Farewell Letter from Meredith Ayan

Dear SPCA International Community,

With my heart full of gratitude, the time has come for me to end my tenure with this incredible organization after 11 years. My last day as Executive Director is June 15th; Beyond that I will remain forever a friend of SPCA International and an animal advocate.

It has been my absolute honor to lead SPCA International through the years. Together we have rescued over 1,000 animals belonging to servicemembers and we have granted millions of dollars in aid to organizations on the front lines in hundreds of countries around the world. I have had the distinct honor of testifying before the Congress of Deputies in Madrid, rescuing the first animals out of the Exclusion Zone in Chernobyl, and meeting with governments at every level around the world to improve the lives of animals. While it is the right time for me to move on, I look forward to seeing all the organization will continue to accomplish.

To every person who has been involved with SPCA International during my time with the organization, none of the accomplishments of the past years would have been possible without your support. Thank you for your lifesaving work, your donations and your friendship.


Meredith Ayan

Live Chicks for Sale: An Inhumane Practice

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

I would like to call your attention to an important animal welfare issue taking place right now. Each spring, Tractor Supply Company makes thousands of baby chicks available for purchase at their local stores. If you’re not familiar, it’s a chain of home/gardening/farm supply stores. Unfortunately, the living conditions for these babies are leading to high rates of sickness and death.

I recently visited my local Tractor Supply Company store to purchase garden boxes. I really enjoy these stores and appreciate their pet-friendly policies. However, on this trip, a foul smell assaulted me, and I realized the source was a tower of “brooders” filled with live chicks.

I was appalled to find a half-dead chick gasping for breath. I informed an employee who was visibly upset and told me this happens all the time. She removed the chick from the enclosure, but it was covered in droppings, lifeless and clearly only had a few minutes left to live. She told me the employees spend a lot of time trying to help the chicks; cleaning out their tiny enclosures and trying to keep them healthy.

Tractor Supply Company and their staff clearly want the best for animals. Their website even promotes the new “brooder” design, stating they keep the chicks warm and healthy. However, a quick internet search turns up many complaints from patrons, particularly in response to this year’s use of “brooders”.

From what I have been able to learn, the “brooders” work well in a controlled environment, but each store is unique. With locations throughout the country, it is simply impossible to keep the environmental conditions correct for the chicks. Without onsite veterinarians at every store, optimal conditions are not maintained, and chicks are not adequately attended to when they become sick, a clear violation of anti-cruelty laws.

Here in New York, where the store I visited is located, several legal protections exist for baby chicks, including anti-cruelty laws that apply to chicks, the same as they do to pets. Furthermore, NY article 26 agriculture and markets law section 354 outlines legal guidelines for the sale of chicks, requiring proper brooding facilities (tractor supply facilities fall far short of that), and prohibiting the sale of chicks under two months of age or in quantities less than 6 (the baby chicks being sold were days old, at most). Violation of these laws are misdemeanors in the state of New York, but unfortunately, stores can pass liability to employees by claiming they are responsible for the chick’s care.

Right now, the SPCA International team is drafting a letter to Tractor Supply Company to ask them to address this situation. We’ll keep insisting until something changes and will make the SPCA International community aware if we begin a petition.

In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to get involved:

Thank you for learning more and taking action on this critical animal welfare issue. My sincerest hope is that Tractor Supply Company will change their practices to improve the health and safety of chicks or will stop selling live animals.•Respectfully inform your local store manager you don’t approve of the practice. •Let Tractor Supply Company know you don’t approve of the practice here: https://www.tractorsupply.com/tsc/cms/chickdays-contact-formThank you for learning more and taking action on this critical animal welfare issue. My sincerest hope is that Tractor Supply Company will change their practices to improve the health and safety of chicks or willstop selling live animals.

Pets and Mental Health

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

It may seem obvious to long-time pet parents, but pet ownership provides numerous mental health benefits. Amidst the pandemic, more and more people are learning what many of us have long understood – pets boost our wellbeing with their unconditional love, quirky habits and daily needs. They provide emotional support and zero judgement.

