Obituaries

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2007:

 

Sara Whalen, 64, died of cancer on March 19, 2007 in
Horton, New York. “The Pets Alive founder broke her back trying to
move a pony she had rescued and brought to her Wallkill sanctuary,”
wrote Kristina Wells of the Middletown Times Herald-Record. “Doctors
using a rod to stabilize her back discovered a tumor had started in
her lungs and spread.” Recalled Debra West in a 1995 New York Times
feature, “Whalen’s mission to rescue stray animals began in 1972,
when she inherited a golden retriever from a dying neighbor. She
credited the dog with saving her son Adam as a toddler, when he
strayed into the woods near her home.” Remembered Wells, “Whalen
took in the throwaways–ill, injured, neglected and abused cats,
dogs, horses, even potbellied pigs,” and she took in homeless
people at times, too, including Maggie Cogan, featured in an
award-winning documentary about her life in New York City’s Central
Park with a collection of dogs. Cogan returned to Central Park five
weeks later. “Whalen’s love for animals began in her youth, growing
up in Binghamton,” recounted Wells. “Her brother Bill Seiden
recalled that as a teenager she tackled a state trooper who shot a
black Labrador who had been hit by a car.” Whalen’s ex-husband,
insurance executive Leo Whalen, bought the former Ravenwood Kennels
for her, their two sons, and 47 dogs as part of a 1986 divorce
settlement. Often financially struggling, and nearly foreclosed in
both 1989 and 1995, Whalen operated Pets Alive as a no-kill shelter
before the idea was popular. In recent years she often counseled and
encouraged others, worldwide, who were starting no-kill
organizations. “At Pets Alive, she found homes for some, but not
all,” Wells wrote. “The unwanted, unadoptable always lived out
their days in peace, with her. Bill Seiden spoke about his sister’s
work with the kind of admiration that led him to establish an animal
rescue of his own in Avon, Connecticut.” Often providing news tips
to ANIMAL PEOPLE, assisting with several investigations, Whalen in
April 2001 called to confirm that for half a day she had walked
around an employee who died on the job, while doing his work as well
as her own. Why? Because, Whalen admitted, even though he
appeared to be napping on paid time, she did not want to wake him.

Pat Merritt, 74, died on February 24, 2007 in Mira Loma,
California. “A New York City native, Merritt came to the Jurupa
area in 1968 and made citizen’s arrests for animal cruelty on three
occasions,” recalled John Asbury of the Riverside Press-Enter-prise.
“She worked as a paralegal and began volunteer work with Riverside
Animal Services in the 1970s.” A friend, Mary Burns, told Asbury
that Merritt was instrumental in getting Riverside to stop killing
animals by decompression. “Merritt also fought to establish a
spay/neuter clinic in Riverside in 1976,” Asbury added. “She served
on multiple animal service committees, and won a court order against
the county to keep spay/neuter clinics open, said Judge Robert J.
Timlin, of Corona. The Rubidoux dog park was named for Merritt in
2002.”

Ashlee Germaine Pfaff, 28, a Denver Zoo caretaker since
2005, was fatally mauled by a jaguar named Jorge. “A preliminary
investigation showed that a door between Pfaff and Jorge’s enclosure
was open. Because Pfaff was alone at the time, authorities don’t
know why the door was open and not locked,” reported Denver Post
staff writer Felisa Cardona. A 2002 graduate of New Mexico State
University, Pfaff previously worked with tigers, otters, and birds
at Colorado’s Ocean Journey, which closed in 2003. Pfaff was
reportedly the first Denver Zoo employee to be seriously injured by
an animal in more than 30 years, and the first to be killed in more
than 80 years.

Georgia Wiesendanger, 92, who died in October 2006,
founder of the Protectors of Animal Life Society in Win-throp,
Maine, left an estate valued at approximately $1 million to PALS and
the Kennebec Valley Humane Society. “Wiesendanger took her Great
Danes wherever she went, and previously donated land and money to
animal shelters,” recalled Associated Press.

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