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Presidential Fireside Chat #11

Hi Friends, this is Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. I am so pleased to welcome you to our eleventh “Fireside Chat.”

As many of you recall, we started our fireside chats at the beginning of the pandemic when we just wanted to spend time together so we could share updates and provide important information about the animals in our lives. And here we are already on our  #11 Fireside Chat.

I wanted to open up today’s incredibly informative discussion on our Feed the Hungry campaign, with some personal reflection.

The pandemic rages on with many states seeing surges in the virus, and there’s been so much economic pain and cost throughout our country. And friends, as I think about what is going on, not just in our country but around the world, I also think about the animals. I think about how it’s so important now to be a voice for the voiceless.

This week, I , hosted the International Conservation Caucus Foundation congressional briefing on the impact of COVID-19 on our country’s zoos and aquariums. I learned heartbreaking stories of zoos and aquariums that are struggling financially as they reopen their facilities to their communities. May zoos and aquariums didn’t have the lifeboats of financial resources to withstand the pandemic’s length. And, as they open, keep in mind that they never really closed, with the exception of public viewing. These facilities still continued to provide world-class care of their animals in the months that we haven’t been able to visit them.

However, some zoos and aquariums are facing very tough choices as they go through the summer. Will they be able to continue to do their vital work in conservation? Will they be able to continue to do their incredible work in animal rescue and rehabilitation? And will they be able to continue to educate the next generation of conservationists?

The next few months are crucial for our states’ zoos and aquariums. And friends, I’m worried. And, I wanted to share this message from our briefing that many of them are worried too. We need to make sure we’re a voice for them and paying attention to what’s happening to our communities’ zoos and aquariums. We need to stay in touch with what they need to be able to continue their very important work.

Not only am I worried about the incredibly magnificent creature in zoos and aquariums that are in danger, I’m also worried aboutmagnificent species in continents such as Africa. In fact, it was this week that I was to be back in Rwanda doing some vital conservation work, boots on the ground, with the government regarding their anti-poaching campaign. It occurred to me when I looked just last week and learned about the incredibly heartbreaking news of the murder of the gorilla, Rafiki, in Uganda. I was heartbroken when I learned of his death, and I worry about the incredible gorillas that I tracked in Rwanda just a few short months before the pandemic hit.

In fact, we were going to, this week, launch a new effort to support anti-poaching dogs in Rwanda to keep these magnificent species safe from poachers. And friends today, I’m reaching out to you to share this news and this very important call to action. I want to continue that work in Rwanda although we will be virtual and far away, and I want to support their efforts to train an anti-poaching dog – one of these incredible hero dogs – that will keep magnificent, endangered species safe from the trafficking and poachers that do so much harm.

I am looking to raise this summer $10,000 to send to our friends in Rwanda to support the humane training of an anti-poaching dog, and I hope you will join me in launching this campaign to do so. We need to be boots on the ground in Rwanda, and when the world opens up and we deal with a post-COVID world, I’ll be there to help. In the meantime, I want to continue to uplift our efforts virtually to prevent poaching and prevent wildlife trafficking, and I hope you’ll join me in this cause, and help us find those funds to support the training of anti-poaching dog.

In memory of Rafiki and all the incredible gorillas who are critically endangered, I hope you’ll join me in this call to action. I hope you’ll join me in supporting conservation efforts across the globe.

I had to open today’s Fireside Chat, because that was personally touching my heart – my heart breaks for these incredibly magnificent creatures around our beautiful Earth who are being impacted today by COVID and those unintentional consequences of COVID as the world has stopped and tourism has stopped, dollars going into those countries who are supported through safaris and the like are gone. Bush meat trade has just resumed at such a rapid rate, and that breaks my heart. So, I hope we can do more to help the voiceless in these incredibly challenging and desperate times.

What we are doing boots on the ground today for our country’s own shelter and rescue groups are indeed awesome and so inspiring! And today, I’m so happy to welcome our wonderful spokesperson for our national Feed the Hungry campaign, Jean Shafiroff.

Jean will be leading today’s Fireside Chat as our special host. I want to welcome her and thank her for her incredible leadership. She has some great guest speakers today who will share what our Feed the Hungry campaign has done for animals right in our own country. I’m so glad that each of you are listening to the call, you’ve been such incredible supporters – champions of compassion – allowing us to do this work to feed the hungry in our own country, and I thank you for what you do.

