Animal Welfare Professionals

 View Only
  • 1.  It's time to end the systemic neglect of rural areas.

    Posted 03-01-2023 01:55 PM
    I have spent the last couple of years writing about issues facing rural America regarding animal welfare. As I started my exploration, I expected that many problems facing rural America were primarily cultural. Even though I grew up in rural Arkansas, I was ready to accept the consensus that the plight of animals in rural areas has more to do with a difference in the emotional place that companion animals hold in the family hierarchy than city animals. There are broad assumptions that in rural areas, companion animals are more likely to have "working" positions in the family and are, therefore, somehow less emotionally valuable. While that may seem somewhat logical, what is essentially saying is that rural people are not as "emotionally developed" as our urban counterparts regarding our companion animals. Not only is that wrong, but it is also pretty insulting. Of course, you may have difficulty finding that stated explicitly nowadays, but it has undoubtedly been implied in many conversations I've had with leaders in our industry.
    I don't blame anybody for having that mindset; there is a severe lack of data and understanding of what's happening in rural areas. Most of our industry leadership has little to no experience directly working in rural areas, and the utilitarian argument makes sense, so I understand why it has been widely adopted. However, it is time for the industry to admit that the struggles in rural America have more to do with systemic neglect than anything else. Sure, the agricultural and "working animal" ethos in rural America does have an impact, but it is just one minor factor affecting rural areas.
    Last year I published an article where I crunched publicly available data to compare animal welfare grant-making between rural and non-rural areas. There are some caveats to the data, but in general, I found that while rural America represents 10% of the population, it only receives 2% of the grant funds awarded to animal welfare agencies. That is objectively horrible. I received feedback from grant-making agencies who felt the characterization was unfair because they often struggle to recruit applicant agencies for grants in rural areas. The industry wants to do right, and I have seen improvement in including rural voices and organizations seeking to provide more rural support, but the support required is much more than a few grants will cover.
    The pets and people of rural America are suffering, and with the way the economy is trending, that suffering will only increase. Much of rural America has no animal welfare infrastructure, and the existing infrastructure is increasingly fragile. Animal welfare grantmakers and support organizations must stop treating rural America like its better-developed urban and suburban siblings. Equity demands a more significant investment in rural America and must be done at the ground level. All national grantmakers and support organizations need program specialists with substantial, direct rural experience on their staff. Instead of "if you build it, they will come" grant application portals, our industry needs to directly recruit grant recipients from rural areas. We need to get people in the field educating local organizations where they exist and seeding new ones where there are none. Many current effectiveness metrics are heavily influenced by dollars-per-life-saved and cannot guide our spending in rural America. This generally short-sighted metric does not account for the systemic and prolonged suffering of people and animals in rural areas with little to no service.
    Today, I (an admitted nobody from the country) am asking for a commitment from our national leaders to shift spending and investment over the next five years so that rural America receives support in proportion to its population. That is simply 10% of animal welfare grant spending. Equity principles suggest that I ask for more to account for the prolonged neglect, but 10% is fair, reasonable, and achievable. So, how about it? Is anyone willing to commit to providing rural America with the funding it needs and deserves and to do the hard work required to make it possible?
    P.S. I do understand that some great programs are happening in rural areas, and there is support flowing; however, current levels of support are generally inadequate.


    Cole Wakefield
    Good Shepherd Humane Society, Inc.
    Eureka Springs AR

  • 2.  RE: It's time to end the systemic neglect of rural areas.

    Posted 03-11-2023 04:48 PM
    Thank you for the brutal honesty. Michelson has begun focusing our efforts & attention toward rural America. Long overdue & certainly the magic sauce to get our entire country to a life saving model we can all be proud of & deserve.

  • 3.  RE: It's time to end the systemic neglect of rural areas.

    Posted 03-11-2023 10:38 PM

    Hi Carl,

    Thank you for being the voice of rural America.  I live in rural Northeast Arkansas.  We are in a crisis.  We do not have the resources to make an impact that will change the neglect and apathy we see toward animals.  I am the founder and director of Mended Paws Sanctuary.  We receive a scant amount of grant funding, I work an extra job to keep the doors open.   

    An example of what we face every day - our kennel is a max capacity, last Thursday I received calls to assist with 19 puppies and 2 adults.  Our resources can provide food but nothing else.   The one gentleman that absolutely breaks my heart is an older handicapped gentleman who knows someone who is incarcerated,  this person left behind two mom dogs and a total of 11 puppies.  The rural town where he lives does not have animal control, the town resembles a third-world country.   This sweet man, who lives on a very tight budget, took in the mom's dogs and puppies.  He did not know who to ask for help, someone gave him my number.  He is desperate for help, he took the 11 puppies (now 4 months old) into his home and has them in a bedroom, to keep them safe.  He isn't physically able to care for them and does not have the financial resources.  He is doing the best he can to save these animals.    We have no resources to move these puppies out of our county.  They will have no life if we adopt them locally. 

