Media release

Animal welfare groups share nearly $480,000

“The generosity of our donors and the commitment of our partners are expanding humane education, increasing awareness and improving the quality of animal care in Rhode Island.”

Two dozen animal welfare programs across the state are sharing nearly $480,000 in grants. The funding will support low-cost vet care for the pets of needy owners, raptor rehabilitation and a coyote safety campaign among other programs.

“The generosity of our donors and the commitment of our partners are expanding humane education, increasing awareness and improving the quality of animal care in Rhode Island,” said Adrian Bonéy, who oversees the Foundation’s Program for Animal Welfare (PAW). “Their work is producing new approaches to animal welfare and increasing the number of animals receiving direct care across 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.

PAW is funded with assistance from the Virginia B. Butler Fund, Abbie A. Brougham Memorial Fund, Ginger, Sheba and Susie Carr Fund, Chariho Westerly Animal Rescue League Animal Welfare Fund, Mary Lou Crandall Fund, Julius and Lena DelPapa Memorial Fund, John Richard Duhamel Fund for Animals, Jeanne Marie Mehmed Fund, Vernon and Mary Pierce Fund, Helen Walker Raleigh Animal Fund, Ilon Sillmon/Sara Andrews Endowment Fund, Vinny Animal Welfare Fund and Dawn, Gregg and Leland Weingeroff Animal Fund.

The single largest award went to the Pets in Need Veterinary Clinic in East Providence, which received $45,000 for vaccines and surgical supplies, including anesthesia, oxygen, IV catheters and antibiotics.

“Our goal is to provide quality surgical treatments and wellness care for the beloved pets of qualified low-income pet owners. The ultimate goal of these life-saving procedures is to keep these pets in the homes where they are loved,” said Hank Wietsma, the clinic’s executive director and veterinarian.

The organization performed surgery on a record 607 animal patients and vaccinated more than 800 pets last year.

“The demand for these services continues to expand. Accessibility to veterinary care is a huge national issue and it is estimated that 180,000 pets are living in homes below the poverty line in Rhode Island. The Pets in Need Clinic is leading the way to bring vet care to this underserved population of pets,” said Wietsma.

The other organizations receiving funding are:

The Animal Rescue Rhode Island (ARRI) in South Kingstown received $15,000 to launch a humane education program for Peace Dale, Matunuck and Narragansett elementary schools. Approximately 120 students year would be served.

“By teaching safety and kindness toward animals, we instill wiser, more humane choices in their interactions with animals as they grow up,” said Michele Vidmar, executive director.

In addition to visiting the schools, ARRI will expand its ‘Paws to Read’ program, which pairs children who are learning to read with shelter animals and with dogs in ARRI’s new Comfort Dog program.

“The children benefit by reading to the animals in a non-judgemental setting and the animals benefit from the quiet attention,” said Vidmar.

The Audubon Society of Rhode Island in Smithfield received $7,500 for food and supplies for the animals that participate in its educational programs.

“All of our hawks, owls, ravens, turtles and snakes are either former pets or permanently injured animals who cannot be released back into the wild,” said Lawrence J.F. Taft, executive director.

Audubon serves approximately 22,000 children and adults a year with educational programs on-site and at schools, libraries, senior centers and other community organizations.

“We provide these creatures with ‘forever’ homes and they help us educate the public about the value of wildlife and the importance of biodiversity,” said Taft.

The Cranston Animal Shelter, overseen by the Cranston Police Department, received $19,950 to install air conditioning in the kennels and quarantine area. The shelter serves approximately 400 cats and dogs a year.

“Adding air conditioning will provide safe climate conditions for the animals, the staff and volunteers, as well as the residents who are visiting the shelter in hopes of adopting a dog or cat,” said Col. Michael Winquist, chief of police.

Adding air conditioning is the latest improvement to the facility, which was built in 1984. Recent work includes creating separate rooms for healthy and sick cats, enlarging the kennel space for dogs and installing new doors on the kennels.

“The animals are already stressed from being brought to the shelter. We’re doing everything we can to make the facility a safe and comfortable temporary home for the cats and dogs prior to adoption,” said Winquist.

“We can’t thank enough the Rhode Island Foundation for their generosity in helping modernize our animal shelter. The recent addition of the air conditioning to the other parts of the shelter will help ensure the animals that are there have a safe and comfortable environment until they are ultimately adopted,” said Mayor Allan Fung.

“My wife and I adopted our family dog Bailey from the Cranston Animal Shelter over 13 years ago. The installation of air conditioning is a welcome addition to the shelter and is in line with the progress being made in the humane treatment of animals,” said Cranston City Council President Michael Farina.

The East Greenwich Animal Protection League received $5,000 to buy clinical and surgical equipment for its new Heart of Rhode Island Animal Rescue League Clinic.

“Many of the animals we serve are neglected and unwanted rescues that are scheduled for euthanasia and their caretakers are desperate to save their lives knowing they basically are adoptable animals,” said Tammy Gallo, executive director. “They arrive here, some pregnant or not spayed or neutered, some with minor injuries. Many spent their lives on the run or neglected and in need of vet care.”

