of a humane society in the USA. His 1931 Model A Ford painted China red had a sign on top which said, "We Speak For Those Who Cannot. "It disbanded eventually as the boys grew to manhood and went to college or war.

At one time there were animal lovers in the village who kept monkeys, anteaters, ocelots, raccoons, cockatoos and donkeys. Gembo, The Aristocrat of Clowns, included a skunk named "Sweetpea" in his act.

When they escaped they had to be chased and brought in by the police or control officer.

So you see, there is really more to it than just picking up dogs now that students inhabit the community. They now pick up boa constrictors, pythons, ferrets, gerbils, rabbits, parrots, prairie dogs and an occasional ice-bound loon.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, October 17, 1992

Tri-Lakes Humane Society continues education drive


Enterprise Staff Writer

SARANAC LAKE — After 20 years in existence the Tri-Lakes Humane Society is working harder than ever to make sure local animals are well cared for and that pet owners arc educated on how to keep a healthy animal.

The society is caring for almost twice the animals it did when it formed in 1972.

The Tri-Lakes Humane Society is making a concrete effort to educate people in order to put an end to local abuse of animals. Last year the shelter took in 800 animals and adopted out about 400 of them. But not included in the 400 figure are lost animals that are eventually picked up by their owners, explained Janet Collier, manager of the society's shelter, located on Mills Avenue in the village.

When it first formed the, society was caring for about 560 cats and dogs in a year. Today, the society houses anywhere from 30 to 60 animals at one time, although 30 is the average, Collier said.

The majority of animals brought into the shelter. Collier continued, are not strays but are dropped off by owners who don't want their pets any more. The shelter has been open since 1972, when the Tri-Lakes Humane Society started.

The Society was formed by local resident Carol Forbes and some area animal lovers. In 1973 it was incorporated as a not-for-profit animal welfare society. The organization provided medical care for animals, placed stray animals in homes and investigated cruelty cases, all of which it still does today.

The first president of the organization — Dr. Emmanual Bernstein — was the founder of another local animal protection organization, which had drifted out of existence in 1948, when its young members went away to college.

The first humane organization in the area was called the "Skull Club," which formed in 1942. The club, made of a group of youngsters, soon changed its name to the Adirondack Animal Welfare Society, and was the first of its kind in the Adirondack region.

The actual shelter was a dog house surrounded by chicken wire at 9 Kiwassa Avenue. But stray animals were usually kept at members' residences until a permanent home could be found.

In 1975, the Humane Society decided it was imperative that it have a shelter in which to keep animals. It purchased the old Swift's meat packing plant on Mills Avenue. Through me work of volunteers and prisoners at Camp Adirondack, the shelter was opened in the spring of 1976.

The shelter, governed by a 15- member volunteer board, runs on an $80,000 budget annually, all of which comes from private donations. The budget pays for care of the animals and salaries of the shelter's three employees — Collier and two part-timers.

Currently the organization is launching an effort to educate locals about animal abuse and the proper way to care for an animal. Last weekend the Tri-Lakes Humane Society hosted a seminar on animal abuse and how it can be stopped, which was open to the public and free of charge. Speaking at the event were two experts who deal in the intervention into animal abuse every day in their jobs.

From the Humane Society of the United States, Nicholas P. Gilman, a field representative from Washington, D.C., explained that most abuse cases are due to ignorance on the part of the animal owner or owners.

While there is no clear definition of what amounts to abuse, in general terms it is any unjust treatment of an animal or inaction in a situation which allows an animal to be injured, said Herman Cohen, senior vice president of the law enforcement department of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

There are two types of abuse, Gilman added: passive, which means neglect, and intentional, which typically means physical abuse. Neglect usually amounts to not providing an animal with proper medical attention, food or water, he said.

"The animal's suffering may be greater in a case of neglect man in physical abuse," Gilman said. Basically, neglect usually amounts to ignorance on the part of the person caring for the animal.

Locally, about two complaints of animal abuse flow through the Tri-Lakes animal shelter every week, according to Collier. That number has been steady over the years, she added. Staffers check on the complaints but have been lucky so far, and have not found any serious cases of abused animals.

"Usually the cases are resolved by a phone call or quick visit," Collier said. More often than not, complaints come from misinformed people or people trying to cause trouble.

"But there are those that are serious," she added.

Gilman noted that many animals are abused by children who aren't aware of the proper ways to care for an animal. But it can be dangerous not to teach a child the proper way in which to treat a pet, he said. Many people ignore the problem, believing that there are more serious "human" problems to deal with.

But if a child never learns that he or she is abusing an animal, it can turn into a human problem later on in life, Gilman continued. On the extreme side, he explained mat experts have tracked the lives of serial killers, many of whom tiiey learned were animal abusers as children. Among mem, Albert DiSalvo, better known as the Boston Strangler, was known to harm animals as a child.

"One of the most dangerous things we can do to a child is to allow a child to abuse an animal and get away free," stressed Gilman.

There are many state and federal laws that protect animals from being treated in certain ways and tile regulations vary from community to community, said Cohen. For instance, local laws prohibit different animals from living in a residence or in different areas of a community — in Saranac Lake, local law prohibits residents from keeping pigs in, the village, according to Sgt Dennis Duprey, of the village Police Department.

Cohen said that state legislation is in the works to make it against the law to keep a dog in the back of a pick-up truck, explaining that the temperature can be well over 100 degrees on a sunny day. Some local communities have already passed ordinances prohibiting it.

Both experts agreed that people need to be educated on the proper ways to keep a healthy animal, whether it is a dog or a horse. Often that is the job of an investigator, who goes to someone's home to look into an abuse case.

Nationwide the Humane Society and the ASPCA investigate cases of suspected animal abuse. The ASPCA has officers who can make arrests of people unlawfully harming animals. Gilman and Cohen both told stories of cases of animal abuse they investigated, from animal sacrifices to animal collectors who keep as many as 50 in their homes, which become unhealthy places for any living thing to reside.

The biggest problem now is to get a judge to punish a person for the seriousness of the abuse case, since many don't want to give a person a police record over abuse of an animal, said Cohen.

In the past several years, the Tri-Lakes Humane Society conducted just one investigation into the case of a dog in Tupper Lake, who was being forced to live in almost a foot of mud at a home on Old Wawbeek Road about a year ago, said Collier. For unknown reasons, more complaints come from Tupper Lake man any other community the shelter serves. "

In order to get to the root of the problem you have to educate the person on how to properly care for the animal," said Gilman — which is what the local Humane Society is working to do.