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The Success of World Spay Day 2014

More than 40 countries participated in the 20th World Spay Day, which took place in February. Altogether, more than 68,000 animals were spayed or neutered as a result of the efforts of organizations across the country and around the world. Spaying and neutering proves one of the most effective means for reducing the number of homeless pets. In recognition of this crucial fact, the organizing groups passed 24 resolutions supporting spaying and neutering in February, which has been designated as Spay/Neuter Awareness Month.

Recently, The Humane Society of the United States recognized nine organizations that created World Spay Day events with grants totaling $50,000. Made possible by the Doris Day Animal Foundation and Abaxis, these grants will bolster these organizations’ future awareness efforts and allow them to create even stronger and larger events next February. The recipients of these grants are based in Washington, Arkansas, Arizona, California, West Virginia, and Colorado and were chosen for the effectiveness of their events and awareness efforts. The next World Spay Day will take place on February 24, 2015.


Maddie’s Fund and its Mission to End Pet Homelessness

In 1994, Dave and Cheryl Duffield established a family foundation after achieving success with their software company. Following the death of their miniature schnauzer, Maddie, in 1997, they renamed the foundation Maddie’s Fund in honor of the companionship she provided during the difficult years following the inception of the company. With an endowment in excess of $300 million, Maddie’s Fund offers grants to animal welfare groups and veterinary hospitals. In addition, the organization funds research on best practices in the care of animals and supports a range of shelter medicine programs at veterinary schools around the nation. The organization envisions a future in which no healthy or treatable animals are euthanized because they lack homes.

One of the most recent Maddie’s Fund projects represents a team effort with The Humane Society of the United States and the Ad Council. The resulting Shelter Pet Project involved a national campaign to promote shelter adoptions over purchases from pet stores. Since the inception of Maddie’s Fund, the yearly incidence of euthanasia of dogs and cats has dropped from 24 million to 3 million. The organization hopes to lower this number to zero in the coming years.

Challenges Faced by Homeless Veterans in Rural Areas

A national push to end homelessness may leave behind veterans who live in rural parts of the United States. The Housing Assistance Council recently released a report that detailed the unique challenges faced by veterans in rural areas compared to those living in urban areas. The distance between Veterans Affairs (VA) offices in rural areas can be quite significant, thereby making it difficult for veterans in these areas to access services or even know that such services exist.

The White House has undertaken a push to end homelessness by 2015, and the number of homeless veterans has dropped significantly in recent years. Several urban areas have reported that they will end chronic homelessness among veterans in the near future. Phoenix and Salt Lake City have already reached these goals. Such victories remain out of reach for rural areas without new programs. Only about 3 percent of housing vouchers have gone to rural VA offices in the past five years.

Earlier this year, VA officials began new rural outreach efforts in Mississippi and Oregon that will inform more rural programs in the future.

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial: A Solemn Tribute

The Disabled Veterans’ LIFE Memorial Foundation will travel to Washington, D.C., to host the dedication ceremony for the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in October 2014. Under the leadership of Florida philanthropist and LIFE Foundation Board Chair Lois Pope, the ceremony will serve to officially unveil the structure, which was designed by Michael Vergason Landscape Architects.

At the center of the memorial lies is a fountain in the shape of a star, complete with a ceremonial flame in the middle and water flowing into a large reflecting pool. The memorial, which includes elements of both glass and granite, represents the close relationship between loss, renewal, strength, and vulnerability. As a tribute to the sacrifice and service of veterans with disabilities, the memorial also features a number of photographs, bronze sculptures, and laminated glass panels with embedded text.

Above all, the memorial will provide veterans with disabilities and their families with the opportunity to remember those who have served their country. To learn more about the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, visit the website

Be Kind to Animals Week Promotes Animal Welfare Year-Round

The Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, Inc., and its founder maintain an ongoing concern with fostering care and compassion for animals, children, and people in need. Through her support of the American Humane Association (AHA), Palm Beach, Florida, philanthropist Lois Pope demonstrates her love for animals and her dedication to meeting the needs of those that have suffered abuse and neglect.

Established in 1877, the AHA has long served as a leading voice for public education on animal well-being. The group sponsors Be Kind to Animals Week every May and promotes the event widely through the use of social media as well as more traditional outlets. The week focuses on raising both funds and awareness in order to combat the numerous threats that pets, farm animals, and abandoned animals face.

The group found that some 3 to 4 million animals are euthanized annually. In addition, numerous pets become separated from their families during natural disasters such as Superstorm Sandy, and many others are victimized by abusive or neglectful humans.

In observance of Be Kind to Animals Week, the AHA promotes adoption of shelter animals, updating pets’ veterinary care, appreciation for wildlife in urban and rural areas, and responsible reporting of suspected cases of abuse and neglect.

Animal Therapy Brings Hope to Survivors of Child Abuse

Young people who have survived abuse and neglect face a number of serious emotional challenges as they move toward healing. A variety of organizations and programs now offer survivors the chance to interact with animals as part of the therapeutic process. Experts note that the nonjudgmental, gentle, accepting presence of a dog, cat, or other animal can help create a nurturing atmosphere for children healing from the trauma of abuse. For some children who have experienced abuse, interaction with an animal provides exactly the kind of nonthreatening touch they need. In addition, children often find that it is easier to talk about their feelings with a patient and welcoming animal listener.

A range of studies has indicated that when humans interact with animals, their blood pressure and stress decrease. One recent report from Australia detailed a project that helped children and families who survived domestic violence. Many of the child participants no longer trusted adults and had not responded well to previous counseling attempts. However, the researchers found that animal-assisted therapy with guinea pigs and rabbits increased children’s feelings of empathy through caring for beings that truly needed them. The participants tended to become more caring and gentle with siblings, thus giving researchers hope that animal therapy can become a useful tool in breaking the generation-to-generation transmission of violent behavior.

Dogs Play a Vital Role as Rescuers

Sandi, a border collie born in 1998, was a very special dog. A new owner who had adopted Sandi from a California shelter soon realized that his boundless energy was too much for a small household. Consequently, Sandi got the chance to train as a disaster search and recovery dog.

His temperament proved ideal for the job. After socialization and obedience training, Sandi graduated to a more intense, specialized education in disaster recovery. With his human partner, Sandi received advanced-level Federal Emergency Management Agency certification in 2001.

As part of a California county fire department task force, Sandi assisted in search and recovery missions that included responding to the 2003 earthquake in Iran and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Sandi died in 2013, after a long and productive life. He is only one example of the exemplary ways in which trained dogs have performed alongside humans in disaster rescue efforts.

Immediately after the attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, FEMA deployed teams of rescue dogs and their human handlers from all over the United States. Working side by side with human first responders, nearly 100 dogs tried to locate survivors, and when that failed, they served as a source of comfort to the human beings around them. Ten years later, photographer Charlotte Dumas published the book Retrieved, a collection of portraits of the surviving dogs from that mission. By the time of publication, only a dozen were still alive, and the book honors their contributions in a series of moving photographs.

Search and rescue dogs can help in numerous other ways. They can locate lost children or older adults experiencing dementia, assist with forensics at crime scenes, or find a person buried in snow after a ski accident. The intelligence, professionalism, and dedication of trained search and rescue dogs remain vital to life-saving efforts around the world.