The organization is nearing the completion of a new clinic and surgery area. It expects to serve 400 to 500 cats and dogs a year.

“We will be able to send adopted animals to their new homes fully vetted. They will be tested, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, microchipped and ready for a new start on life,” said Gallo.

Foster Parrots in Hope Valley received $25,000 for vet care, food, enrichment supplies, educational material, utility expenses and adoption services.

“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 more than 400 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 $15,000 for its Veterinary Care Assistance Program, which supports medical care for companion animals whose owners need financial assistance, in an effort 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.

“Working with reduced-fee veterinary services, we attempt to address the medical needs of their pets, throughout Rhode Island, by underwriting the cost of needed veterinary care. The bond and attachment of these people to their pets is strong, as they have loved and cared for them for most of their pets' lives,” he said.

Friends of Central Falls Animals received $25,000 for its Fix Me 5 initiative, which underwrites the cost of spay and neuter procedures; testing and treatments, including vaccinations, preventative medicines and implanting microchips in every pet or adopted animal it treats.

“Our goal is to spay or neuter a total of approximately 200 cats, both feral, free-roaming cats and pet cats, as well as approximately 50 dogs,” said David Riseberg, president.

“Medical care would include distemper and rabies vaccines for cats and distemper/parvo and rabies vaccines for dogs. Dogs will also receive a heartworm or more extensive blood test at the time of spay or neuter. And all pets being spayed or neutered can receive a microchip as well,” he said.

Mystic Aquarium received $12,000 to support the work of its Animal Rescue Program, which rescues and rehabilitates injured or sick marine mammals and sea turtles along 1,000 miles of the northeastern coastline. Nearly 75 percent of the animals brought to the aquarium for treatment each year are rescued in Rhode Island.

“Every year dozens of these animals end up stranded on our shores due to illness, malnutrition and dehydration as a result of marine debris and pollution, diminishing food sources and other causes,” said Dr. Stephen M. Coan, president and CEO of Mystic Aquarium. “They would not otherwise be able to return to the ocean environment without the specialized and compassionate care provided by our world-class team.”

The Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown received $7,500 for its Animal Ambassador Program. The funding will provide food and supplies for the animals that are part of the educational program.

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

The program houses and cares for 35 animals, primarily animals rescued through shelters and rehabilitated wildlife that cannot be released back into the wild. They include hawks, owls, turtles, snakes and amphibians.

“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 domestic animals,” said Ryan.

PAAWS RI of Warwick received $15,000 to care for shelter animals, including medical exams, treatment and procedures that support the well-being of animals and make them ready for adoption.

"Many of our patients are abandoned former pets that have fared poorly trying to live on the streets. They suffer from easily treatable medical conditions,” said Annette Rauch, president of the board of directors.

The veterinary care will include vaccinations, deworming, spay or neuter services and wound care among other procedures. About 100 animals are expected to be treated in the coming year.

“With medical intervention, care, rehab and love, these same felines find loving, secure homes and their personalities bloom in their new lives without fail,” said Rauch.

PawsWatch in Johnston received $35,000 to expand its statewide efforts to manage Rhode Island’s free-roaming-cat population through its trap, neuter and return program.

“The feral, stray and abandoned cat overpopulation is arguably the most serious animal welfare issue in the state of Rhode Island. Certainly the sheer number of animals in this unfortunate community dwarfs those of any other neglected or abused animal group. Their stunningly high infant mortality rates and their general suffering are clear evidence that this animal population deserves more attention,” said Gil Fletcher, chairman of the board of directors.

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

“Support services provided will include education, cat trap training, equipment loans, subsidized sterilization surgery and vaccinations, and pre and post-surgery boarding of the free-roaming cats brought to our facility,” said Fletcher.

The Potter League for Animals in Middletown received $25,000 to underwrite surgeries, supplies and staffing for its on-site medical suite in Middletown. The organization expects to perform surgeries on approximately 500 animals next year.

“Many animals are sick or injured when they come to us. Some are just old and have special needs that must be taken care of before they can be adopted into new homes. Now we can give orphaned animals the care they need and deserve,” said Brad Shear, executive director.

The organization also received $10,000 for humane education programs in local schools and $30,000 to provide low- or no-cost spay and neuter services at the Potter League Spay and Neuter Clinic in Warwick for Rhode Island pet owners who cannot afford the procedures.

The Potter League also received $10,000 as the fiscal sponsor for the CoyoteSmarts public education program, which is offered in partnership with the Conservation Agency, R.I. Natural History Survey, Aquidneck Land Trust and Norman Bird Sanctuary. The funds will support the program’s campaign coordinator and in-classroom education programs at local schools.

“For many years, we’ve worked cooperatively to address the growing presence of coyotes in our community. Our objective is to raise public awareness of coyotes, encourage best management practices and promote effective strategies for keeping pets and people safe,” said Shear.

Providence Animal Control received $33,000 to renovate the shelter space for cats at the Providence Animal Shelter, including the creation of a new quarantine area and a new adoption area.

“The shelter was not designed for the increase in the number of cats being surrendered or abandoned. The animals and the community will benefit from this project as it allows us to take in more cats and house them safely and humanely,” said Erika Cole, director.

