A year ago today, the Humane Rescue Alliance in Washington, D.C. merged with St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center of New Jersey to create the first regional animal care, adoption, field services, and community support organization in the country. No animal or person is turned away from our doors.
Why is this so important? Through this merger, we now touch the lives of over 100,000 animals each year! Some of those animals – about 20,000 – come directly into our care and are adopted out into loving homes. Others are served through community-focused pet support programs; accessible veterinary medicine; and through animal control, cruelty investigations and rescues in the field.
Our widely supported WayStation program has dual purposes. On the one hand, we move animals from distressed source shelters into communities where there is often a surplus of adopters who are waiting to give them homes. Through the ‘sister shelter’ part of the program, we invest financial and operational resources to help strengthen those overburdened source shelters. With our support, these organizations can implement more programs and services to get at the root causes of pet homelessness in their areas.
Going forward we intend to deepen our relationships in those communities, and to increase the types of resources we provide. Not so long ago, we were struggling with overpopulation, too; we remember the pain of that struggle and want to lend a hand to those organizations who are in its midst.
Now, we have a network of 90 organizations in the U.S. and Canada who work together to save animals’ lives and serve their communities. That number will grow, as our goal is to expand that safety net to ensure more animals have loving homes and more families have the joy of rescue and adoption.
We recently followed a group of animals from Aiken County, South Carolina, where overpopulation remains a serious problem, to Morristown, Vermont, where there are eager loving families waiting to adopt them. We mark our merger anniversary by sharing this video, which captures the animals’ WayStation journey, as well as the journey of our organization and our bold vision for the future.
We’ve learned a lot this year by merging two strong animal welfare groups with distinct strengths and histories to create an organization that is greater than the sum of its parts. Yet, the last few months have challenged us beyond our wildest imaginings, as we’ve navigated the pandemic and faced challenges that will ultimately make us stronger, more agile, and better prepared to face the future.
Our successful response to COVID-19 reinforced my deeply held belief that to truly serve our communities we must create deep and trusting partnerships. When we had to move our animals from the shelter into foster homes to ensure the safety of our teams, the community, and the animals in our care, we were overwhelmed by the response. Nearly 2,500 people signed up to become foster parents! When we decided to keep adoptions going, virtually, our community stepped up to support us. Since March we have placed more than 1,400 animals into loving homes through virtual adoption.
The disruption of the pandemic has created space for new thinking. In these past months we have worked with other leading animal welfare organizations to create a new model for how organizations like ours serve their communities. Intuitively, we knew there would be no return to ‘normal.’ HRA is now serving as a prototype organization for this new approach, known as Human Animal Support Services (HASS), which positions us at the intersection of animal welfare and human social services – which is where more problems will get solved.
We are so grateful to all of you who have been an essential part of our story and are thrilled to have you join us on this exciting leg of our journey. It will be an exciting time as we reinvent the traditional sheltering system to better serve more animals and more people. We are fortunate to have such strong advocates and supporters to stand behind us, walk with us, and chart a new course to close the societal gaps which still create so much animal and human suffering. Thank you so much for everything.
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