Media release

Rhode Island Foundation awards $481,000 in grants for animal welfare

Uses include funding low-cost vet care for pets of low-income households, preparing animals for adoption and wildlife rehabilitation

The Rhode Island Foundation has awarded $481,000 in grants to dozens of animal welfare programs across the state. The funding will support a range of uses including low-cost vet care for pets of low-income households, preparing animals for adoption and wildlife rehabilitation.

“The generosity of our donors and the commitment of our grantee partners is expanding humane education, increasing care options for shelter animals and pets owned by low-income households, 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 innovation, 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.

Thirteen special funds at the Foundation relate to the humane treatment and protection of animals. These funds collectively enable the Foundation to take a leading role on animal welfare issues.

The single largest grant recipient is the Potter League for Animals, which received $70,000 for surgeries, supplies and staffing for its on-site medical suite in Middletown the Potter League Spay and Neuter Clinic in Warwick for pet owners who cannot afford the procedures.

“Many animals are sick or injured when they come to us. Some are just old and have special needs that must be taken care 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 Potter League also received $7,500 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.

The other recipients include:

Animal Rescue Rhode Island (ARRI) in South Kingstown received $15,600 for the conversion of an existing food pantry storage room into an isolation room with two kennels. The organization estimates that adding two additional kennels will enable it to rescue an additional 30 to 60 dogs per year.

"In 2019, we found forever homes for 475 animals. The new isolation kennels will give us more space for dogs while readying them for adoption," said Liz Skrobisch, interim executive director.

"We provide training and enrichment services because many have never had homes, regular meals or medical care such as immunizations or spay/neuter treatment. There is such a high demand for adoption that the majority of the animals are adopted as soon as they as released from the isolation period," said Skrobisch.

The Audubon Society of Rhode Island in Smithfield received $7,500 for food and supplies for the 28 animals that participate in its educational programs.

“All of our hawks, owls, ravens, turtles, snakes, frogs and the grackle are either former pets or permanently injured animals who cannot be released back into the wild. Audubon provides these creatures with a 'forever home' and is committed to giving them with the best care possible throughout their lives,” 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 and senior centers and other community organizations. Many of the programs are now presented online due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We created 'Audubon at Home.' These web pages are filled with activities, backyard investigations, resources, videos and more. Organized in weekly themes, our animal ambassadors play a large part in the programming. Audubon educators are also conducting virtual 'Raptors of Rhode Island' programs for classrooms around the state free of charge for the schools. They help us educate the public about the value of wildlife and the importance of biodiversity,” said Taft.

The East Greenwich Animal Protection League received $6,300 to upgrade its laundry facilities with energy-efficient, high-capacity commercial washers and dryers. The organization serves hundreds of companion animals a year.

"The daily laundry routine is all day, every day because we currently only have small capacity equipment designed for family use. Due to the volume and weight of laundry the machines are inefficient and poorly suited for shelter laundry. The inefficiency and low capacity require too much staff time and use a huge amount of energy and detergent. It is time to switch to quality, large capacity commercial equipment that will be more energy efficient and have quicker cycles times," said Tammy Gallo.

The organization will purchase two commercial, large capacity washer/dryer units, In addition to serving a growing number of companion animals, it has added a new cat room and completed the new clinic and surgical suite.

"With large capacity equipment, they will be able to do more in less time and use less power and water. We anticipate the savings in staff time will enable staff to work on other tasks with the time freed up by a new shorter cycle times. In fact, the increased capacity and shorter cycle time may make it possible to simply have a staff person oversee our volunteer group to handle laundry freeing staff up to get other work done," 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 in 2019.

“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.

In addition, the grant will provide partial salary support for the organization's Adoption & Community Education Director.

"Not only does she work to locate outstanding homes for our human-bonded parrots, she also invests a great deal of time educating guardians and ensuring that standards of care for adopted birds are optimal," said Windsor.

Friends of Central Falls Animals received $25,000 for its Fix Me 6 initiative, which underwrites the cost of spay and neuter procedures; testing and treatments, including vaccinations, preventative medicines and implanting microchips for pet cats and dogs.

"Our work with spay and neuter of friendly and owned cats and kittens has always been our major area of success. Each year, as more and more people learn about the program and its benefits, they are taking advantage of everything it has to offer. Many residents could not afford to have their pets 'fixed' without our help," said David Riseberg, president.

The 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. Medical care includes 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.

"Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on our last program, since there were no spay or neuters occurring for the two months our program was in shut-down. Both locations are now accepting spay and neuters of both cats and dogs, with new protocols in place," said Riseberg.

Friends of Animals In Need in North Kingstown received $15,000 for its Veterinary Care Assistance Program, which provides veterinary care for companion animals whose owners are economically challenged in an effort to help keep them together with their pets in order to 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 COVID-19 crisis is having a severe impact on pet owners who were already under financial pressure, according to Shabo.

"During 2019, we helped over 300 clients at a cost of just over $50,000. As a result of rising vet prices, the COVID19 virus, a depressed economy and financial challenges affecting many of Rhode Island’s population, many more people are coming to us," said Shabo.

Friends of the Scituate Animal Shelter received $13,000 to fund veterinary expenses and medications for animals taken into the shelter. In 2019, 94 percent of the animals taken into the shelter were successfully placed.

"In addition to relieving pain and suffering, correcting medical problems with our animals improves their chances for adoption tremendously. Given the frequency of medical issues among the incoming animals, our actions to address these issues has a major positive impact on adoption rates," said shelter President Nicholas Murphy.

