Q&A: Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals’ Dorothy M. Claeys

The Philadelphia resident has taken up the role of executive director at the century-old shelter.

A lifelong love of animals led this attorney to take up the post of executive director at Radnor’s Francisvale. The shelter was incorporated in 1909 and named after Francis, the beloved rescue dog of the McClellan family, who got the ball rolling. In nearly a year and a half as executive director, Claeys and her volunteers have worked to save dozens of cats and dogs. 

About Francisvale: It’s a 106-year-old no-kill shelter—one of the oldest continuously run in the United States. Our mission is to provide a temporary and loving home for unwanted, abandoned and abused cats and dogs. We work hard to place our animals in homes for life. 

Why she works with animals: I’ve always had a passion for animals and their well-being. I volunteered at various shelters in Philadelphia and had been active in lobbying for animal rights. It was a natural part of what I did in my spare time. It just seemed like the next natural step was for me to come on and run the business, and it gave me a great opportunity to help animals. 

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How others can help: In addition to monetary donations, we take in-kind donations—towels, bedding, peanut butter. We have a wish list on our website. We have volunteers get involved with dog walking, animal care and administrative duties. 

Best restaurants in the area: I frequent Teresa’s Cafe, White Dog Cafe and Ella’s American Bistro. 

Favorite place to shop: Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.

From Left: Teresa’s Cafe, Trader Joe’s

Favorite area event: I was really impressed with the Radnor Fall Festival. It was so festive, and it was an opportunity to meet members of the community. 

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Favorite spot for date night: 333 Belrose.  

From Left: Radnor Fall Festival, 333 Belrose.

Best chance of getting stuck in traffic: I-76 at rush hour. 

Where she exercises: I like to walk the Francisvale Cemetery. It’s great for exercise, and it’s such a lovely experience to walk through and read some of the tombstones and see how much people loved their animals. It’s one of the most endearing things to do. 

If she had 30 minutes to herself, she would: Probably read a good book. I’m an avid reader. 

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The most unique thing about living here: The access to everything. It’s close to so many great restaurants, shops and communities. It’s a really good place to be.

A story that’s stuck with her: Recently, there was a stray dog, and somebody had called us to see if we could trap her. Before we did, one of the SPCAs brought her in. She was an older dog, and we were able to take her in—we saved her life.

About her animals: All my kids have had four paws and lots of fur. Right now, my cat, Lulu, is my companion. I love to spend time with her at home, relaxing and watching TV.  

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