Animal lovers from across the Lone Star State adopted 2,256 cats, kittens, dogs and puppies—and even a few pocket pets—on Saturday, August 16, during “Empty the Shelter Day,” the largest ever pet adoption effort in North Texas, sponsored in part by the ASPCA.
Shelters large and small, municipal and non-profit—33 total—literally emptied their shelters during the one-day, fee-waived adoption event.
“It was a sight to see and the best day of my 18-year career,” said Corey Price, animal services manager for the City of Irving Animal Services, an open-admission shelter. “Veterans of the animal welfare community were left speechless, and shelter workers and volunteers shed tears as they walked past empty kennels and cages.”
It was Price who set the wheels in motion in June for the multiple-shelter collaboration when she and her staff began thinking beyond the smaller scale “Empty the Shelter” event they had hosted in previous years. They pitched the idea to broadcaster NBC5/Telemundo39, which immediately got on board, and began spreading the word.
Shelters signed on like wildfire. NBC5/Telemundo39 provided PSAs and promotional coverage; the ASPCA provided funds for other local advertising and grassroots efforts.
Lines of soon-to-be-adopters began at 7 a.m. at the Humane Society of North Texas in Ft. Worth.
Ann Barnes, executive director of the Humane Society of North Texas, the oldest animal welfare agency in the region, placed more animals—339—than any other single agency, said the event was “all hands on deck” for her team and, despite the Texas heat and long lines, “the community support was overwhelming.”
At Dallas Animal Services, customers waited as long as three hours to adopt but were “patient and committed,” says Rebecca Poling, a board member of the Dallas Companion Animal Project, which supplied volunteers to DAS for the event. “It was not so much about adopting a pet for free as it was about saving lives. The event really gave people the chance to be a part of something.”
“People got the message,” adds Pam Burney, vice president of community initiatives for the ASPCA and who visited several participating shelters during the event. “What’s great is all the shelters did well—even small ones.”
That’s certainly true of North Richland Hills Animal Adoption & Rescue Center, which placed 39 pets during their event. “In 2013, for the entire month of August, we placed less than that—just 34,” says Chun Mezger, humane division supervisor for the City of North Richland Hills. “Our community really supported us.”
Staff at North Richland Hills Animal Adoption & Rescue Center rallied in memory of their co-worker Mary Beth Chastain who died of cancer four days earlier. The shelter placed 39 pets during the event—more adoptions than in the entire month of August 2013.
For Chun’s staff, the event was also tinged with sadness. “We just lost one of our own—Mary Beth Chastain, a humane officer—to cancer on Wednesday,” Mezger says. “But our team did an amazing job pulling together to honor Mary Beth by ‘knocking it out of the park’ on Saturday.”
In 2013, aggregate adoptions for the same 33 participating shelters, on the same August day, was just 266, according to Price. The final count for Empty the Shelter Day increased that number nearly ten-fold.
“For the first time ever, our two shelters were nearly empty,” says James Bias, president and CEO of the SPCA of Texas, where just three dogs remained at the organization’s Jan Rees-Jones Animal Care Center in Dallas and its Russell H. Perry Animal Care Center in McKinney stood empty. “In one day, 163 animals found their forever homes—half as many as find homes in any given week.”
By 4 PM, HSNT had run out of dogs (Courtesy HSNT)
“We’ve never seen room after room of empty kennels,” adds Barnes, whose organization was out of its 208 dogs by 4 p.m. and by day’s end had also placed 126 cats, two rabbits and three other small mammals. “It was a real morale booster.”
By 2:30 p.m., Dallas Animal Services was out of adoptable pets and began directing clients to its Lost and Found area where they could pre-adopt animals on stray hold if they went unclaimed. “I’d never seen it empty like this since the day we opened,” says Poling. “Pod after pod, row after row. It was almost eerie. But it was a great thing.”
Hazel Russell of Watauga, Texas adopted Chloe, a Chihuahua, at the N. Richland Hills event. (Courtesy NRHAA&RC)
Despite the myth that fee-waived adoptions don’t yield good homes for cats and dogs, Barnes says her team’s experience during “Empty the Shelter” de-bunked that theory. “Our adoption applications were perfect—just what we wanted for each animal,” she says. Adds the ASPCA’s Burney: “It’s only the fee that was waived, not the criteria. In fact, some adopters visited shelters on Friday and paid fees so they could be sure to get first pick.”
In the end, says Price, the best part was not only the support from the community, but how “participating shelters embraced and ran with the concept.”
“I’m really impressed with the North Texas animal welfare community,” she says. “This is just the beginning.”
The ASPCA Equine Fund’s Rescuing Racers Initiative is pleased to celebrate its fifth year with the announcement of 25 new grant recipients. Launched in 2010, Rescuing Racers Initiative is a major grants program created to aid in the rescue and rehabilitation of retired racehorses—many suffering from career-ending injuries—to save them from slaughter. The inclusion of this year’s recipients brings the program’s total to $1.7 million in equine-related grants since 2010.
“The ASPCA Rescuing Racers Initiative began with an anonymous donation of $1 million, and we’ve been fortunate enough to carry on this much-needed grants program thanks to the continued generosity of that donor and many other animal advocates,” said Jacque Schultz, Senior Director of the ASPCA Equine Fund. “We’re grateful to have the resources to assist these rescues, which provide sanctuary and after-care to retired racers, saving them from ending up at livestock auctions and slaughterhouses.”
This year’s recipients include a wide range of equine rescues from 14 states, and each will be awarded a grant ranging from $1,500-$25,000. The grant funding helps the groups increase capacity for rescuing more horses, and this year primarily focused on training and rehabilitation costs such as veterinary care, therapeutic shoeing, and boarding to recover from career-ending injuries.
