Australian Bushfires – One Year Later

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

One year after the Australian Bushfires made headlines around the world, SPCA International is celebrating the incredible work our partners have accomplished. I am so thankful that our supporters stood up to help organizations in Australia when they were rescuing scared, hurt and displaced animals in early 2020.

At the time, our commitment included a promise to reserve some funding for rebuilding and preparedness efforts. I am thrilled to report that our strategy continues to make a positive impact for the animals of Australia.

Native Arc is just one of the organizations to receive bushfire preparedness funding. They organized the Wildlife Rescue Team to react to future bushfires and other natural disasters. Recently, their planning was put to the test in response to a bushfire north of Perth.

The fire has destroyed 86 homes, and farm animals, pets and wildlife have reportedly lost their lives. Fortunately, Wildlife Rescue Team was immediately invited by the government to organize animal rescue and treatment efforts. For the first time in history, they brought a methodical approach to wildlife rescue that included a preemptive approach to rescue. This included a phone number for reporting missing and found animals and coordination with firefighters, police and first responders on a protocol for getting injured animals into proper care.

Wildlife Rescue Team has made new inroads with the Australian government through their careful planning and quick response to this bushfire and we expect they will be called on to coordinate animal rescue responses in the future. This is critically important for the health and safety of animals because too often, an organized animal rescue response is not implemented for days or even weeks.

I look forward to sharing more about Wildlife Rescue Team’s work with you in the future. For now, thank you to everyone who supported SPCA International’s 2020 Australian bushfire response. Your support made this grant possible and has changed the future for Australia’s wildlife.

February is Spay and Neuter Awareness Month

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

Spaying and neutering our companion animals may seem commonplace, but it remains the most effective way to prevent animal overpopulation and suffering. Many SPCA International partners work in areas of the world where sterilizing animals is often not common, so they must work hard to promote this humane approach to population control. We know this is key to improving the quality of life for community animals.

I am proud to announce that this February, in honor of Spay and Neuter Awareness month, SPCA International has committed $100,000 in grants to organizations leading spay and neuter initiatives. Funding will support organizations on the front lines of caring for animal populations around the globe.  

Our partner organizations are carrying the message to rural villages and urban cities that spaying and neutering is humane and practical. Beyond educating the public, they are also setting up free and low-cost spay and neuter campaigns to ensure people can access the care their pets need. In many remote places there are no established veterinary clinics or regular access to veterinary care which makes these low-cost campaigns incredibly important.

Organizations like Spay Panama operate regular, low-cost clinics that make spay and neuter surgeries available to those who may not be able to afford it but want to do what’s right for their animals.

Helping Paws Across Borders organizes volunteer veterinarians to run sterilization and education clinics in remote areas that do not have regular access to vet care.

ADAN Morocco has helped thousands of animals before and during the pandemic while educating the community on the importance of spaying and neutering.

Across the globe, millions of animals are born, live short lives and die on the streets. These animals experience extreme suffering, which is 100% preventable with proper population control and care. Every animal spayed or neutered saves several thousand potential animals from suffering. At SPCA International we will continue to work toward the day that no animal has to suffer from simply being born into an inhospitable environment.

The bottom line is that spaying and neutering animals saves lives and improves community health. We are proud to be working with these partners that are bringing compassion and awareness to the world.

Learn more at SPCA International’s spay and neuter awareness page.

A New Shelter for Furry Angels Haven

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

This has been an extremely difficult year for everyone, including the animal welfare community. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more essential that SPCA International show up to help solutions-oriented rescue and shelter groups across the globe. Today, I want to share the story of one exceptional group, Furry Angels Haven in Wuhan, China.  

Furry Angels Haven has been saving animals’ lives long before the COVID-19 pandemic began. The animal-loving founders, Xenia and Li, supported the organization from their own pockets. They duo kept most rescued dogs and cats at their shelter for just a short time, with their focus on finding the animals overseas forever homes.

Thankfully, with so much travel between China and the rest of the world, it was simple to find flight volunteers willing to add an animal carrier to their baggage and safely deliver dogs and cats to waiting families.

Unfortunately, as COVID-19 hit Wuhan, Furry Angels Haven lost the lease on their shelter. They were forced to close the shelter’s doors, leaving them no choice but to bring the rescued dogs and cats into a small apartment while they looked for a new shelter location.

As Xenia and Li frantically searched for a new shelter, Wuhan went into lockdown and they were completely stuck. Compounding the situation, the cases of animal abandonment began to rise rapidly during this tough time. Many pet owners were out of town and couldn’t return, so pet caretakers left dogs and cats on the streets to fend for themselves. Other pets were left behind because their owners were hospitalized or had passed away from COVID-19.

