Getting to know the Dumb Friends League
See our history timeline
Throughout the League’s 110-year history, many inspiring individuals shaped the organization—and animal welfare—into what it is today. From Jean Milne Gower in 1910 to Dr. Apryl Steele in 2015, who we are, what we do and what we offer is thanks to many people along the way.
Dumb Friends League founded
Jean Milne Gower founded and named the Dumb Friends League.
Dr. Mary E. Bates
Dr. Mary E. Bates, a physician, animal welfare advocate and political advocate, began her relationship with the League. Dr. Bates, along with her financial support, kept the League functioning through the lean years—teens, 20s, 30s and 40s. Upon her death in 1954, she left an estate gift that provided for homeless animals well beyond her lifetime.
Other notable supporters and leaders of the League included (the Unsinkable) Molly Brown, Mrs. Crawford Hill, Mrs. Mary Elitch Long, Mrs. Harry Stapleton and many more…
Sheilagh R. Malo
Sheilagh R. Malo connected with the League and was a strong voice and powerful fundraiser for the organization, serving on the board of directors for 53 years. The League’s Pet Memorial Garden was funded by Mrs. Malo and named in her honor.
Charlotte Barbour left $1 million in her estate to build the Quebec Street Shelter. Prior to her death in 1971, she was board chairman and a board member for 20 years. Ms. Barbour said that her bequest was “with the aim of making the Dumb Friends League one of the most outstanding institutions of its kind in the United States.”
Kathi Brock joined the League’s board of directors and, in addition to her many contributions, was primarily responsible for the success of the 2001-2003 Promise Fund capital campaign, which enlarged the Quebec Street Shelter (now known as the Leslie A. Malone Center) and built the Buddy Center. Ms. Brock was an influential leader until her passing in 2019.
Robert D. Rohde
Robert D. Rohde became the League’s executive director and spent the next four decades devoting his career and life to the welfare of animals and is a leading national figure in animal welfare causes.
Jana K. Bartlit
Jana K. Bartlit was invited by board member Kathi Brock in 2001 to help raise funds for the Buddy Center, and Mrs. Bartlit joined the board of directors the following year. Mrs. Bartlit and her husband, Fred, underwrote the first offsite spay/neuter vehicle, the Lulu Mobile, and continue to do so. The couple also makes generous donations to the League, and they organize and host one of our most successful fundraisers, Lulu’s BBQ, which has been a tradition since the inaugural event in 2002.
Dr. Apryl Steele
Dr. Apryl Steele joined the League as the vice president of strategic initiatives and then became the chief operating officer before becoming president and CEO in 2018.