No animals hurt after robbery, fire at Columbia County Humane Society in Portage

April 8, 2019

Somebody broke into the Columbia County Humane Society, stole money and started towels on fire in the attached garage Sunday night in Portage, authorities say.

No animals were taken or harmed in the incident, Executive Director Susan Bratcher said, but two windows were broken, one to gain entry to the facility and another in an office.

“We’re just thankful that nothing happened to the animals,” Bratcher said. “We can fix the windows.”

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident and encourages anyone with information to call 608-742-4166.

The Humane Society was closed Monday because of the break-in but will resume normal hours Tuesday, Bratcher said.

The fire was out completely when Shelter Manager Jennifer Schkirkie arrived at work shortly before 8 a.m. Monday morning and called the Portage Fire Department, she said. She’s not sure if it was one large towel or multiple hand towels that burned “because it was all black,” she added.

The fire was located near the center of the garage, which is used for storage, Schkirkie said. Flammable objects nearby included old paperwork, plastic carriers, cardboard and more towels.

“There could have been danger to our main building, and this was next to where we house all of our dogs,” Schkirkie said. “We’re lucky it didn’t spread.”

Whomever is responsible for the incident gained access to the garage through the main building and by passing through the dog kennel, Bratcher said.

The organization is looking into ways to better secure its building “so that this never happens again,” Schkirkie said.

The Portage Fire Department arrived at the scene at 8:12 a.m. Monday.

“I’m glad there were no animals injured and that no smoke had entered the building,” Chief Clayton Simonson said. “That’s a good thing.”