“Rescuing is only the beginning,” said Susan Peirce, president and founder of Red Bucket Equine Rescue, one of the grant recipients. “With deep appreciation to the ASPCA Rescuing Racers Initiative, we will be able to continue to rescue, rehabilitate, and train deserving equines.”
The organizations joining the list of rescues and sanctuaries as part of the ASPCA Rescuing Racers Initiative for 2014 are:
Akindale Rehabilitation & Land Conservation, NY
Brook Hill Retirement Center for Horses, VA
Equine Outreach, Inc, OR
The Exceller Fund, KY
FL TRAC, FL
Friends of Ferdinand, IN
Hidden Acres Thoroughbred Rescue, FL
Hooved Animal Humane Society, IL
Kearney Area Community Foundation/Double R Horse Rescue, NE
Kentucky Equine Humane Center, KY
Makers Mark Secretariat Center, KY
MidAtlantic Horse Rescue, MD
Neigh Savers Foundation, CA
New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, OH
Red Bucket Equine Rescue, CA
Rerun Inc, VA
Second Stride, NY
Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue, CA
Standardbred Retirement Foundation, NJ
Thoroughbred Athletes, OK
Thoroughbred Placement and Rescue, MD
United Pegasus Foundation, CA
Please join us in congratulating this year’s Rescuing Racers Initiative grant recipients!
We’d like to extend a big thanks to the PEDIGREE Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping dogs in need find loving homes by supporting the good work of shelters and dog rescue organizations around the country. In 2013, the Foundation awarded a $25,000 grant to the ASPCA in support of our Behavior Rehabilitation Center. The ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center at St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey, is the first and only facility dedicated to providing behavioral rehabilitation for undersocialized canine victims of cruelty, such as those confiscated from puppy mills and hoarding situations.
Julie Duke, Executive Director of the PEDIGREE Foundation, paid a visit to the Behavior Rehabilitation Center. She was so impressed with the work the ASPCA is doing to help turn severely fearful dogs into adoptable companions that she arranged for Kristen Collins, ASPCA Director of Anti-Cruelty Behavior Rehabilitation, to present at the 2014 Tennessee Animal Control Conference on August 4 and 5. Julie strongly believes that animal welfare shelters in Tennessee will benefit greatly from hearing our specialists talk about the Center and our work there.
We are truly grateful for the PEDIGREE Foundation's generous support. For more information about the Foundation, please visit www.pedigreefoundation.org.
Today is an exciting day for horses nationwide: The ASPCA Equine Fund has officially awarded its 1,000th grant! The $5,000 grant, awarded to Equestrian Inc. of Tampa, Florida, will be used to repair the organization’s feed room roof, which was destroyed during a storm in May. During the storm, Equestrian Inc. lost $4,000 in grain and hay.
The ASPCA Equine Fund has supported non-profit equine welfare organizations since the program’s origin as the Lucky Fund in 1996. The Fund provides life-saving resources to organizations nationwide including financial help, consultation, in-person and online training and sharing of best practices. In 2013 the ASPCA awarded $1.4 million in grants to support equine rescues and sanctuaries in 43 states and the District of Columbia. Since 2008, the ASPCA Equine Fund has awarded a total of approximately $5.5 million to more than 450 organizations.
When a 34-year-old woman made the difficult decision to flee from domestic violence in her home, she ran into an immediate roadblock: her Chihuahua, Peppah. Though recent studies show that 70 percent of domestic violence perpetrators also threatened, injured, or killed their pets, this woman couldn’t find a single shelter in New York City that was willing to take both her and Peppah in. Desperate, she turned to the Mayor’s Alliance of New York City, who agreed to foster the dog temporarily while she looked for a solution. That solution finally came in the form of Urban Resources Institute (URI).
URI is a non-profit agency that provides safe shelter not only for domestic violence survivors, but for their pets as well. Their PALS Program (People and Animals Living Safely) marks the creation of New York City’s first and only domestic violence shelter that allows pets—and with studies showing that nearly half of domestic violence victims delayed fleeing out of fear for their animals, this resource could not have come at a more crucial time.
“Lack of pet-friendly sheltering options places animals and people at risk of continued violence and harm,” says Allison Cardona, Senior Director of Cruelty Intervention Advocacy at the ASPCA. “The PALS program is a life-saving initiative that keeps families together and should inspire other providers to follow suit.”
Once in the URI shelter, the woman and her children were reunited with Peppah.”The kids—when finally we got here, they didn’t even want to go to school that day,” she said. “They just wanted to stay home and be with her.”
In February, the ASPCA announced a $75,000 grant in support of URI PALS. In addition to financial support, our partnership with the program also includes an array of services ranging from veterinary care to foster assistance. So when the time came for the woman and her family to leave URI and transition into more permanent housing, the ASPCA’s own Jamie Scotto stepped in.
A Senior Manager in our Shelter Research and Development department, Jamie brought Peppah into her home as a foster so that the woman could work on getting into long-term housing. “I wanted to give her the opportunity to focus on the rest of her life,” says Jamie. “I saw first-hand that just a few weeks of foster care can mean the difference between an animal being surrendered and that animal staying with their family.”
In addition to our work with URI, the ASPCA is on the ground in several states around the country spearheading legal efforts to include pets in orders of protection. We are committed to keeping domestic violence survivors and their pets together, and though Jamie and Peppah have grown close, we cannot wait for the day when this sweet dog and her family are reunited in a safe, permanent home.