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2021: A Year in Review

Our tagline is “Animals. People. Community.” and we use these words to express our belief that the well-being of animals, people, and communities are intertwined, and that by investing in one part of this ecosystem we uplift everyone – humans and animals. 

Our team is focused on creating a more humane community where animals and the people who love them can thrive. This year, we found families for 7,000+ animals, and moved over 4,600 animals from crisis to care through our transport programs. Through our WayStation Give Back program, we gave our transport partners $119,000 in funds to invest in their own communities, helping them to go after the root causes of pet homelessness and suffering. Together with churches, food banks, mutual aid networks, and human services organizations, we gave out 230,000 pounds of free pet food, filling 500,000 empty pet food bowls with meals. 

12,140 lives saved through adoption, transport, and reunificationThis year we made great progress in addressing the systemic issues and barriers that cause animals to become homeless. We worked with organizations who serve the most vulnerable, including youth and seniors, building wrap-around programs and services that allowed us to help people and pets as a family unit. We fought to end antiquated and ineffective dog breed restrictions and partnered with government agencies and human services organizations to prevent evictions and offer tenant protection services to families with pets. As storms grow stronger and more unpredictable, our disaster response team expanded their efforts to help animals in harm’s way. The result was a national disaster response program which provides resources, equipment, and skilled responders to local and regional agencies impacted by hurricanes, flooded waters, and other extreme weather events at a moment’s notice. We’ve all seen the terrifying photos and videos that follow these superstorms – entire homes submerged in water or swept away entirely. Sometimes their pets are all these families have left, and as an organization whose mission is to uplift the human-animal bond, HRA is committed to saving and reuniting precious pets with their families. 

We touch the lives of over 120,000 animals a year. Each one of those animals is part of a community that involves people, too – families, neighbors, and friends. Through your generous support, we grew our capacity to care for homeless animals, support sister shelters, and serve communities near and far. Here are just a few of the amazing animals and people who are central to our work and our mission. Read the full 2021 Year-End Review.


Investing in ANIMALS. PEOPLE. COMMUNITY. 

As people struggled during the pandemic with social isolation and prolonged separation from friends and family, we helped people find joy, companionship, and laughter as they shared their homes with animals. HRA treats each animal who comes through our doors as an individual and provide whatever they need. Here are a few stories about our team’s effort to give each animal in our care the chance to have their best life. 


Oreo

Veterinary care is both unaffordable and inaccessible for many pet owners. Our medical team provides desperately needed basic wellness care, including vaccinations and more complex surgical procedures that would cost thousands of dollars at a private clinic. In March, we got a call from a veteran who served multiple tours of duty asking if we could give medical care to his dog Oreo, whom he depends on for emotional support. Mr. Jackson was moving and needed to show vaccine records to his new landlords. He and his case manager contacted multiple clinics and veterinarians but couldn’t find an affordable option. We stepped in to help, providing Oreo with vaccines, heartworm medicine, flea and tick preventative, and a microchip. Then, Mr. Jackson brought Oreo to their new home. 

“It was a wonderful experience and Oreo was well cared for by everyone at HRA,” said Mr. Jackson.
 
man holding dog

People in DC and beyond face substantial obstacles as they try to care for their animals – housing restrictions, costly veterinary care, and pet care deserts. Our goal is to reduce those barriers and give folks like Mr. Jackson the resources and support they need to care for and keep their pets.


Hank

“It was so far beyond what any individual could do,” said Hank’s mom Delores, after HRA and more than 30 people helped rescue her beloved cat who had been stuck in a tree for five days

Our field services team is on the road 24/7, responding to calls for help big and small. In this case the tree branches were too unstable to climb, and the location of the tree made it impossible to reach Hank, even with a fire truck’s aerial ladder. 

field service officers responded to 21,785 calls for help

After days of unsuccessful rescue attempts, we got creative. Our team placed exceptional treats and clothing carrying Delores’s scent in a basket, and rigged a rope system to raise the basket in the hopes Hank would jump in. And after a few attempts he did! Hank was safely brought to the ground and into the arms of his relieved mom. “I am so happy to live in DC, where we have the most incredible resource in HRA,” said Delores.
 

Taz

As an open-access shelter, we never turn anyone away. This is especially important for animals, like Taz, with special needs. When we met Taz, he had the worst case of matting – dense tangles and knots in his fur – that our veterinarians had ever seen. Once we had carefully removed the mats, we found that his two front legs were gone, mostly likely a traumatic amputation caused by the matting. Taz had tried to walk on what remained of his legs, creating raw skin that was covered in abrasions. He couldn’t stand without wobbling and falling over because he was in excruciating pain. 

Our behavior team helped Taz’s foster family get him acclimated to a wheelchair. His foster mom used desensitization and counterconditioning to slowly build up Taz’s confidence in his chair. The process was slow and while he made progress each day, we knew that custom prosthetics would help Taz live a much more comfortable life. 

taz medical transformation

Our community rallied behind this sweet dog, raising $2,000 on Facebook in just a few hours to buy prosthetics for Taz so he could play and go on walks without pain and fear. Thanks to this overwhelming support, he is now living a happy and comfortable life. 

Taz was adopted by his foster mom, who named him Newt. Today he is thriving, and his confidence continues to grow. We are thrilled we could give Newt the best possible care. 


