Guest Blog by Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President & CEO
One of the most remarkable things about animal advocacy is that, while our mission has never been more urgent, the opportunity to create substantial and lasting change has never been more obtainable.
Whether you represent an organization with strong support and national reach like the ASPCA, or are simply in a position to make a difference locally, every effort has a life-saving impact.
Last week, we recognized some of the most remarkable people and animals on the front lines of that effort by bestowing our annual ASPCA Humane Awards. The recipients we honored include incredibly resilient dogs and cats, organizations tackling animal cruelty and transforming communities, a congressional leader who championed compassion like no other, and a child who gave her most valuable gift to animals in need.
Collectively, they open our eyes to not only to the challenges of protecting animals from cruelty, but also, our ability and duty to better their lives, and – as a result – improve our own. I hope these stories are shared and appreciated so that such laudable behavior will one day shift from remarkable acts by dedicated individuals to social norms of our entire culture.
To that end, I share these stories with you now.
ASPCA® Tommy P. Monahan Kid of the Year, Annika Glover
Alabama native Annika Glover, 11, had been battling a cancerous brain tumor for nearly four years. But when she became a participant in the Make-A-Wish program, she put the needs of vulnerable animals ahead of her own. Annika used her one wish to save shelter animals. This wish was granted by the Alabama chapter of Make-A-Wish, which donated $7,000 in Annika’s name to the Pets Are Worth Saving (P.A.W.S.) rescue group in Florence, Alabama. With her cancer now in remission, Annika spends much time volunteering at shelter events.
ASPCA® Presidential Service Award recipient, Congressman Jim Moran
When Congressman Jim Moran announced that he would retire at the end of his term in 2014, it became clear that animals would lose a longtime ally in Congress. Moran’s unwavering dedication to ending animal cruelty gave a compassionate voice to the voiceless in the halls of Congress. The twelve-term Congressman from Northern Virginia has been one of Capitol Hill’s strongest champions for animal welfare, advocating for causes including ending horse slaughter, cracking down on abusive animal fighting, and introducing a bill to phase out animal testing for cosmetics in the United States. As co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, Rep. Moran worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle to create humane, common-sense legislation, ensuring a strong legacy of accomplishments and advocacy that will no doubt inspire other leaders.
Cat of the Year, Studley
Studley the cat was found abandoned and starved along the side of the road in Washington state in 2006. After making a full recovery, Studley became a therapy cat—giving love and comfort to people in need. The only therapy cat in the program out of more than 30 animals in the Providence Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy program (PAAA/T), Studley has been a regular visitor to the Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Washington, where’s he’s offered comfort to patients of all ages since 2007.
The ASPCA assisted in the recovery and analysis of forensic evidence from Vick’s property, which helped convict him of operating a competitive dog fighting ring, a federal offense that led to prison terms for Vick and three co-defendants. We conducted medical and behavioral evaluations on the rescued dogs, and placed the 48 who were behaviorally fit for rehabilitation with sanctuaries, rescues, foster homes and adopters throughout the country.
The black and white pit bull, who previously had few if any positive interactions with people or other dogs, was given a new life when he was adopted by foster parents in San Francisco. In 2008, Jonny found his true calling as a therapy dog with a particular affection for children, participating in programs where children practice their language skills by reading aloud to him. These days he spends much of his time offering love and support to terminally ill children receiving medical treatment, and inspired a line of plush toys in his image.
ASPCA® Henry Bergh Award recipient, Lori Weise of Downtown Dog Rescue
During her daily commute eighteen years ago to a furniture factory on the edge of Skid Row in Los Angeles, Lori Weise routinely saw stray dogs suffering from terrible abuse and horrific neglect. Inspired to act, Lori and her coworkers created Downtown Dog Rescue, which has evolved into a large volunteer-based animal charity that rescues dogs and assists underserved communities in South East Los Angeles, Watts and Compton. In 2013, Downtown Dog Rescue created the South L.A. Shelter Intervention Program, which provides pet owners resources to keep their pets at home, rather than abandon them or relinquish them to shelters.
ASPCA® Public Service Award recipient, Commissioner William J. Bratton on behalf of the New York City Police Department
In early 2014, the ASPCA initiated a historic and groundbreaking partnership with the NYPD in which the NYPD responds to all animal cruelty complaints city-wide, while the ASPCA provides expanded direct care support for animal cruelty victims. Thanks to the dedication of tens of thousands of NYPD officers—newly-trained and firmly on the case of animal abuse—animal cruelty arrests in the first six months of the program increased nearly 160 percent, and the number of animals rescued and treated by the ASPCA increased 180 percent. This past summer, the NYPD formed the department’s first Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad, which will solely focus on serving the abused and neglected animals of the city, making New York City one of the safest places in America for animals.
The ASPCA’s annual Humane Awards Luncheon is one of the most exciting events of the year. It is our chance to honor and recognize the heroes—both animal and human—who have made a positive and lasting impact on the world of animal welfare, and this year’s winners are certainly worth celebrating!
