Media release

Animal welfare groups awarded $530,000 in grants

Donors have established 14 special funds that enable the Foundation to take a leading role on animal welfare issues

Nearly two dozen animal welfare programs across the state have been awarded $530,000 in grants through the Program for Animal Welfare at the Rhode Island Foundation. The funding will support a range of uses including low-cost vet care for pets in low-income households, preparing animals for adoption and seal rescues.  
"The pleasure that pets bring to our lives spills over into our own health and well-being. Keeping pets healthy and preparing animals for adoption is just one way the Foundation helps Rhode Islanders lead healthier lives,” said David N. Cicilline, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “We could not offer this help without the generous support of the donors who establish funds with us for this purpose. Their generosity – together with the dedication of our grantees – is increasing the quality of animal care in Rhode Island.”

PAW funds organizations that promote and provide humane treatment of animals or work more generally on the welfare of animals. Grants are for projects or programs that have a positive impact locally or statewide on animal care, education about the humane treatment of animals and animal welfare in general.

The single largest recipient is the Potter League for Animals, which received a total of $110,000 to support four activities at three locations. The grants are $30,000 to support veterinary care at its Animal Care and Adoption Center in Middletown, $10,000 for humane education programming in Newport County, $30,000 to subsidize surgeries and transportation at its Spay and Neuter Clinic in Warwick, and $40,000 to purchase medical supplies for its Pets In Need Veterinary Clinic in East Providence.

"In our commitment to the well-being of pets across Rhode Island, we extend our care to animals from various corners of the state. Our philosophy remains grounded in the belief that every animal should have access to veterinary care and a safe haven. Our clinics continue to serve as beacons of accessible veterinary care for beloved pets, while our Animal Care & Adoption Center stands as a refuge for those without families. Our dedicated medical team carefully assesses each animal, developing comprehensive health and wellness plans to not only ensure their well-being in their current homes but also to facilitate their journey towards finding caring, adoptive families," stated Brad Shear, Potter’s CEO.

In the past year, the Potter facilities found homes for 2,012 animals, performed 1,126 spay or neuter surgeries at its Middletown facility and 5,689 in Warwick, and treated 4,066 pets at its Pets In Need Veterinary Clinic in East Providence, which the organization reports is substantially higher than last year.

"The demand for care continues to grow for various reasons, including heightened public awareness of our services, a rise in referrals from private veterinary practices, and an increasing financial strain on pet owners. By assisting those with the greatest need, we alleviate the burden on pet owners, sparing them from difficult decisions about prioritizing veterinary expenses over other necessities or facing the heartbreaking choice of relinquishing their pets due to financial constraints," said Shear.

The other recipients are:

The Providence Animal Rescue League (PARL) received $55,000 to underwrite The Providence Pets Thrive Program: A Partnership Between Providence Animal Rescue League and Providence Animal Control (PAC). This program aims to serve more than 1,200 pets and families through the grant with affordable preventative veterinary care, particularly spay/neuter and vaccination services.

“This addresses the challenges faced by vulnerable and underserved pet owners by offering pay-what-you-can services. We recognize the impact of broader social issues like the affordable housing crisis and the shortage of veterinarians in urban communities. By prioritizing preventative care, the project prevents more services and costly medical issues, reducing pet surrender rates,” said Rebecca Baylies, PARL’s Executive Director.

Animal Rescue Rhode Island (ARRI) in South Kingstown received $35,000 to support non-routine veterinary care and its Animal Scholarships humane education programs. ARRI will train staff and volunteers to develop and deliver humane education presentations to students in kindergarten through grade 12 and other youth programs, such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

“Animal Rescue Rhode Island is committed to making our state a humane community, where pets are appreciated for all the loyalty and love they provide,” said Liz Skrobisch, executive director. “The goal is to share valuable information and contribute to lasting relationships between people and animals. Additionally, our programs promote responsible animal care and character education.”

ARRI also provides non-routine veterinary care through its Jack’s Fund program, which has seen demand more than double since last year.

“We attribute this to owner surrenders of older pets that have not received consistent vet care and to the stray pets taken in by local municipal shelters and transferred to us,” said Skrobisch. “Those factors, combined with the increased cost of vet care, make it challenging for us to provide all the non-routine care these animals need.”

