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.