And Jean, I welcome you to our Fireside Chat. Thank you for serving as our host today. I’m going to turn the call over to you, and again, gratitude from all of us at American Humane, and all of the lives you have touched, and all of our donors and champions of compassion. Jean, thank you for being with us.

JEANNE SHAFIROFF:

Well Robin, first I want to thank you for your incredible leadership. I am so honored to host today’s “Fireside Chat,” which is an innovative national forum for special friends of American Humane.

We felt that it was especially important during the pandemic, when so many animals are in need, to pull together America’s leading movers and shakers in the humane field and galvanize efforts to make sure that we are helping our best friends in their worst times.

As many of you know, American Humane took a leading role in encouraging people to adopt or foster a shelter pet during the pandemic, American Humane has worked hard to dismiss untrue rumors about pets transmitting the virus, which can lead to more people abandoning their animals out of unfounded fear.

While shelters in more populated and wealthier cities have seen a positive reaction to our adoption messaging, many in rural areas of our country or in places with fewer resources still have too many animals and with the onset of “kitten season” with millions of cats being born, who are desperately struggling to survive.

This is why I joined American Humane’s “Feed the Hungry” campaign. I am honored to help abandoned shelter animals during the pandemic, when donations and foot traffic are down, and animals are at their most vulnerable.

Our goal is to provide support for 1 Million meals, and I am happy to report that we have already reached a significant milestone toward that ambitious target, delivering funding for more than half a million comforting and nutritious meals to animals living in shelters in 27 states!

I think the impact of this campaign becomes clearer when you hear from the people on the front lines themselves.

It’s my privilege to introduce you to some of the dedicated people working seven days a week to care for animals for whom a shelter is often a last chance for hope.

Rebecca Eakins is the Executive Director of Spay Anyway in Louisville, Kentucky, to which American Humane gave one of our “Feed the Hungry” grants.

Rebecca, welcome to our Fireside Chat. Would you tell us a little about what you do at Spay Anyway and what kinds of challenges are you facing at this time of year and as a result of the pandemic?

REBECCA:

Absolutely, thank you. We run a fairly small group that is primarily a spay and neuter assistance program for cats. What we have found in our work is that a lot of people have quite a large number of cats in their care, and they’re willing to continue to care for them if they receive help. We primarily focus on spay and neuter, but we have just found so many people that also get in the position where that cannot afford to continue to provide food and litter for their cats, so we have added that to our budget and that’s one of the things that this grant is really going to help us with – to help keep cats in their homes rather than being surrendered with more and more people unemployed right now.

Our primary focus right now is spay and neuter, and we actually receive a lot of help for that with cats, but we also seek out people who are in need of our services. We seek out people who are giving away unaltered cats and kittens on dangerous free sites, and we offer them help in order to keep as many kittens out of unsafe hands as possible. After we learn more about each person’s situation, if we can keep cats in their home, we will gladly assist with food as well, and get all the cats fixed for these people.

JEAN:

Well, thank you for all the good work you are doing for the animals and families in the Louisville area. I really encourage everyone on the call to help animals waiting for their forever home, and support lifesaving organizations like Rebecca’s.  It’s easy.  Just visit our web site (www.americanhumaneorg) and help us save a life.

And now, I would like now to welcome our next guest, Wendy Hickey.   Wendy is the Henderson, Nevada Coordinator of “Street Dogz,” which is based in Las Vegas and has a branch in Henderson.

Thank you for joining us today, Wendy, and thank you especially for all you are doing for animals.  Would you tell us a little about what you do at Street Dogz and what kinds of challenges are you facing now as a result of the pandemic?

WENDY:

We help the homeless and the low income keep their pets. We want to ensure that no pet is surrendered due to lack of resources on the part of their human. We help them with food, medical bills, to the homeless we provide booties, cooling scarves in the summer and jackets in the winter. We just want to ensure that the pet is well cared for and, especially due to this pandemic, many of the programs in Las Vegas have shut their doors, so our numbers have increased tremendously. We have about 15-20 pets that are on specific food that isn’t a normal donation that we have to buy the food for, so that’s what the gant will help us with – to provide them with food. We have one dog that has to have kidney food because his kidneys are shutting down, things like that. We also help with spay and neuter. If they are homeless, we give them a 2-3 day stay at a motel so that their pet can recover from surgery. Just last month, we did seven spay and neuters, we had six pets vaccinated, we’ve provided day-boarding for our homeless pets because our temperatures are at 118 degrees, so they can drop their pet off at a vet hospital or a vet clinic during the day and pick them up at night time. We’ve done six of those for the month of May. We have helped 14 pets with medical care – anything from burnt paws because they were on the pavement or we have a couple animals who have allergies or licking issues that we help them with. We’ve had dogs that got in fights that we’ve helped recover, and we’ve also helped seven pets in the month of May with end of life assistance.