In addition, a portion of the grant will be used to install a roof over the outdoor dog exercise area, which will enable volunteers to exercise and socialize with dogs more often.

"This will enable the use of the pens in sunny hot weather as well as in rain, ice or snow. Allowing the dogs full-time access to exercise and socialization while they are staying at the shelter leads to dogs that are better suited for successful placements and adoptions," said Murphy.

"In addition, many of the volunteers at the shelter are seniors. A covered pavilion would enable them to use the exercise area with the dogs in adverse weather conditions when these areas would not normally be usable," he said.

Mystic Aquarium received a $15,000 grant through the Sea Research Foundation to support the rescue and rehabilitation of injured or sick marine mammals and sea turtles in Rhode Island. Nearly 75 percent of the animals brought to the aquarium for treatment each year are rescued in Rhode Island.

“Year after year, dozens of these animals end up on stranded on our shores due to illness, malnutrition and dehydration as a result of marine debris and pollution and diminishing food sources among other reasons,” said 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.”

PAAWS RI received $28,000 to spay/neuter feral, stray community and owned cats living in the city of Providence in partnership with Providence Animal Care and Control.

"The city of Providence has long been overrun with intact feral and pet cats. They contribute to the over-population of intact, discarded, abandoned and suffering cats. The Gimme Shelter Spay and Neuter for Cats Program will spay and neuter these two demographics of cats and return them to the family they already have, be it community feeder and outdoor shelter or loving family home, thus reducing feline populations in shelters and on the street, and limiting the suffering of cats generally through hoarding situations and survival on the streets as yet another roaming stray," said Erika Cole, director of Providence Animal Care and Control (PACC).

PACC will be responsible for trapping feral cats, coordinating surgical appointments for owned cats and transporting cats from Providence to PAAWS RI's veterinary clinic in Warwick. PAAWS RI will provide veterinary care, including a complete physical exam, spay/neuter surgery, distemper and rabies vaccines, flea/deworming medication and a microchip if desired by the pet owner.

"Many cat owners in these communities truly want their cats spayed or neutered but simply cannot afford the services, down payments, travel accommodations or time out of work needed to transport their cats to any one of the low-cost clinics that exist. A portion of cat owners are not aware that spay or neuter may solve behavioral issues they are experiencing with their cats, and others do not desire litter after litter of kittens but are unable to help their cat by themselves and require assistance," said Cole

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

“We care for the thousands of free-roaming cats and the kittens born to them, whose lives are miserable and short. Seventy-five percent of kittens die within their first six months, and average adult age at death is only about five years,” said Nancy Pottish, vice president. “The funding will also benefit the people in the community who feed and care for the colonies while watching these tragedies play out.”

Veterinary restrictions and shelter-in-place orders due to COVID-19 reduced the number of cats PawsWatch will spay or neuter by approximately 30 percent to an estimated 900 in 2020.

“We are still doing as much as possible to help these abandoned cats and their caretakers. While some services like education and cat-trap training are on hold because of the pandemic, we are still doing equipment loans, subsidized sterilization surgery, vaccinations, medical care for injured free-roaming cats, kitten care and pre- and post-surgery boarding of the free-roaming cats brought to our facility,” said Pottish.

The RIVMA Companion Animal Foundation in Providence received $25,000 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 200 pet owners.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating financial impact on many Rhode Islanders. Job losses and illness have limited many people’s ability to pay for basic expenses, including veterinary care for their pets. This will help an increased number of low-income pet owners across the state access veterinary care for their pets,” said Elizabeth Suever, president of the board of directors.

Stand Up for Animals in Westerly received $15,000 to support its work assisting in the care of animals at the Westerly Animal Shelter. The funding will be used for veterinary services and medications.

“Our goal is to support a place where animals will be treated with compassion and dignity; where suffering and abuse will not be tolerated; where education and understanding will play an integral role in eliminating overpopulation, animal cruelty and abandonment; where every possible effort is made to return an animal to its owner, or to place that animal in a new, safe and forever loving home,” said Deb Turrisi, executive director.

West Place Animal Sanctuary in Tiverton received $25,000, primarily for food and health care, such as medication and hoof care, shearing, teeth filing and winter animal blankets. 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.

“This is a yearly, ongoing program, which grows and expands each year, as our organization does,” said Wendy Taylor, executive director. West Place cared for more than 60 farm and 150 wild animals in 2020.

The Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Rhode Island in North Kingstown received $10,200 to purchase diagnostic and treatment equipment to detect and treat lead poisoning in the birds it cares for. The funds will be used to purchase basic diagnostic testing equipment as well as a cage for large birds, including eagles. The organization cares for approximately 5,500 wild birds and animals from across the state a year.

“Hundreds of water birds, seabirds and raptors are at risk of lead poisoning. Life-saving treatment depends on timely, accurate diagnoses. Current turnaround time for off-site testing is four days. This lapse of time during the initial care of critical wild patients hampers accurate diagnosis and creates difficulty in instituting an effective plan for medical care,” said Kristin Fletcher, executive director.

The remaining organizations receiving grants are the North Kingstown Animal Protection League, Providence Animal Rescue League, Rhode Island Parrot Rescue, Rhode Island Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Roger Williams Park Zoo, Scruffy Paws Animal Rescue, Ten Lives Cat Rescue, Town of Cumberland, Town of North Providence and Town of Westerly.

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