The 2014 Humane Awards winners include:
ASPCA Cat of the Year
Studley the cat was found abandoned along the side of the road by Washington-based Joint Animal Services in 2006. Weighing a mere four pounds and covered in matted fur, Studley was sick, emaciated and nearly starved to death at the time of his rescue. After being nursed back to health by one of the shelter volunteers, Studley—a cheerful white-haired feline with one gold eye and one blue eye—became a therapy cat, giving love and comfort to people in need. Studley is the only therapy cat out of more than 30 animals in the Providence Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy Program (PAAA/T), and has been a regular visitor to the Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, Washington, where he’s been offering comfort to patients primarily in the psychiatric unit since 2007.
ASPCA Tommy P. Monahan Kid of the Year
Although Annika Glover looks like a typical fifth grader, the 11-year-old has bravely battled a type of cancerous brain tumor called Medulloblastoma for nearly the last four years. When she was just nine years old, Annika was a participant in the Make-A-Wish program, where she put her love for animals above her own human interests by using her one wish to save animals in need. This wish was granted by the Alabama chapter of Make-A-Wish, which donated $7,000 in Annika’s name to the Pets Are Worth Saving (P.A.W.S.) rescue group in Florence, Alabama. “I wanted to help animals a whole bunch. I grew up around animals and love them so much,” says Annika. In August 2014, Annika received remarkable news of her own: Her cancer was in remission.
ASPCA Dog of the Year
Jonny Justice was one of 49 dogs rescued from unimaginable cruelty in the 2007 Bad Newz Kennels dog fighting investigation, which resulted in a the conviction of NFL quarterback Michael Vick and others. A black and white pit bull, Jonny had had minimal positive interactions with people or other dogs at the time of his rescue, but was given a second chance when he was adopted by his foster parents, Cris Cohen and Jennifer Long. As Jonny adjusted to life as a typical pet, it became clear that he loved interacting with children. In 2008, he found his true calling as a therapy dog, and these days spends much of his time offering love and support to terminally ill children and their families. Jonny is also a champion for literacy and has participated in programs where children practice their language skills by reading aloud to him. The tale of Jonny’s comeback—from the horrors of dog fighting to the inspirational work of a therapy dog—has traveled far and wide, even inspiring a line of plush toys that extend his ability to comfort children across the country.
It may be just the start of November, but a group of kittens is getting out of school early this year! On November 4, the ASPCA hosted a ceremony for a class of felines who recently graduated from our kitten nursery. These kittens—many of whom came in as neonates and were in jeopardy from the moment they were born—have received extensive medical and behavioral rehabilitation and will be available for adoption at the ASPCA Adoption Center.
Similar to traditional human graduation ceremonies, the event included inspiring speeches from staff, a procession of the “graduates” receiving their “diplomas,” and opportunities for kitten pics galore.
Nursery residents receive around-the-clock, life-saving care from specially-trained ASPCA staff and volunteers until they are old enough to be microchipped, vaccinated and spayed/neutered. At eight weeks of age, they are ready to be made available for adoption.
It is well known that pets can bring joy and enrichment to an adopter’s life, but did you know that animals can also make a major impact on the lives of strangers? Through Animal Assisted Therapy, your pet’s paws and purrs can provide health, healing and comfort to people in need.
The ASPCA is a Community Partner of Pet Partners, a non-profit organization that aims to improve human health through companion animals. More than one million people, from toddlers to seniors, benefit each year from a Pet Partner therapy animal team. If your reliable dog or cat would enjoy visiting hospitals, nursing homes, classrooms, libraries and other facilities, he or she could be a perfect candidate for the Pet Partners program!
To learn more, please join us for a one-hour information session for prospective volunteers. Led by experienced volunteer Susan Tiss with the assistance of Pet Partners staff, this session will cover the process for becoming a registered therapy animal team with your pet.
What: Information session for prospective therapy animal teams
Where: ASPCA National Headquarters: 424 East 92nd Street, New York, NY 10128
When: Monday, November 17 at 8:00 P.M.
Register Now: Please email [email protected] to RSVP. If you are unable to attend in person, we will send you a link to join the live webinar and online presentation. The session will also be recorded for future playback.
In honor of the cutest holiday around, we’re joining forces for the second year running with car service Uber and humor site I Can Has Cheezburger for UberKITTENS, a very special seven city kitten event.
Uber drivers will be hitting the road today with car loads of adoptable kittens to deliver some exclusive kitty playtime to offices across the country. Cat lovers can download the Uber app to their smart phones to request a special kitten car between 12pm and 4pm today, and Uber will transport the furry felines to you, accompanied by a shelter representative, for 15 minutes of on-demand kitten cuddles.
This year’s participating cities include New York, Austin, Phoenix, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Each delivery will cost $30 dollars with all proceeds benefiting each city’s local shelter. We anticipate kitten demand will be high, so please order quickly!
Each kitty from today’s event will be available for adoption, but there are millions of other kittens and cats in shelters across the country who may not be part of the Uber kitten car but are still awaiting loving, forever homes! We hope this fun event will raise the importance of making cat and pet adoption your first choice.
Don’t live in a participating city? Don’t worry, you can still join in on the fun! Enter our contest to win an ASPCA cat lover’s prize pack by telling us why rescue cats are the best cats. For a chance to win, click here.