The Providence Animal Rescue League received $23,000 to renovate its two dog yards, which serve about 350 animals a year. The work will include installation of artificial turf, new fencing and enrichment and training tools.

"The Rhode Island Foundation’s award will have a significant impact on the welfare and well-being of our dogs, and our ability to place animals into loving homes as quickly and safely as possible,” said Joss Poulton, president of PARL’s board of directors.

The Providence Emergency Management Agency received $7,000 to buy animal care supplies to stock a proposed emergency shelter for household pets. Approximately 75 pets could be served by the new facility.

“During a disaster, we expect a surge in demand from residents who evacuate, but have no place to leave their pets. Our new emergency pet shelter will not only protect pets, it will give their owners the peace of mind they need in order to head for safety,” said Kevin Kugel, director.

The Providence Police Department’s Mounted Command received $1,300 to buy an insect control system for its stables in Roger Williams Park. The command handles enforcement activities and crowd control at large-scale events as well as providing community relations services at parades and school functions.

“Our mounts have little protection from insects in the stable. The health and safety of the horses is our primary concern. This will deter any harm to the animals during prime mosquito season,” said Providence Commissioner of Public Safety Steven M. Paré.

The Rhode Island Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA) in East Providence received $30,000 to install seven new boarding kennels as part of the expansion of its Pet Safe Program, which provides free, temporary boarding of pets for victims of domestic violence, medical emergencies and natural disasters among other forms of financial hardship.

“Demand for this program has far exceeded our expectations and has now exceeded our capacity. We are often the last resort for pet owners who lose the financial means to care for their pets due to some form of crisis,” said Joe Warzycha, president.

From September 2018 to May 2019, RISCPA provided emergency boarding for the pets of 28 households from 12 Rhode Island cities and towns.

“There is nothing more heart-breaking than watching an owner struggle with losing permanent ownership of their pet. Often times, they resort to living in their vehicles or on the streets with their pets because they will do anything in their power not to lose them,” said Warzycha

The RIVMA Companion Animal Foundation in Providence received $12,000 to help pet owners who are experiencing financial hardship to pay for veterinary care for their animals. The grant is expected to help more than 100 pet owners.

“Every day pet owners who are elderly, disabled or on a fixed income are faced with the extremely difficult, even unbearable, decisions regarding the future of their pets because they can’t afford veterinary care. We give them vouchers that can be used at participating veterinary clinics all over the state,” said Oni Springer-Slepkow, president of the board of directors.

The Roger Williams Park Zoo received $10,000 to support the engagement of a veterinary behavioral specialist and to buy enrichment products to support animal health.

“Our animals need to be kept engaged, kept mentally stimulated and be supported emotionally as well as physically just like humans. Healthy animals contribute to profound, engaging experiences that empower guests to join our efforts to conserve wildlife and wild places,” said Jeremy Goodman, executive director.

Stand Up for Animals in Westerly received $15,000 to provide veterinary assistance and medications at the Westerly Animal Shelter. The organization estimates the grant will enable it to treat approximately 600 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 Lina Carreiro O'Leary, president.

“By providing vet care and spay or neuter services prior to adoption, we ensure that new owners and their pets begin their lives together with a healthy start,” she said.

West Place Animal Sanctuary in Tiverton received $25,000, primarily for food and medical care. The organization provides shelter and rehabilitation for a variety of livestock 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 nutrition, supplements and acres of rotational grazing areas. We grow much of the natural food needed for the adult wildlife and rescued birds, and several healthy natural fruits, vegetables and treats for the farm animals,” said Wendy Taylor, executive director.

The organization works closely with municipal animal control officers and police departments. More than 60 farm and 150 wild animals were cared for last year.

“As the public is recognizing and reporting animal neglect more than ever, and the authorities are making a conscious effort to step in and investigate, towns are turning to us as the only farm rehabilitation facility in the area,” said Taylor.

The Westerly Animal Shelter received $7,500 to buy a heart monitor for the operating room, medical supplies, humane education supplies and training gear for its dog enrichment program.

“With the constant increase in animals coming through the shelter, replacing worn-out equipment and re-stocking supplies is critical. We’re grateful for the resources to continue offering our community affordable and excellent shelter and vet services,” said Arthur Smith, shelter manager.

The organization’s dog enrichment program will utilize the shelter’s dog park with professional trainers and animal behaviorists who can work with the animals as well as train the shelter’s staff and volunteers.

“By giving dogs the opportunity to chew, exercise and socialize with people and other dogs, we will head off behaviors that make adoptions more challenging,” said Smith.

Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Rhode Island in North Kingstown received $13,700 to buy specialized cages to safely contain injured, ill or orphaned wild birds and animals.

“Most of our cages have been in use for 20 years. They are rusted and difficult to sanitize and the doors don’t always latch,” said Kristin Fletcher, executive director.

The organization cares for approximately 5,500 wild birds and animals from across the state a year.

“By replacing the deteriorating cages with safe, escape free caging that can be properly cleaned, we will prevent the spread of disease and parasites between our wild patients,” said Fletcher.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised $47 million and awarded a record $56 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities in 2019. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.