HABRI (the Human Animal Bond Research Institute) has even coined a term called “The Pet Effect” to describe the mutually beneficial relationship between pets and humans. Their research has found that pet owners benefit from companionship, a sense of purpose and confidence. They also found a correlation between pet ownership and overall health, showing that pet ownership saves billions in healthcare costs each year!

Fortunately, in my work at SPCA International, I get to see the bond between humans and their pets on a regular basis. Nearly every soldier who contacts us for help transporting a pet to their home or next duty station, speaks of their love for their cat or dog. They share stories of pets helping them overcome the depression and anxiety of deployment and of the role their pets play as they assimilate back into civilian life.

Furthermore, it fills my heart with joy when SPCA International helps match lucky dogs and cats with loving forever homes. Some of these pets have suffered incredibly, but they still have so much to give, and they go on to bond deeply with their families.

Today I’m reflecting on all the animals who have lifted my mood over the years; pets that were family members and even the hurt, scared and lonely animals I have held in my work with SPCA International. As we look back on the past year of quarantine and uncertainty, I know there are many of us who are thankful that our animals were there to get us through.

Senior Pets Still Need Love

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

All too often, senior cats and dogs are left to languish in shelters. These animals often make some of the best pets because they are mature and calm. After losing our senior dog, Lilah to degenerative myelopathy at the end of 2020, I couldn’t shake my thoughts from the statistics that show many senior animals are surrendered to shelters at the end of their lives. I felt lucky to have been able to give Lilah the care and stability to peacefully transition at home in our arms.

The confusion and stress a senior animal feels when thrust into an unfamiliar shelter situation is quite high. These situations are often emotionally intense for the shelter staff that try their best to give these animals the best quality of care at the end of their lives.

No matter how good the facility and the staff are, nothing takes the place of a home.

Flare’s story caught my eye on MidHudson Animal Aid’s website. She was surrendered to the shelter at age 16 by a family who was moving and could not take her with them. She spent a year and a half at the shelter and had some interest from other families who were ultimately scared away by her medication schedule. She didn’t get along with the other cats at the shelter so she lived in the office 24 hours a day which gave her a lot of interaction with the staff but not a home of her own.

My husband and I decided to foster Flare for a month to make sure our home was the right one for her. I think we knew immediately when she came through that door, she was never leaving again.

We’ve made the adoption official and Flare is now Isadora – or Izzy for short. She just celebrated her 18th birthday with us on March 15th with some extra special treats and her standard 18 hours of sleep!

If you are considering adopting or fostering in the future, please consider a senior pet as the next addition to your family. Isadora has brought so much love and joy to our home and there are many other senior pets out there waiting to share their personalities with just the right family.

If you are caring for an older pet and the costs become prohibitive, you can find assistance through The Senior Dogs Project: https://srdogs.com/more-on-health-care-tips/financial-assistance-pet-guardians/

Woman’s Best Friend

By Meredith Ayan, Executive Director

I recently read this fascinating article that discussed women’s role in early human-canine relationships. In short, it is about how women are responsible for the co-evolution of dogs and humans and possibly played an even larger role than men in making dogs part of households.

After reviewing information from over 140 societies around the globe, researchers found “humans were more likely to regard dogs as a type of person if the dogs had a special relationship with women. They were more likely to be included in family life, treated as subjects of affection and generally, people had greater regard for them.”

These findings fascinate me because in modern times, the makeup of the animal welfare industry skews female. Time and time again, my work at SPCA International introduces me to strong, dedicated and innovative women who save countless lives of animals. I’m proud to lead a team of passionate women who know that improving the lives of animals improves our communities, homes and health.

Time and time again, we have seen how the companionship of animals can improve mental health. This has been especially clear during the global pandemic that has upended life as we knew it. Our animals have helped us navigate loss, grief and uncertainty by being positive, consistent forces in our lives. To know that our earliest female ancestors were leading the way in recognizing these bonds is an incredible discovery.

This March, Women’s History Month, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the many women and the organizations they lead on behalf of animals. Seeing incredible women-led organizations all over the world helping animals confirms what these researchers found: the bond between women and animals is strong.

Thank you to all the women who continue their dedication to animals as pet parents, foster parents, rescuers and activists. The animals of our world are better off because of you.

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.