Supporting animals and the people who love them 

Our work has the most impact and sustainability when we can serve people and animals as a family, which is only possible through the tremendous support we receive from donors, volunteers, elected officials, human service agencies, and veterinarians. These stories show how we make the world better for animals by supporting people too. 
 

Responding to life-threatening storms

In September, as Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana wreaking havoc in its path, we deployed a team of experts to help with disaster relief. They made their way through downed power lines and rubble to try and save a dog who was trapped underneath a collapsed shed. 

When we arrived, we found a terrified dog chained inside of the shed and tangled under the debris. This poor dog had been trapped in the sweltering heat, with no food or water, since the hurricane made landfall four days earlier. Our team carefully lifted the shed enough so we could guide the terrified dog out from the rubble. Miraculously, the dog—named Bubbles—was uninjured. 

dog stuck underneath a collapsed shed HRA field services team with dog rescued from hurricane damage

Our WayStation transport team also leapt into action, working with our partner, Greater Good Charities, to airlift adoptable animals out of local shelters in Louisiana. This freed up precious space so animals who were injured and displaced by the storm had shelter until they were reunited with their families. 
 

A new program helps vulnerable seniors

Senior isolation has become an increasing threat over the past 18 months, and scientific research supports what we’ve always known to be true: animals are a lifeline, and they enhance our health and overall well-being, especially for older adults. 

That’s why HRA and the DC Department of Aging and Community Living (DACL) teamed up in March to launch Senior Pet Connect, a program that aims to combat senior isolation through in-person and virtual events. With increasing popularity, the program has hosted eight events this year, reaching hundreds of DC seniors. 

“It was such a joy, the highlight of my week,” said 66-year-old Pat Paige after a virtual Senior Pet Connect event. Paige noted how difficult it has been for seniors to have companionship while also trying to stay safe during the pandemic. 

By collaborating with human social service organizations like DACL, we can build holistic support services for vulnerable populations and for animals as well.

senior citizen man petting a puppy senior citizen women petting a dog

 

Investing in our communities 

Despite this year’s challenges, we offered essential services without a lapse. With a lot of creativity, teamwork, and support from our generous donors, we expanded our community programs to build a stronger safety net for people and animals. 
 

Advocating for animals throughout the mid-Atlantic 

During the past year, we have led the way to establish protections for vulnerable animals and people alike. Joining human services groups, we advocated for legislation and policies to keep people in their homes with their animals during the COVID-19 pandemic and fought breed-based restrictions that unnecessarily force families to give up their beloved pets. 

We continued St. Hubert’s history of animal advocacy leadership in New Jersey, notably supporting efforts to prohibit the use of inherently cruel gestation and veal crates that confine mother pigs and baby calves in spaces so small they are essentially immobilized and unable to turn around. Honoring our mission to advocate for all animals, we work to combat systemic animal cruelty that impacts the animals in our kennels, communities, and beyond. 

group of protesters for the ban the crates initiative

Our landmark animal welfare package, the Animal Care and Control Omnibus Amendment Act, was introduced in December to close loopholes in Washington, DC’s animal laws, which HRA. We see the detrimental impact of those loopholes in our humane law enforcement work, and our rich history of providing animal welfare services in DC. This legislation will give our officers the tools they need to protect animals from horrifying acts of animal cruelty. It also will make DC a leader in animal welfare by ensuring the District remains free of pet stores that source from cruel puppy mills; and by prohibiting the nontherapeutic declawing of cats. 
 

Supporting animals and the people who love them 

Our community outreach teams are busier than ever as we work to help people and animals suffering from the economic fallout of the pandemic. We held animal health clinics in DC and New Jersey and have served more than 1,250 animals, administered 1,800 essential vaccinations, and provided thousands of community members with pet resources and critically needed supplies. Our Pet Pantries – which continued without pause during the pandemic – have seen a record number of new clients who are receiving food and supplies to help them bridge these hard times; we gave out over 230,000 pounds of food to people experiencing economic stress and increased job and housing insecurity.

500,000 pet meals distributed to families living with low income 

HRA is prepared to expand our mission work in the months ahead. In many ways, the pandemic reinforced what we already knew: the work of an animal welfare agency is more effective when it is centered around expanding access to care and giving pet owners the resources and support they need to care for and keep their pets.


Looking ahead 

Through advocacy, public awareness campaigns, direct animal care, and humane law enforcement, HRA’s innovative work has advanced the cultural shift in the way we have related to animals for more than 150 years. 

People in DC and beyond face barriers to providing care for their animal family members that start with unaffordable and inaccessible veterinary care. We’re addressing immediate needs through direct services like emergency pet boarding and access to discounted veterinary services, while simultaneously building and deploying long-term strategies to support people and pets. We have invested in technology to increase access to pet resources for communities in pet deserts, and we advocated for policy solutions to institutional barriers, such as the lack of pet-friendly affordable housing. 

young girl with puppy

Through your support and generosity, we are positioned to help even more animals, support more families, and advocate for greater protections and networks for animals and the people who love them. We are very hopeful about the future of animal welfare and are using the lessons of this extraordinary and difficult time to re-imagine our work. We are questioning old assumptions, trying new approaches, and tackling head on some of the most challenging issues facing animals and their caregivers. As we look ahead, we see a future that is brighter than ever for our animals and the people who cherish them. 

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