The Audubon Society of R.I. in Smithfield received $7,500 for food and supplies for the animals that participate in its educational programs. The Animal Ambassadors program serves about 22,000 children and adults through programs conducted at its facilities and in schools, libraries and senior centers as well as virtually during the COVID-19 crisis.

“All of our hawks, owls, ravens, turtles, snakes and frogs are either former pets or are permanently injured wild animals that cannot be released into the wild. Audubon provides these creatures with a 'forever home' and, in turn, the animals help us educate thousands of people annually about the value of wildlife and biodiversity,” said Jeff Hall, executive director.

The East Greenwich Animal Protection League received $2,500 to support its Safe and Sanitary program. Approximately 600 animals a year cycle through the shelter.

“Disease prevention is a top priority. The coming and going of companion animals and people is constant and preventing the spread of disease is paramount to the health of the population,” said Tammy Flanagan Gallo, executive director.

“One parvo or distemper outbreak would sicken or kill many animals. Many diseases that affect animals are airborne, which means they can be carried in or out by any human or animal, so we are extremely diligent about cleaning and sanitizing” she said.

Foster Parrots in Hope Valley received $25,000 to support its adoption program, veterinary expenses, food and special diet supplies, and enrichment supplies and toys.

“This will enable us to provide exemplary care for the parrots and other displaced exotic animals in our care and enable us to provide services for a greater number of unwanted pet birds through our adoption and home support programs,” said Karen Windsor, executive director.

The organization expects to serve about 550 birds and animals with the support of the grant. More than 60 birds were placed in adoptive homes last year.

“Direct care support for items like nutritional diets and medical care is essential, enabling us to not only maintain exceptional standards for the health of resident birds and animals, but to begin to address and improve chronic health and nutritional issues,” said Windsor.

Friends of Animals In Need in North Kingstown received $35,000 for its Veterinary Care Assistance Program, which helps cover the cost of veterinary care for companion animals of low-income owners to help prevent the abandonment, surrender or euthanizing of a pet.

“Our goal is to keep people and their beloved pets together. These are people whose pets have been an integral part of their family life. In some cases, as with the elderly or widowed, their pets fill an emotional void by providing them with love, companionship, comfort and purpose,” said Russ Shabo, executive director.

The organization reports helping pet owners cover the cost of veterinary care for more than 500 animals last year.

"Some are low-income wage earners, sometimes working multiple jobs to make ends meet, others are disabled, and some are living on fixed incomes. Their pets are beloved members of their family. When their pets are in distress, and they are living on a limited income and facing an unaffordable medical emergency, many wouldn’t have anywhere else to turn for veterinary care," said Shabo.

Friends of Central Falls Animals received $25,000 for its Fix Me 9 initiative, which underwrites the cost of spay and neuter procedures, and treatments, including vaccinations, preventative medicines and implanting microchips; for pet cats and dogs. The organization estimates the grant will enable it to help approximately 190 animals.

"The feral cat population could reach proportions that would result in a major overpopulation problem if left unchecked. One intact female cat can be responsible for 2,900 kittens in seven years. Due to the success of previous FixMe programs, we have entered colonies and found a significant number of the feral/community cats have already been sterilized. Fortunately, many of the ‘feral’ cats we capture are actually able to be tamed or socialized, and then placed for adoption," said David Riseberg, president.

Friends of the Scituate Animal Shelter received $5,000 for extraordinary veterinary services and medications for animals taken into the shelter. The organization expects to be able to provide care for approximately 175 animals with the grant.

“Our Medical Testing and Treatment Program has been in place since we came into existence in 2002. The major outcome is improving an animal's chances of adoption in addition to relieving pain and suffering. In 2022, approximately 90 percent of the animals taken into our shelter were successfully placed,” said Nicholas Murphy, president.

Historic New England received $7,500 to purchase educational material for Project CHICK, which teaches students about bird lifecycles and ethical animal husbandry. Students receive incubators and watch chicks hatch in their classrooms over a period of two weeks. After the chicks are transported to Casey Farm in Saunderstown, children can visit their chicks and learn the importance of ethical, organic farming methods for animal welfare and environmental sustainability.