We have about 30 volunteers, and every one of us works a full-time job. During the pandemic, some of us were laid off, but before it and afterwards, many of us work 40 hours a week plus our volunteer work. We deliver to people or we set up distributions where people can come to us, so on an average week, I log about 100-150 miles on my vehicle getting all the stuff for these people. We work very hard and we just want to see these animals cared for and that’s what we’re providing assistance with.

JEAN:

Thank you so much- God will certainly bless you for your wonderful work. As our listeners know, helping animals during the COVID-19 crisis – and all year ‘round – is something we all need to work together on.  We are very honored to be able to help you in your work and hope that we can continue to partner on many more lifesaving projects in the future.

Now, I’d like to welcome our last guest in today’s Fireside Chat.

Kim Zimmerman is the business manager for the Middleburg Humane Foundation in Virginia.

Kim, we’ve heard some of the issues Rebecca and Wendy have been dealing with in trying to take care of our animal friends during these very unusual times.  Can you please tell all of us some of the challenges that have been part of your experience and what Middleburg Humane has been facing?

KIM:

Like the other two guests, we face a lot of the same issues. One of our issues is definitely a decline in our monetary contributions. One thing that has happened is that our major annual fundraiser, which was supposed to take place in April, was postponed. We thought we could reschedule our major fundraiser for the month of June and then as COVID continued, we realized lets see if we can push it to August. And after talking to our Board of Directors and staff, we finally decided we were going to have to cancel the event. That event was something that would have brought in lots of dollars to get us through the rest of the year. So that’s been a problem.

We also recently moved in to a brand new adoption facility – we moved in last September – so we really felt that 2020 was going to be our year to shine and show off our new building and our adoption center. We really rely on volunteers to help us on a day to day basis and because of COVID, we’ve had to pretty much halt our volunteer program. It’s been really challenging to try to stay connected to our supporters and our volunteers.

Mostly we’ve been trying to stay connected through social media and we did come up with a new program called our equine companion program. We have horses here at the facility, on our 23-acre facility, and we started this equine companion program where we had sign ups for volunteers who can come and sit right outside the paddocks of our horses and read to them and feed them. It’s been a very fun program, and we’ve had volunteers come from all over Northern Virginia who otherwise probably wouldn’t have been connected to us. So that’s been really fun and exciting.

JEAN:

Thank you for that incredible work. American Humane hopes that our “Feed the Hungry” campaign has been able to help you with this good work. Kim, thank you very very much. It’s amazing to hear the wonderful work you are doing.

We’ve talked to three of the people today who are doing so much to make a difference in the lives of animals. American Humane has been able to assist shelters, animal food banks, and even zoological sanctuaries across the country. So far, as I said, we have already delivered support for more than half a million meals, and we are steadfastly looking forward to delivering another half a million meals to animals in need.

If you care about these beautiful animals who are probably even more frightened and more lonely than we are during this terrible pandemic, as they wait for what may hopefully be their forever home, then please, PLEASE join our “Feed the Hungry” campaign at whatever level is comfortable for you. It’s easy….just go online and visit us at www.americanhumane.org and you’ll help save a life.

For all of you listening, don’t ever feel that a small donation doesn’t help. Collectively, a gift even $25, $50, $100, together these donations can help to make a difference. And of course, the $1000, $5000, $10,000, really make change. And if anyone is able to donate $25,000 or $50,000 or $100,000 or even one million dollars, you would just really change the lives of thousands of animals here in the United States.

Thank you all for joining us today, and for all you do with American Humane to protect and give better lives to some one billion animals around the world each year.

I want to give special thanks to Rebecca Eakins, Wendy Hickey and Kim Zimmerman for being out there on the front lines, helping thousands of animals every day in our communities.

Together, we are making a big difference during this horrific pandemic. If we continue to work together, we can make a difference for so many in need, and I hope each one of you can help us spread the word about the work we are doing.

Our campaigns, our newsletters and our new, annual Impact Report are all on our website and can help recruit new support to our cause, which is more important than ever before.

Thank you again, and we look forward to talking with all of you at our next Fireside Chat in July as we move these important meetings to a monthly basis.  Please stay safe.

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