    The county has a spy and neuter ordinance, but enforcing the ordinance doesn't improve the life of the animal, when people are fined they surrender the dog and eventually get another.  

    It is a vicious cycle with no end in sight.   
    There has to be an answer to the crisis.

    Thank you again,  it takes a village to rescue animals...I am waiting to find our village. 

    Connie Ash
    Mended Paws Sanctuary

  • 4.  RE: It's time to end the systemic neglect of rural areas.

    Posted 03-12-2023 06:45 AM

    Yes, we definitely need more services in rural areas. For example, here in South Florida, our organization was called out to help with TNVR and rescue in a rural isolated and impoverished area where the cat population had gotten out of control. The reason that it had gotten out of control is that the spay neuter van from animal care and control that used to come through their neighborhood had stopped for years and the people out there just don't have the money and transportation ability to get animals to a shelter to get spayed and neutered. Amazingly there were people in the community taking in cats and fostering them themselves and there was one person with traps that would TNVR any cat that came into his yard. We showed up and trapped about 100 cats and took dozens in for adoption. The community was incredibly grateful to not have tons of kittens and more mouths to feed. More county resources need to be put into areas like this where people care but are not financially and physically able to help.

    Amanda Gray
    Truly All Cats Trapping and Rescue

  • 5.  RE: It's time to end the systemic neglect of rural areas.

    Posted 03-12-2023 08:23 PM

    Kudos to you for addressing what we in rural/underserved areas have long encountered! There are few grantors willing to even entertain the idea of funding small, low budget, rural/grass roots projects to any significant degree-an issue typically complicated by the fact that so many rural/grass roots organizations simply lack the resources and manpower to collect/provide the extensive "data" grantors often require when an application or report is submitted. Great work is being done by rural animal welfare organizations, but recognition of that fact is lacking at the national level, and such organizations struggle to remain alive.

    L.A Nesbitt
    Pets In Need Action League
    Casa Grande, AZ 85130

  • 6.  RE: It's time to end the systemic neglect of rural areas.

    Posted 03-12-2023 09:54 PM

    Hi Lynda,

    I'm a grant writer and one of the ways to get around some of the restrictions via grantors is to team up with other, more established organizations. Grantors LOVE to see collaborations and community support, and the more people involved, the greater the impact. Rural and underserved areas are gaining some momentum in the grant world as they can reach far and wide and make a significant impact. I know that Best Friends has grants through the Rachel Ray Foundation that specifically supports organizations that collaborate and are in areas that need more help. If you go to their website, you can see what the priorities are for your region and once the grant cycle comes around, you can actually meet with an advisor from BF that will help you make your application as strong as it can be. You need to be network partners with them, but I don't believe there are many restrictions to that besides being a 501c3 and running for 2 years. 

    If you have access to the Foundation Directory, you can also narrow your grant search by state which will help you narrow the grant field down. Also, there are organizations like Ace Hardware that run "round up" programs where they'll ask customers about rounding up to the nearest dollar for a new charity each month. Things like that, plus Bissell, Walmart, Mars, Purina, etc., are great ways to diversify your organization's fundraising.

    Hope that helps! Also, because you're in AZ, the Arizona Community Foundation Animal Welfare Grant opens up around June if you want to give it a shot. I wrote a grant for a small shelter in Scottsdale last year (not rural, but there was only 1 paid staff member and the rest were volunteers so it was very small!) and we ended up saving 15 dogs with the funds we got. There's still hope!

    MK Roney
    Dog Trainer, Grant Writer, Volunteer
    Humane Society of the White Mountains

  • 7.  RE: It's time to end the systemic neglect of rural areas.

    Posted 03-13-2023 09:00 AM

    That is a great tip. We are a 501c3 exotice and farm animal sanctuary in a very rural area of Florida. We find it hard to get animal welfare grants because we take in other animals besides cats and dogs. There is not much out there specifically for farm animals, pocket pets or exotics. The idea of collaborating with a local dog/cat shelter (which we have done in the past for events) is something that could help both organizations. 

    Lisa Burns
    Farmhouse Animal and Nature Sanctuary Inc

  • 8.  RE: It's time to end the systemic neglect of rural areas.

    Posted 03-13-2023 05:28 PM

    Cole, Working in three adjoining counties in North Central Arkansas, we know the struggle going on every single day to help people keep their animals. The animal controls, shelters, rescues, and fosters are overwhelmed with the number of homeless, abandoned, and injured dogs and cats. The requests for donations from the communities are never ending because the need for help is never ending. The change in economic conditions has hit hard, though, and there are only so many times the same small population area can be asked to donate. It is disheartening to be overlooked for grant awards, but we can only keep on making applications, hope the process will become easier because people like you, Cole, call attention to the needs of rural communities.

    Susan Clay
    The Martha Decker Memorial Fund for Animals