“The kids can participate in organic and sustainable agricultural methods while learning about the humane treatment of animals. Through our two-part, hands-on educational program, students learn about the life cycle of poultry and traditional farming methods Last year more than 11,000 students from across Rhode Island participated in the program,” said Vin Cipolla, president and CEO.

Mystic Aquarium received $15,000 to support the work of its Animal Rescue Program in Rhode Island, which rescues and rehabilitates injured or sick marine mammals and sea turtles. About 85 percent of the animals brought to the aquarium for treatment each year are rescued in Rhode Island.

“Each year many marine mammals strand along our coastline, requiring rescue. Common causes of stranding include human interaction, disease, malnutrition, trauma, and marine debris entanglement,” said Susette Tibus, president and CEO of Mystic Aquarium. “The individualized and compassionate care that Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Team provides allows these animals that would otherwise perish to recover and return to their ocean environment.”

The Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown received $7,500 for its Animal Ambassador Program. The funding will cover veterinary care, food and supplies for the birds that support the Sanctuary’s educational programs.

“We teach and model the highest standard of animal care and habitat protection for the wide variety of animals that are crucial to our work. They are critical to our experiential learning activities for students and visitors,” said Kaity Ryan, executive director.

The program supports hundreds of birds, including chickens, native and migratory species, and a rehabilitated Red-tailed Hawk named “Hunter” that stars in the organization’s school visits as well as its own programs and events.

“Our ambassadors serve an important role in helping the public learn how animals survive in their environments. Thousands of school children learn about the importance of protecting wildlife and properly caring for animals,” said Ryan.

The North Providence Animal Welfare Society (NPAWS) received $2,100 to support the veterinary care of pets owned by residents of North Providence, Smithfield and Johnston who cannot afford to fully pay for the services themselves.

“Many people love their pets, but don’t have the means to provide necessary medical care. Our Community Support Program helps people in that situation by providing financial assistance when it is needed the most,” said Catherine Lanni, president. “The program contributes to the general welfare of these pets and reduces the pressure on people who are struggling with financial hardship and might otherwise not be able to get their pet the help they need or give them up.”

The average financial assistance per pet was $250 in 2022. Requests for assistance have more than doubled since 2021, according to the organization.

“Program recipients and veterinary care providers cite rising costs of basic living expenses and rising costs of medical expenses as driving factors for this need for help,” said Lanni.

PawsWatch in Johnston received $45,000 to support spay and neutering surgeries, medications and veterinary care for Rhode Island’s free-roaming-cat population to support their health and adoption preparation.

“We are finding that a lot of the free-roaming cats we now trap are tame. Besides needing spay or neuter surgery and vaccines, they often need vet care so they can then be adopted into ‘forever’ homes,” said Michele Barcelou, executive director.

The volunteer-driven organization, which has a facility at 39 Putnam Pike in Johnston, projects it will support approximately 1,300 spay or neuter procedures for free-roaming cats this year.

“The beneficiaries of our work are the thousands of free-roaming cats and their kittens. As an added bonus, once male cats have been sterilized, the fighting, yowling at night and other neighborhood nuisance issues subside,” said Barcelou.

The Pet Refuge in North Kingstown received $15,000 to support its spay and neuter services to prepare cats and kittens for adoption. The organization estimates the program will serve about 200 animals this year.

“This ensures they won’t be adding to the surplus population of cats, many of whom end up abandoned or in shelters. This also helps with their overall health and welfare. Spaying and neutering can prevent some medical or behavioral problems from developing, allowing those cats to live longer, healthier and happier lives,” said Linda Stevens, president.

The organization has added new social media accounts on Instagram, X and TikTok and hit 6,000 Followers on Facebook, which helped it report 269 adoptions last year, an all-time record for the organization.

“Telling their unique stories on social media helps them find ‘forever’ homes faster. By giving them a voice and a story, people are more likely to connect with them and will want to provide them a happily-ever-after story of their own,” said Stevens.

The RIVMA Companion Animal Foundation in Providence received $22,500 to help Rhode Island pet owners who are experiencing financial hardship to access veterinary care for their animals. The grant is expected to help about 180 pet owners.

