"Dog Lady" really a Dog Hero

Submitted by karin


(Elaine Bosler and one of her canine charges,  April 1977, Courtesy of The WCVB Collection, Northeast Historic Film)

For the past year and a half I have been processing our WCVB Collection for the Boston TV Digital News Project. We have now begun to digitize this material and it is exciting to finally see what they are about. One story that was voted on was a couple reels with the slug “Dog Lady” or “Princeton Dog Lady.” From looking at the story sheet it looked like this was just a story about a woman who was hoarding animals in her house, but it turned out to be something different and much more interesting.

The “Dog Lady” that the slug refers to is Elaine Bosler, who was the appointed dog officer for 6 years in Princeton Massachusetts. As the town dog officer she was supposed to destroy animals if they had not been adopted after 10 days. Instead of killing the animals, however, she took them to her own house and continued to work to place them with new owners. She used her own money to spay and neuter them and kept them at her personal residence until she could find them a new home. At the most she had 37 dogs and 24 cats living with her. When new neighbors moved in and complained to the town she was taken to court. This is the point in Elaine’s story, spring of 1977, where the WCVB stories take place. She is interviewed at her home and before going into court, but Elaine’s story did not end there.

After a year of legal battles the judge told her that she could keep 10 animals, but the rest had to be destroyed. Elaine found this to be unacceptable so she asked for a two-month stay in order to sell her home and move out of Princeton. She found a bigger and much more rural house and moved with all of the animals to Barre, MA. She then started the Bosler Humane Society in 1978. This organization still exists today and remains the largest no-kill shelter in New England. By 1982 she had placed over 5,000 animals in new homes, and by 2007 she had 10 paid employees and an annual budget of half a million dollars.

I am an animal lover, an adamant supporter of no-kill shelters, and have a dog myself, so I was very moved by this story. It is obvious when watching these interviews with Elaine that she is a tenacious and compassionate woman, and her actions have saved thousands of animals. There are several videos on the Bosler Humane Society website of news stories or interviews featuring Elaine. After watching these videos and reading some of the testimonials on the website I know that I am not the only person who sees Elaine as a hero to dogs and cats all over New England. I am very happy that I ran across this story and can’t wait to see what other treasures are unearthed as I continue to digitize this material.