Media release

Rhode Island Foundation awards nearly $500,000 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 Foundation has awarded nearly $500,000 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. Collectively, these funds enable the Foundation to take a leading role on animal welfare issues.

The single largest recipient is the Potter League for Animals, which received a total of $100,000. The grants include $20,000 to support veterinary care at its Animal Resource 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 clinic in East Providence.

The facilities provide services, including veterinary care focused on pet owners with low-incomes, including people receiving public assistance, residents of subsidized housing and people who are unsheltered.

"We believe that by supporting the most vulnerable pet owners, they, in turn, are not forced to make difficult decisions about paying for veterinary care over other necessities. These programs keep families whole by providing pet food, temporary housing, veterinary care, behavior advice, and other essentials that keep pets out of shelters," said Potter CEO Brad Shear.

The other recipients are:

Animal Rescue Rhode Island (ARRI) in South Kingstown received $19,500 to support its humane education programs, collectively called ARRI Animal Scholars. 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 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 aim of ARRI Animal Scholars is to share valuable information and contribute to lasting relationships between people and animals. Additionally, our programs promote responsible animal care and character education.”

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 educates approximately 20,000 children and adults annually about the value of wildlife and the importance of biodiversity 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 and the grackle are either former pets or are permanently injured animals that 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, while they serve as animal ambassadors to thousands of people helping them to connect with nature,” said Lawrence J.F. Taft, executive director.

CoyoteSmarts in Middletown received $5,000 for its public education efforts, in partnership with the Potter League for Animals, the Conservation Agency, the R.I. Natural History Survey, the Aquidneck Land Trust and the Norman Bird Sanctuary.

"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 of the Potter League.

The East Greenwich Animal Protection League received $6,000 to purchase a dental machine and IV Pump for its new surgical suite. The dental machine and scaler will enable the organization to treat, operate on and address dental problems on-site with one anesthesia, which will eliminate having to sedate animals a second time in order to transport them outside providers.

“One of the issues we see regularly is dental disease. As we all know, dental disease contributes to other health issue such as heart disease. Having the ability to provide that care is very important,” said Tammy Flanagan Gallo, executive director.

“Because of COVID 19 restrictions, getting animals into practitioners for serious issues is tough. Since dentals are not considered urgent, it is very hard to even get an appointment. The dental machine will truly be a godsend for the shelter saving time, money and, most importantly, eliminating the stress of taking animals back and forth to vet visits,” she said.

Foster Parrots in Hope Valley received $29,937 for repairs to the facility following a devastating fire in April 2021. The work includes restoring electrical service and the construction of a new tortoise fence. The repairs are expected to enable the organizations to better care for approximately 300 parrots and eight tortoises in its care.

“The repairs will enable us to continue our adoption program, which is essential in determining the numbers of unwanted parrots we are able to rescue and re-home. Additionally, although our onsite public education programs will be largely reduced this year, we hope to be able to conduct some level of onsite activity in the form of tours, internships and children’s projects,” said Karen Windsor, executive director.

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 have low income 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 organization is seeing a severe impact of the COVID-19 crisis on pet owners who were already under financial pressure. The organization served about 300 clients last year, about a 50 percent increase compared to 2020.

"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 7 initiative, which underwrites the cost of spay and neuter procedures; testing and treatments, including vaccinations, preventative medicines and implanting microchips for feral cats as well as 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 Riseberg.

Friends of the Scituate Animal Shelter received $5,000 for extraordinary veterinary services and medications for animals taken into the shelter.

“Our Medical Testing and Treatment Program has been in place since our organization came into existence in 2002. The major outcome is improving an animal's chances of adoption in addition to relieving pain and suffering. In 2020, approximately 90 percent of the animals taken into the Shelter were successfully placed,” said Nicholas Murphy, president.

Historic New England received $5,000 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 while helping to preserve a rare breed of chicken, the Dominique. Students from across the state participate in the program, and we provide subsidized rates for school districts with financial needs,” said Vin Cipolla, president and CEO.

Mystic Aquarium received $15,000 to support the rescue, care and rehabilitation of injured or sick marine mammals and sea turtles found along Rhode Island’s shoreline. 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.”

The New England Humane Society in Cumberland received $13,820 to create at least two quarantine kennels, to upgrade the facility’s HVAC system, lighting, flooring, storage and drainage; and to install separate exterior door and exterior run space for animals in quarantine.

“The proposed project creates much-needed quarantine space for pregnant, sick or anxious dogs placed in our care,” said Susan Joseph, executive director. “Residents also benefit from a safe place to adopt dogs or, in unfortunate circumstances, to surrender them.”

“Currently, we had no quarantine space at the humane society. Unfortunately, animals under our care can come from highly stressful situations – abandonment, high-kill shelters, surrender due to neglect or lack of ability to pay for veterinarian care and food. For some highly stressed dogs, this requires a quiet, safe space away from other animals so that they have time to adjust to their new surroundings. As hard as we try, some dogs struggle more than others to adjust to life in a facility. We also have some dogs in our care that have been here long term. This isolated space gives them an area where they can decompress,” said Joseph.

Providence Animal Care and Control received $25,000 to spay or neuter approximately 350 feral and owned cats. The organization partners primarily with the PAAWS RI veterinary clinic, but also works with other clinics and veterinarians.

“Our Gimme Shelter Spay and Neuter for Cats Partnership Program has been a wildly successful and fulfilling journey especially during times where spay and neuter is scarce and needed most. We've been able to recruit citizens and turn them into feline advocates while making families whole and returning their beloved but behaviorally hormonal cats back to them as a new cat free from nature's influence,” said Erika Cole, director.