Between animal meat vendors and police who were instructed to kill strays, dogs and cats were at extreme risk. Knowing that certain death awaited animals left on the streets, Xenia and Li scrambled to rescue as many dogs and cats as possible. During the most difficult time, the two found themselves personally supporting the needs of 67 dogs and 40 cats out of one small apartment.

The love and compassion that Xenia and Li have shown towards animals is undeniable. The SPCA International team is thrilled that we were able to provide Furry Angels Haven with a grant to help them build a new shelter.

The shelter is set in a beautiful and safe location on former farm land. The animals in their care have access to food, water and love from their caretakers, so much more than they had on the streets. They currently have 180 dogs and 40 cats in their care, all looking for their forever homes.

I’m thrilled to share a tour of their new facility with you!

video courtesy of Furry Angels Have Wuhan

Helping Animals in the New Year

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

As we enter into a new year, we are all looking for ways to start fresh and make the best of the months to come. For those of us who are animal lovers, our minds often turn to how we can give back to our furry friends across the globe. Here are a few helpful reminders of how we can all make the world a better place for animals in 2021.  

Resolution #1: Don’t buy animals as gifts.
As tempting as it can be to give a loved one a fluffy pup or tiny kitten, its best to wait until an entire household can make this big decision together. Animals given as gifts are often rehomed because the receiver doesn’t have the ability to care for an unexpected companion.

If you want to adopt a pet for your own household this year, consider working with your family members to understand the commitment and make a decision together about the kind of animal that best fits your unique situation. 

Resolution #2: Support your local shelter.
Local shelters are always in need of help. Donations of food, toys, and bedding are usually in short supply. Many shelters provide a list of items that they need on their websites, and others will surely share their needs if you give them a call. Also, volunteering to walk shelter pets is a good way to engage in low-contact volunteering while COVID-19 remains a threat. 

Resolution #3: Make a donation in honor of your loved one.
Whether you want to honor a beloved pet, family member or friend, there are many great animal welfare groups that can use the support. Consider donating locally or to SPCA International this year.  

To You, Loyal Donor

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

I can’t thank you enough for continuing to give during a global pandemic. This has been a challenging time to say the least, so I hope you know how deeply you are appreciated.

As the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic set in this past spring, I feared donations would stop and the shelters and rescue groups that depend on support from SPCA International would be forced to close their doors. My stomach was in knots wondering what would happen to so many vulnerable dogs and cats.

Amazingly, YOU kept giving. I know many people’s financial realities have changed and you may not have been able to give as much as you normally would have, but thanks to you, shelters and rescue groups are making it through. They are able to fill bowls, clean kennels and provide medical care because of your generosity.

Thanks to you, SPCA International was able to provide months of care for dozens of soldiers’ pets in the Middle East, eventually bringing them all home on a special rescue flight.

It would have been so easy for you to decide this year was too difficult to prioritize donations. Instead, you decided to continue giving what you could to animals in need and, in doing so, you made a huge impact.

I am so proud of the way the SPCA International team has risen to the challenge during this global pandemic, and yes, our team includes you. Together, we continue to respond quickly and compassionately to keep animals safe and healthy around the globe.

If you are interested in supporting vulnerable animals every month, please consider becoming a monthly donor. I’m excited to see what we can accomplish together in 2021.

Big Cat Public Safety Act Passed by House of Representatives

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

Here at SPCA International, we are thrilled that the Big Cat Public Safety Act was approved by the House of Representatives on December 3 and we look forward to tracking its progress through the Senate.

Personally, I believe this is one of the most important pieces of animal welfare legislation. It will prohibit the possession of lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or any hybrid of these species by individuals who are not licensed by the US Department of Agriculture.

Many people became aware of the abuse big cats experience because of the popular Netflix series Tiger King. Thankfully, our society and our leaders are standing up to put an end to the trade and exploitation of big cats in our country.

Please take a moment to contact your senators and let them know how you feel about the Big Cat Public Safety Act. You can also track the progress of the legislation to find out when it will be considered by the Senate. Together, we can stand up for big cats everywhere.

Emergency Preparedness Keeps Animals Safe Too

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

Widespread forest fires in the U.S. have caused so much destruction over the past year. In the wake of natural disasters, we always hear heartbreaking stories of evacuees struggling to find shelter with their pets, along with devastating injuries sustained by farm and wild animals.

Here at SPCA International, we stand ready to help our partner organizations across the globe when natural disasters strike. We are proud to have supported organizations in the wake of fires, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes.

We are particularly excited to be partnering with organizations in the U.S. and Australia, creating emergency preparedness plans that take animals into account.

Recent support includes a grant to Luvable Dog Rescue in Oregon. The area they serve was hard-hit by wildfires this year, and many people who lost their homes are now living in temporary shelters with their pets. Luvable Dog Rescue is providing much needed donations to displaced families caring for animals and they are working on a community-wide plan to ensure they are ready to respond to natural disasters in the future.