“The CAF provides pet owners with vouchers that can be redeemed for $125 of veterinary care at practices across the state. The vouchers can be used for a variety of treatments for pets, including routine vaccinations, exam fees, medication, and surgical procedures,” said Leslie Zwicker, executive director.

Stand Up for Animals in Westerly received $20,000 to provide veterinary assistance and medications for local shelters including Westerly, Hopkinton, Richmond, and Charlestown as well as emergency vet assistance for community members. The organization estimates the grant will enable it to treat approximately 200 animals.

“We make every effort to return animals to their owners or to place them in a new, safe and forever loving home. Without the proper vaccines and spay/neuter programs in place, we would be offering adoptions at a severe disadvantage to the pet and their adoptive families,” said Caryn Mitchell, President.

The organization reports seeing an increase in the number of pet owners who need help covering the cost of veterinary care for pets. Common procedures include wellness visits, specialized care, medical emergencies and spay and neutering.

“Our goal is to support shelter and family-owned animals in order to ensure proper veterinary care and prevent surrenders or abandonments. Some community members are elderly and on a fixed income, some work multiple jobs to make ends meet, but all feel the financial burden of caring for their pets when facing emergency veterinary care,” said Mitchell.

Ten Lives Cat Rescue in Pawtucket received $5,250 to support its Spay It Forward program. Ten Lives will use the grant to give as many as 200 low-income cat owners vouchers that will reduce the cost of spay and neuter surgeries as well as rabies and distemper vaccines.

"The voucher program is crucial as many pet owners cannot afford the minimum $300 cost to spay or neuter and vaccinate their cat at a typical veterinary hospital," said Melissa Rodas, executive director. “The voucher program helps reduce barriers to affordable spay and neuter services for those facing financial challenges."

The Spay It Forward program launched in April of 2020 in response to what Ten Lives describes as an unprecedented need for affordable spay and neuter services caused by COVID-19.

“Many of the recipients are disabled or temporarily out of work or retired. They often have been given unwanted kittens by friends or family, but they don’t have the resources to pay for basic medical care,” said Rodas.

Vintage Pet Rescue in Foster received $18,000 to support its Veterinary Assistance Program, which covers 100 percent of the cost of medical care and medications for pets of people who are living on fixed incomes such as Social Security.

“We know that pets are very important to people and often help owners with their own well-being. This grant will enable us to provide pet care to members of the community who need it most, increasing access to veterinary care, pet food, grooming services and other pet supplies,” said Kristen Peralta, founder and executive director.

The organization estimates the funding will enable it to provide about 30 pets with a variety of services, including dental care, emergency surgeries, medications, bloodwork, x-rays, vaccines and routine check-ups.

“This grant will give people an alternative to surrendering or abandoning their pets because they cannot afford to care for them any longer. Covering the entirety of a pet’s bill enables them to receive critical medical attention while allowing owners to tend to themselves as well,” said Peralta.

West Place Animal Sanctuary in Tiverton received $30,000 to support its Animal Nutritional, Medical and Supply Program. The organization provides shelter and rehabilitation for a variety of rescued livestock, equine and wildlife, including many that are injured, disabled or suffering from abuse or neglect.

“Our animals require more than a dozen types of commercial and naturally grown food. We provide a variety of nutritional supplements as well as acres of rotational grazing. Though we also grow vegetables and fruits on property for our rescues, we cannot supply nearly enough food without this support,” said Wendy Taylor, executive director.

The organization shelters more than 100 farm animal rescues at any given time. The care includes food and supplements, medical care and veterinary visits, daily examinations, treatments, medicines, surgeries and health services such as shearing, hoof care, teeth trimming and skin conditioning. In its rescue efforts, West Place works closely with animal control officers, police departments and other rescue organizations.

“Our work benefits all of Rhode Island’s communities and towns, as we are called when issues arise regarding abused livestock. People are starting to recognize that farm animals deserve to be treated properly,” said Taylor.

The state Department of Children, Youth and Families; the Westerly Animal Shelter and Wildlife Rehabilitators of R.I. also received grants.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Through civic leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.