Lisa LaFontaine, President and CEO
As we begin 2019, our third full year as the Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA), I am proud to share with you the highlights of the year that just ended, including the expansion of key programs and launch of several new initiatives.
In 2018, we significantly expanded our Help Out, Partner, and Engage (HOPE) program, HRA’s community-based outreach initiative providing people and animals in under-resourced areas of DC with services and information. HOPE, which grew from 652 clients in 2017 to 1,929 this past year, offers pet services to participants at no charge, including spay/neuter surgeries, vaccinations, food, and other supplies, as well as behavior and training advice. HRA also launched our Pet Pantry, which supplies DC pet owners with at least half the food needed by their animals each month. Through door-to-door outreach and community events, the HOPE program makes critical resources available to pet owners, making it easier for them to care for their animals without making life-changing (or life-diminishing) compromises.
Capacity at HRA’s Medical Center grew significantly in 2018. Surgeries provided to public-owned animals increased by 200 percent from 330 in 2017 to 1,000 in 2018. Our medical team was able to care for 1,284 animals in foster care, an improvement of 50 percent from the previous year. HRA’s veterinarians and veterinary technicians saw approximately 20 percent more wellness appointments in our medical center in 2018 as compared to the prior year. With a focus on vaccinations and basic preventive medicine, these visits become an important part of keeping pets healthy during all stages of their lives.
We also purchased, outfitted, and deployed a Mobile Veterinary Clinic (MVC) that enables us to perform spay/neuter surgeries at our New York Avenue adoption center. Animals staying at that facility (more than 150 at any given time) no longer have to be driven across town to HRA’s Oglethorpe Medical Center for care. This saves time and resources, but more importantly, it is less stressful for the animals. The mobile clinic also expands HRA’s capacity to perform spay/neuter surgeries for the general public. In the future, we will use the MVC to bring high-quality vet care to neighborhoods where there are no veterinary clinics and few resources. Our goal is to remove lack of transportation as a barrier to vet care in the District.
Early in the year, HRA and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech (VMCVM) launched a strategic partnership to provide expanded education for veterinary students. The partnership will help to educate the next generation of veterinarians and introduce them to shelter medicine. We hope and expect that some students may decide to dedicate their careers to this important and still under-served specialty. Our collaboration with VMCVM promises to strengthen both the veterinary profession and animal sheltering, while developing a well-placed group of HRA supporters within the veterinary field. Forty-two students participated in 2018 and an expected 140 students will participate in 2019.
Over the summer, HRA launched the DC Cat Count together with Petsmart Charities, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Maddie’s Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and several independent researchers. This project is a first-of-its-kind collaboration to count every cat in the District. Our goal is to use the data collected to develop science-based, non-lethal strategies for managing outdoor cat populations. This unique and ambitious three-year project will take place in Washington, DC and will be used to create tools that will enable other organizations and municipalities to do the same in their communities. In addition, this project will serve as a highly visible example of constructive collaboration between animal welfare organizations, wildlife scientists, academic institutions, and citizens who wish to cooperatively pursue common goals for cats and wildlife.
Our field services department had an extremely busy year as nearly 20,000 calls for help came through our dispatch center, and there were an additional 1,975 reported cases of animal cruelty. These animal cruelty investigations resulted in 317 animals being rescued from cruel conditions, including one case in which 12 dogs were rescued from an alleged dogfighting operation. When possible, our Humane Law Enforcement Officers strive to keep pets and their families together; as part of this effort, our officers provided more than 1,000 educational advisories to pet owners to provide them with the tools needed to help keep their pets safe and to meet their daily care needs. Our Animal Control Officers rescued more than 4,600 animals, including both domestic and wild animals, many of whom were in urgent need of help. Their comprehensive field responses led to the rescue of a 5-foot American alligator among other high profile actions.
At HRA, we are devoted to protecting animals and to placing and keeping them with caring families. On average, eight stray dogs and cats come to HRA every day. Many times, these animals are pets who have mistakenly wandered away from home. Thanks to microchip technology, and the skilled and dedicated work of our front desk staff, more than 470 stray animals were reunited with their families. In addition, HRA transported 385 animals to other shelters in the area, and found loving homes for nearly 4,500 animals.
In closing, I’d like to share the story of a dog named Tedward. In June 2018, Tedward’s mom and dad were part of a life-saving transport of 19 dogs from a West Virginia hoarding case. The local shelter was committed to saving the lives of all 19 dogs (including one pregnant mama), but did not have space. They reached out to HRA for help.
Without a second thought, our staff members got to work. Our transport team arranged for the dogs to ride to DC, while HRA’s animal care team prepared to welcome them. All 19 dogs received the medical care they desperately needed, in addition to spay/neuter surgeries, vaccinations, and microchips to get them adoption-ready. Scared and extremely fearful, not all of the dogs were ready for adoption right away. Our skilled and dedicated behavior team worked to build their confidence and trust in people, and several of the dogs went to foster care to get the specialized support they needed to thrive.
One of those special cases was Franny, who was the heavily pregnant dog in need of urgent foster placement. I took Franny home and was by her side when she gave birth to five healthy puppies. Sweet Franny was a wonderful mom, and eight weeks later we began sending her and her puppies to loving new families. On December 17, the runt of the litter was finally adopted by my husband and me. We are starting off 2019 like several thousand other members of the community our hearts and homes expanded by the love of an HRA shelter animal. Tedward’s journey into my life illustrates the depth and breadth of HRA’s lifesaving work and impact.
Thanks to our incredible team of staff and volunteers and our generous community of supporters, 2019 is full of tremendous promise. We were founded in the District in 1870, and as we enter our 149th year, we are more committed than ever to making life significantly better for the animals whose lives we touch, and for the people and community we serve.