The Rhode Island Natural History Survey in South Kingstown received $10,000 for reusable educational signage for its “Coexisting with Coyotes: Engaging the Neighborhoods” exhibit at the Roger Williams Park Zoo as well as for future uses.

“The population and behaviors of Rhode Island coyotes are greatly affected by the behaviors of people among whom they live. If people and coyotes are to co-exist safely, residents need to know the best practices that the science recommends,” said David Gregg, executive director.

“By involving the public, this exhibit supports researchers who are tracking coyotes in neighborhoods around Roger Williams Park, and elsewhere, and improves safety for Providence residents, their pets and urban wild animals. And the exhibit also benefits residents, both human and animal, by improving peoples' understanding of animal behavior, both wild and domestic,” he said.

The Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA) in East Providence received $34,000 to support its Serving Animals in Need & Training Those Who Protect Them program, including providing illness and minor emergency care for pets of owners with low incomes, staging vaccination clinics for pets of owners with low incomes and training municipal animal control officers.

“Due to the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the people we serve are facing increased financial strain and housing uncertainty. This much needed assistance, which will allow us to increase the amount of low-cost veterinary care we provide for pet owners who cannot afford necessary veterinary care for their pets and to bring low-cost vaccination clinics into our neighborhoods, will allow more Rhode Islanders to keep and properly care for their pets during this difficult time,” said Wayne Kezirian, RISPCA president.

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 crisis continues to have a devastating financial impact on many Rhode Islanders. Unemployment and illness are hurting their ability to pay for even basic expenses, including veterinary care for their pets. This will enable us to help pet owners with low incomes across the state access veterinary care for their pets,” said Elizabeth Suever, president of the board of directors.

The Roger Williams Park Zoo received $30,000 to support its application for renewal of its American Humane Animal Welfare certification. The zoo is one of only 11 nationwide currently certified by the 140-year-old organization, which provides independent, third-party validation of adherence to world-class animal-care benchmarks.

“Having an intense independent audit will help us identify some of these potential oversights and ensure that we are constantly raising the bar in animal welfare. In addition, our estimated 835,000 annual visitors will directly benefit as well as an animal with a good state of welfare is more likely to inspire our guests to connect with wildlife than an animal in a less optimal state of welfare,” said Ron Patalano, interim executive director.

Scruffy Paws Animal Rescue in Warwick received $3,000 to support its Focus on Resolution of Crisis Situations, which funds veterinary care, including spay and neuter procedures, as well as microchipping in collaboration with the municipal animal control departments in Coventry and Providence.

“During the course of their work, animal control officers sometimes come upon unexpected groups of animals that are either suffering from neglect, disease or uncontrolled reproduction. Due to the large numbers of cats in these situations, rapid response is needed. Unfortunately, they do not have the staff, kennel space or financial resources to rapidly respond to these crises,” said Stephanie Aragao, executive director. “The result is spread of disease, euthanasia, or constant reproduction which makes the problem bigger. This grant will enable us to work with them to trap, medically and behaviorally evaluate, spay/neuter and place animals in a timely fashion.”

Stand Up for Animals in Westerly received $10,000 to support the cost of medications for shelter animals and veterinary care for owned community animals.

“Unfortunately, COVID has left all vets and clinics with backlogs. In addition to caring for the animals at the shelter, we have seen a huge increase in the number of families needing financial assistance with caring for their pets. Some assistance is as basic as preventative shots and spay/neuter services, but many times it is a pet emergency that leaves these families with nowhere else to turn for assistance, resources and guidance,” said Lina Carreiro O'Leary, president.

Ten Lives Cat Rescue received $3,000 to support its Spay It Forward program. Ten Lives will use the grant to provide as many as 100 low-income cat owners with vouchers that reduce the cost of spay/neuter surgeries that include rabies and distemper vaccines.

"We receive countless requests to rescue wounded, emaciated, and abandoned cats and kittens. However, we recognize homeless cats are not only the result of feral cats' breeding. Homeless cats, whether feral or domesticated, are also the result of un-spayed and unneutered owned-cats reproducing," said Melissa Rodas, executive director of the Pawtucket-based organization.

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

“Spay It Forward ensures that finances are not a barrier to cats in the Rhode Island community receiving the critical spay and neuter services they need,” said Rodas.

West Place Animal Sanctuary in Tiverton received $25,000. 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. The grant will provide food and medical care, including veterinary well-visits and sick visits; daily medical examinations and treatments; medicines, surgeries, animal supplies and vital health services such as shearing, hoof care, teeth trimming and skin conditioning.

“Our animals require dozens of 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.

In addition to rehabilitating as many as 250 wildlife annually, West Place cares for 70-to-80 permanent rescues as the only farm animal sanctuary of its kind in the area.

“We provide all of our rescues - whether lifetime residents or those in need of temporary rehabilitation - with quality food and care throughout the year. We are often called to assist police departments, animal control officers and SPCAs when issues arrive regarding farm animals that have been victims of cruelty or neglect. 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 $10,000 for veterinary care and equipment.

Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Rhode Island in North Kingstown received $28,000 to add on-site x-ray capability to its Wildlife Clinic of R.I. in order to provide immediate, accurate medical diagnosis and treatment of injured wildlife.

“Currently this service is accessible only by scheduling appointments at other veterinary facilities. This results in stressful off-site transfers and handling from our Wildlife Clinic and back. Reduction of stress in captive, injured wild species is imperative for successful treatment and outcome,” said Kristin Fletcher, executive director.

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

“Any wild patients presenting with trauma or undiagnosable injuries will benefit from timely x-rays to determine best course of action. Furthermore, x-ray availability will allow for monitoring of conditions, including proper healing fractures and movement of lead pellets through the system,” said Fletcher.

PawsWatch and the Providence Animal Rescue League also received grants.

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