Communities and rescue groups everywhere can work to put their own plans in place to make sure animals are cared for when disaster strikes. At SPCA International, we’ll do everything in our power to make sure our furry friends are protected.

Pets as Gifts

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

From puppies at Christmas to bunnies at Easter, and everything in between, giving pets as gifts can be a dangerous idea. Gifting pets to others can often backfire for the giver, the receiver, and most of all – the animal.

Unwanted pets run the risk of being surrendered or neglected. Though most people agree that puppies, kittens, bunnies, and even goldfish are cute, if someone doesn’t already have a pet (or has decided on a certain number of pets), there is probably a good reason.

A few things to consider:

  • Try not to make quick pet-adoption decisions. The most successful adoptions are those that are well thought out and agreed upon by all members of a family.
  • Volunteer with animals. If you want to mark a special occasion with a feel-good animal interaction, contact your local shelter to find out if they could use dog-walkers or other volunteers to enhance the lives of their animals.
  • Offer to pet-sit. If a loved one wants a new pet, consider pet-sitting for a friend so everyone can get the feel for the level of responsibility required.
  • Adopt don’t shop. If your family has agreed to get a new pet to mark a special occasion, consider adopting from a local shelter as opposed to buying a kitten or puppy.

Of course, there is little that makes me happier than seeing well-planned and successful pet adoptions that create forever families. Many of our partners in North America and around the world have animals of every size and temperament for adoption and they would be thrilled to help you find the perfect furry family member.

The Art of Building Global Partnerships

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

The work we do here at SPCA International acknowledges that animals do not know the borders humans have drawn on maps. They don’t understand politics, nor do they discriminate based on region or country. At the end of the day, animals simply want what we want: a safe space, love and food security.

Having worked in the global community for ten years, I know each area of the world we serve will have two things: a like-minded community of animal welfare advocates, and a set of challenges unique to that community or region. The first will be the solution to figuring out the second. Often, we set out to solve an existing problem, such as access to affordable veterinary care, humane population control (spay and neuter) or adoption advocacy. The best way for our team to learn how to approach these issues is by observing and collaborating with the local community.

Most countries have similar problems when it comes to animal welfare issues. Overpopulation, unaffordable care and abundant cruelty are some of the most common problems I see in my work. At SPCA International, our number one priority is often to bring awareness and education about how animals affect community health, because unwanted animal populations and communicable diseases often lead to cruelty born out of fear.

To understand how to approach these systemic issues, we first reach out to the people doing the work on the ground. By building and establishing connections we learn how to best work within the local system. For example, in 2014 I had the opportunity to testify at the Congress of Deputies in Madrid on the issue of hare-coursing with Galgos (Spanish greyhounds). We learned from our partners that the animal cruelty these animals are victims of is illegal, but that the existing laws are not enforced. With a deeper understanding and appreciation of local culture and communication styles, we are able to create a positive and respectful dialogue with government officials and key decision makers.

Ultimately, we want new community partners to know we are there to help and support their existing efforts. By bringing a global perspective, we can recommend methods that have worked in other places and help adapt processes to best fit the outcomes we all want to see – building better, safer communities for humans and animals to live in harmony.

In Memory of Rita, a Fierce Advocate for Animals

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

My heart is heavy as I write this tribute to an amazing woman who brought the Humane Society of St. Thomas to SPCA International as a dedicated partner. Rita lived in St. Thomas and was actively involved with the local Humane Society when Hurricane Irma hit.

After her house was destroyed by the hurricane, Rita moved to the U.S. to stay with family, but she didn’t forget the animals of St. Thomas after she left. Rita was determined to find a way to help them, so she picked up the phone and got to work. I’m not sure how many different offices she called, but one of them was the line of a well-known investor and philanthropist with ties to the Virgin Islands.

Following Rita’s outreach to this philanthropist, I received a call from the foundation to see if SPCA International could help. They didn’t have a program in place for animals and were turning to us in hopes of forging a partnership. We had all watched the devastation that hurricane season brought to the U.S. Virgin Islands that year and were determined to help the animals and people of St. Thomas as much as we could.

Once we connected with Rita, I started to understand just what an incredible woman she was and how much she cared about those around her. It quickly became clear that she was a fierce advocate for animals and was passionate about helping them in any way she could.

Rita tapped into relationships she had forged during her time working in the airline industry to help SPCA International send shipments of desperately-needed veterinary supplies to her colleagues at the Humane Society of St. Thomas. Even while displaced from her own home, Rita forged a long-time partnership between two organizations that continues to make a difference in the lives of animals today.  

We were all deeply saddened to learn of Rita’s recent passing, but her legacy lives on in the memories of her family, friends and colleagues. She has made her mark on this world by giving numerous animals safer, healthier and happier lives.  

Along with a memorial gift to honor Rita’s life, I am certain the partnership between SPCA International and the St. Thomas Humane Society will continue going strong for years to come.