Our organization, originally known as Friends of the Shelter, was founded in 1995, with our original mission being to promote animal welfare in our parish. At that time our goal was to gain public support for a parish-run "animal shelter" to deal with the overwhelming number of stray animals roaming the streets. Our diverse fundraising efforts included rummage sales, "silent" art auctions, membership drives, and corporate and individual donations.
Our endeavors succeeded. In 1997, Tangipahoa Parish opened an animal control center; we donated over $20,000 in equipment and supplies in the first few years of its existence. With an animal center open, it became more important for our organization to seek low-cost spay/neuter services.
In 1998, our organization volunteered with the "SNIP" van, a mobile veterinary clinic sponsored by the nonprofit Southern Animal Foundation. SNIP provided discounted spay/neuter surgeries to the pets of low-income clients in our community. Andrea Malone, a Friends of the Shelter volunteer, coordinated these monthly visits to our Parish. Andrea was responsible for ensuring that the $800/per visit fee was secured through co-payments and/or a community sponsor. Volunteers from Friends also handled publicizing the program, making application forms conveniently available, managing appointments, providing crates, and transporting animals as needed. Unfortunately, the Southern Animal Foundation discontinued its support of the mobile van after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Two members of our board were trained by the Noah's Wish Organization in pre/post disaster preparedness as relating to animals. Following Katrina, they used this training to help with rescue, recover, reunite, and foster from September to November of 2005.
Although the Friends' activities waned in the post-Katrina years, we continued to work with rescue groups and to offer a spay-neuter voucher program. We promoted the importance of spay and neuter by supporting discounted spay/neuter surgeries during February (to coincide with World Spay Day) to stimulate interest and awareness of the pet over-population problem in our community. To support our voucher program, we held rummage sales and raffles and procured donations.
For the past several years, the Friends have hosted a successful spay/neuter promotion in conjunction with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) World Spay Day with an added component—spay/neuter raffles. Eleven veterinary clinics in our area participated in our "We'll Pay for Your Spay or Neuter" drawings, wherein two winners (one cat/one dog) per clinic received their pet's surgeries free of charge. In addition, to promote the importance of spay/neuter, we also hosted meetings providing community education, utilized local media, e.g., radio talk shows, editorials and articles in the newspaper, and posted on Facebook. On this past World Spay Day, we hosted an educational event at a local pet supply store. To fund our efforts, we raffled a donated, architect-designed doghouse.
From our participation in HSUS World Spay Day, this year we applied for and were awarded a mini-grant from HSUS for our efforts, which we re-invested in a matching grant for zeutering.
Continually, we have worked toward educating our community about the tragedy of animal over-population and the spay/neuter solution. We have staffed information tables at community events, provided educational material for display at the libraries and pet supply stores, as well as at humane society events. We are currently developing an educational pamphlet targeting owners of female pets explaining how to know when your dog or cat is in heat, etc.
In March 2013, we applied for and were awarded a grant from Ark Charities to sponsor a "Zeuterin Training Day." Zeuterin, a zinc gluconate injectable solution (and the only FDA-approved drug used for canine, non-surgical sterilization) will be on the market early in 2014. It is currently only available to nonprofit organizations such as ours and can be secured at no cost until it goes on the market. Eight area (4 local) veterinarians participated in that training day and became certified in the use of Zeuterin. In one afternoon of hands-on training session, 37 dogs were successfully "zeutered" with no adverse effects.
For 2014, Tangi Animal Friends received a $4,000 grant from the Louisiana Animal Welfare Commission to implement a spay/neuter program in Tangipahoa Parish for approximately 35 feral (wild) cats and 35 pet dogs. This grant helped us establish a voucher program with participating veterinarians, targeting those dog owners living in TPAC Dist. 3 who could not otherwise afford to have their dog fixed. We hope to continue this program through local fund-raising efforts, reaching out to more than the initial target population.