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How this Open Arms Challenge Grand Prize winner took inclusivity to the next level

  • 1.  How this Open Arms Challenge Grand Prize winner took inclusivity to the next level

    Posted 11-14-2023 04:01 AM

    Open Arms Challenge Grand Prize winner, Companion Animal Alliance (CAA), is no stranger to progressive policies. The open-intake shelter in Baton Rouge, LA, prides itself on being a welcoming and understanding place. It frequently waives return-to-owner fees in order to keep pets with their people, provide free pet food for those who need it and waive adoption fees in order to keep barriers to adoption low. 

    During the month of the Open Arms Challenge in April 2023, CAA aimed to focus on improving messaging, marketing and communications to its community. After all, what good is being helpful and inclusive if no one knows about the services you offer? On social media, the focus became letting its followers know that CAA was more than just a place you go to adopt a pet. During this time, two free community pet food giveaways were held in two completely different parts of the city. Each had different needs related to pets and care. 

    Emily Lemoine, Director of Grants and Communication shared, “Our Pets for Life division, who works to provide free care to people with pets in underserved areas (five zip codes in our parish), ramped up proactive outreach during this challenge period. Two of our staff members of the Pets for Life team went out in the communities with little to no access to pet care and offer free spay/neuter, food, medical care, preventatives, fencing, shelter, and much more.” 

    “During this challenge, our Pets for Life team even temporarily housed several dogs of Pets for Life clients that were temporary without homes and/or incarcerated. We believe that people belong with their pets, and our passion for this idea extends itself to daily shelter function as well,” Lemoine continued. “Our Intake Team is trained to spot when a client might be eligible for Pets for Life services and will often intercept and waive fees by way of referring the client to Pets for Life.”

    Additionally, CAA decided to try something new at pet food giveaway event at a local community center by bringing six adoptable pets with them. All six dogs were adopted in less than two hours! “We were so pleasantly surprised by this that we started bringing dogs every time we had a pet food giveaway. It was an eye opener to our organization that helped break down biases at our organization,” said Lemoine. Bigsby, was one such lucky dog. He came to an event at the Charles R Kelly Community Center after being passed over at the shelter for a couple of months. The charming and sweet Bigsby was adopted by the community center to serve as a mental health support dog for senior residents in the area that frequented the center. There, Bigsby was the star of the show. The community bathed him, picked out new toys, leashes, collars, beds and just showed him so much love. One senior member of the community fell in love with Bigsby and ended up adopting him. Now, Bigsby enjoys having a home of his own and visits the community center almost daily. 

    “Through this challenge period, we learned to open our hearts, break down biased and preconceived ideas, and have faith in the communities that we serve,” shared Lemoine. 

    If you'd like to hear even more from CAA, check out the recent Community Conversation, "Reimagining Fundraising: Ethics, Empathy, and Equity."

    Save the date for the 2024 Open Arms Challenge!


    wendy frink
    Marketing Communications Specialist
    Maddie's Fund
    New York NY