He helps rescue the animals

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Sunday, January 20, 2008
— Jim Hurley’s love of animals pushes him through doors when the smell on the other side leaves him gagging and his eyes and lungs burning.

It’s why he faces down vicious dogs.

And, it’s even why he’s adopted the English bulldog as his favorite breed. It’s not a breed he sees often at the shelter, so he finds it easier to detach himself from the ones that are there.

Hurley initially went to school to be a firefighter, but the stress of having a person’s life in his hands as a paramedic was too much.

A series of odd jobs followed.

Then, in 1996, he dropped by the Rock County Humane Society to ask a girl to the movies.

Staff and volunteers there were in the middle of an animal neglect case, and he went along to the Beloit Township home.

He never did get to the movies, but he had found his place in life.

“I always remember going into that house,” Hurley said. “There was urine coming down the stairs while we were walking down. There was … feces all over, and I was like, ‘This is the craziest place I’ve ever seen.’”

In the basement were a mountain lion, birds, tarantulas, a ball python, prairie dogs, an alligator and hedgehogs.

“It amazed me,” he said. “It was just all these odd animals, and they took them in. (One former employee) hated spiders. No one there really liked snakes. (But) they still did it. It didn’t matter if they didn’t like that particular animal.

“It just kind of grabbed me.”

Hurley obviously made a similar impression because he was hired on the spot.

Michael Mugnani, a sergeant with the Rock County Sheriff’s Department, has worked with Hurley on animal neglect cases.

Hurley’s an inspiration, he said.

“He’s maintained a positive attitude and a very high level of motivation over time in … what most people consider some difficult circumstances,” Mugnani said.

And it can be a dirty job sometimes, he added.

Both Mugnani and Tracey Summers, a Beloit police officer, say Hurley’s dedication, compassion and love for animals is evident.

When Hurley is called to collect a vicious dog, “The guy has no fear,” Summers said.

“Me, I’m shaking in my boots. He’s just as calm as can be with the animals.”

He’s one of those guys who’s a natural,” Summers said. “Animals seem to love him. The meanest animals to me (are) just as docile to him.

“He is generally concerned about the dogs as well as everyone else who can be harmed.”

Hurley figures the same drive that propelled him into burning houses is the same that gets him in a house filled with feces and urine to rescue often-dying animals.

Over the years, his jobs at the Rock County Humane Society have included being on call at all hours to pick up animals, including vicious animals; cleaning kennels; doing adoptions; and maintaining the database. He’s fostered dogs, one so emaciated he learned to administer IVs.

The job is not without its stresses: the euthanasia, working with a legal system that is slow when dealing with crimes against animals, the lack of money, overcrowding at the shelter and the pet stores that sell cute puppies.

Hurley measures success by little victories, such as saving one animal or making a good adoption. The people who want to make big changes burn out quickly, he said.

Hurley likes to quote Mahatma Gandhi, who said you can judge a community by how it treats its animals.

“I can’t not help them,” Hurley said. “I don’t know why.”

Jim Hurley
Age: 36
Community: Beloit
Occupation: Supervisor at the Rock County Humane Society, Janesville, where he has worked since 1996.
Family: Wife, Juanita. He met her when he responded to her call about a hurt possum on the side of the road.

Pets he grew up with: Golden retrievers, a turtle named Suntan and little green lizards. His uncle and grandparents had a farm in Afton where they had cows, pigs and chickens. “I hated chickens,” he said. “Oh God, chickens hurt.”

What he should work on? His tact. “I should sometimes not say what I’m thinking. It probably would help me. But if I didn’t say it, it probably wouldn’t get said, and it wouldn’t help the animals.”

How he relaxes: He has a 60-inch TV and a 150-gallon saltwater aquarium—two huge items that take up two walls in the couple’s small trailer home.

He and his dog, Otis, an English bulldog, lie on the couch and watch the fish tank. “It’s kind of relaxing.”

He also watches movies, an average of about 30 a week. “I buy into the movies, and it takes everything away.”

Favorite movie: “Hunt for Red October.” I don’t now why. I can say about every line in that movie.”
What he would like to do in the future? Travel to disaster sites to help animals.
Holiday tradition: Posing as the Jolly Old Elf for pet photos with Santa to raise money for the Rock County Humane Society.

The event is held at K&W Greenery, and he’s sweating in the Santa suit, wig and beard. “Plus, I’ve got the dogs peeing on me; they’re expressing their anal glands and have just tracked through the snow.”

The dry cleaners do a wonderful job on the suit.

Last updated: 1:35 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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