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Mary Pat Boatfield; 1949-2014: Toledo humane society’s ex chief renowned for animal advocacy



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Mary Pat Boatfield, executive director of the Toledo Area Humane Society in the 1980s and 1990s who was recognized nationally for her work protecting animals, died June 18 in Hallsville, Mo. She was 64.

Ms. Boatfield had been executive director of the Central Missouri Humane Society since 2012. She died after suffering a pulmonary embolism, the Columbia Tribune newspaper reported.

“Everything she did was about what was best for the animals,” said Patty Mazur, who oversaw public relations and special events for the Toledo humane society in the early 1990s. “Mary Pat was always very focused, strong. She’s what held us all together in the most difficult, challenging times when we as an agency would have to go out and deal with difficult situations [that] animals had been put in. Mary Pat was the glue. The rest of us had tears. She was the one who kept us going.”

Ms. Boatfield continued to run animal welfare agencies in the nearly 15 years since her forced resignation as head of the humane society in Toledo. Before taking the position in Missouri, she led the Nashville Humane Association for a dozen years, during which she created a response team to care for animals in the aftermath of floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

Ms. Boatfield was born Dec. 20, 1949, to Adelia and Robert Boatfield. She was a graduate of St. Ursula Academy. Her first job was as a dog bather in a grooming salon, she told The Blade in 1998. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the University of Toledo.

She later was an instructor in laboratory animal medicine at the Medical College of Ohio before she was hired to lead the Toledo humane society in the mid-1980s.

The agency during her tenure adopted a policy of spaying and neutering every animal that was to be adopted.

“She was probably one of the most professional people I ever worked with, yet at the same time she was one of the most compassionate for the animals and the people she led, all the way down to the people who were cleaning the kennels,” said Tracey Merrithew, who was animal-care supervisor.

The humane society in Toledo, under her leadership, was considered to be in the forefront of linking animal and family abuse and forging ties between human welfare and animal welfare agencies. She helped develop a pilot program tested in Detroit and Maumee public schools that taught children not to be cruel to any living thing, including their classmates.

Ms. Boatfield served on national animal-welfare panels and was a speaker at professional conferences. In 1997, the American Humane Association named her one of six directors of the year.

“She knew every aspect of it all, from adoption to the law to running an organization to dealing with a board,” Ms. Mazur said. “She was a dynamo. She was the real deal. She was the whole package.”

In October, 1999, she resigned under pressure from the humane society board for reasons never spelled out publicly by that board or Ms. Boatfield. Her departure followed the raids of two shelters that touted no-kill policies but were found to have housed sickly animals.

Ms. Boatfield said at the time that the issue of putting shelter animals to death was an ongoing challenge.

“I think the public really thinks that we can make a Walt Disney solution to all of this, and I’‍ve been in this business for 30 years, and there isn‘‍t,“ Ms. Boatfield told The Blade after her resignation.

Ms. Boatfield had volunteered at homeless shelters wherever she lived.

Surviving is her sister, Ann Sweeny.

Memorial services will be held at noon July 8 in Calvary Episcopal Church, Columbia, Mo. Visitation in Toledo will be from 2-8 p.m. July 10 in Coyle Funeral Home. Services will begin at 9:45 a.m. July 11 in the mortuary and continue at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 2770 W. Central Ave.

The family suggests tributes to the Toledo Area Humane Society or St. Jude Children’‍s Research Hospital in Memphis.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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