Looking Back: The First 5 Years
Part 1 of a 4 part series
It actually began in 1987. Debi Richmond, then chair of the municipal Animal Control Advisory Board, called for a needs assessment to develop a five year plan for services and community support of Animal Control. That assessment determined that a volunteer program was needed to supplement the services performed by the animal control contractor. At the time, more than 12,000 animals were coming into the Center each year. Over 60% of these never found a home and were euthanized. Faced with this grim death toll, four local women decided to make a path for change. Debi Richmond and Dee Zlatich were members of the Animal Control Advisory Board, while Barbara DeSpain and Toni Diedrich were volunteers at Animal Control. Together they founded a non-profit called Friends of Pets, incorporated in 1989 and began their quest to improve the unacceptable statistics at Animal Control. Initially they counseled prospective adopters and promoted available pets. Soon thereafter, an empty office was allocated to FOP, where Barbara spent 15+ hours a week. FOP’s initial goals were to inform the public of the Center’s existence and to make people aware of the uncertain future faced by so many wonderful adoptable animals. A hotline connected callers with volunteers, providing networking and education to hundreds of people each month. Newspaper ads and attractive kennel signs began to increase adoptions.
Within a couple of years, the Board of Directors had grown and so had FOP’s services to the community. The adoption hotline reached many more prospective adopters. Spay and neuter coupons were provided with adopted animals, a rescue and placement program was begun, and FOP volunteers were spending hundreds of hours at Animal Control as advocates for the homeless. In 1992, due largely to the efforts of Diane Raynor, the Pet Patrol adoption feature was launched in the Anchorage Daily News as a partnership between FOP and David Jensen of Alaska Pet-ography. This collaboration continues today, resulting in many hundreds of adoptions through the years.
In 1993, FOP collaborated with Jerry Caires of 3-D AudioVisual to produce a weekly cable television show featuring available animals and providing information for responsible pet ownership. FOP expanded its spay/neuter information program by researching and publishing the fees for all clinics in southcentral Alaska, helping owners to locate the most convenient and cost-effective means for this important prevention.
As FOP volunteers worked tirelessly to save lives each day at Animal Control, the agency itself began to develop and stabilize, but the next five years would bring unexpected challenges along with the rewards. (to be continued)
Looking Back: The Building Years
Part 2 of a 4 part series
For our first five years, FOP operated from an office at Anchorage Animal Control. In late 1993 we were asked to vacate that space. The FOP board initially resisted that request because we were essentially providing the facility’s only volunteer services. In the end, we did acquire our first independent office space nearby, but continued to assure an active volunteer presence. In 1994, in addition to our adoption hotline, we created our phone information center to answer questions on lost and found, emergency help, adoption and rehoming, spay/neuter information and more. Fifteen years later, our dedicated volunteers still respond to those calls daily.
In 1995 we built our public presence with the inaugural issue of our agency newsletter Whiskers & Tails, developing PSA’s for local television, partnering with five local radio stations to promote available pets, and gave 40 presentations in the public schools. That year FOP was honored with the Golden Hearts Award by the Anchorage Association of Volunteer Administrators.
In July 1995, led by the vision of board member Alex Bury, FOP hosted the first Dog Jog at Kincaid Park. This has become our signature event for community canines and their people. The following December, we made our first rescue placement at the Anchorage Pioneer Home. “Nick the Pioneer Home Dog” lived there for many years, providing not only love and companionship, but also several acts of heroism for the seniors living there.
Other special events in these years celebrated the human animal bond through art. David Jensen of Alaska Pet-ography hosted “Clicks for Licks” and APU hosted the Pablo Show - an exhibition of animal art to support FOP and the APU arts program. Artist Carolee Pollock designed a quilt for our first benefit auction, and Artique hosted “Unleashed” as a fundraising exhibit for FOP.
Another major event in this time period was a change of contractors at Animal Control and a revision of Title 17. Allvest took over the contract in 1997 and Friends of Pets continued to represent the interests of homeless animals in that transition, and mentored the shelter in beginning its own formal volunteer program. FOP began hosting the annual National Homeless Animals Candlelight Vigil at the center that year.
Friends of Pets actively promoted Spay Day USA each year while providing local spay/neuter assistance services.In October 1997, guided by FOP co-founder Debi Richmond, we held our first benefit Quilt Auction, joining the passion and talents of local quilters with the mission of promoting spay/neuter in our community. We will celebrate the 13th auction later this fall. This ‘second five years’ saw the beginning of many such traditions that have lasted to this day through the dedication of FOP’s volunteers and the growing support of a caring community of donors.Through it all, we continued to walk the halls at Animal Control, saving as many lives as we could, and finding hearts and homes to make complete with that special animal companion.
Looking Back: The Outreach Years
Part 3 of a 4 part series
The years from 1999-2004 were ones of continued growth and outreach for Friends of Pets. We continued to maintain the programs initiated in prior years, including our spay/neuter assistance program, rescue and adoption, and humane education efforts, particularly with children. Our signature fundraisers, Dog Jog and Quilt Auction, continued to grow and provide more avenues for the community to support our efforts. Meanwhile, we vigorously pursued new ways to expand our influence and advocacy.
Friends of Pets developed active school-business partnerships with Mears and Romig junior high schools. We were honored in the Anchorage School District’s “Blueprint for Success” which spotlighted the most successful of these collaborations.
When the city’s Animal Control contract was awarded to ALPS (a subsidiary of Doyon), Friends of Pets was invited by the municipality and the contractor to participate in that transition as an independent voice for the shelter animals. We worked with ALPS to assure a positive transition that would enhance animal care and improve public service. This working relationship continues to be an effective and dynamic one. During a rewrite of the Title 17 ordinance for animal control, we worked closely with the Animal Control Advisory Board on key points. We negotiated the renaming of the shelter to the Anchorage Animal Care & Control Center as well as helped to make mandatory spay/neuter of shelter animals a reality.
Our website launched in 2001, relieving some of the burden on phone volunteers by providing easily accessible information resources and online adoption applications. A series of information brochures was developed on important pet topics.
After the September 11, 2001 tragedy, Friends of Pets and Sprocketheads collaborated on the production of a television public service announcement called “Hero” as a gift of healing to our community. FOP and Sprocketheads received state and regional advertising awards for this campaign, and the PSA is still used across the country to honor not only the working dogs of 9/11, but companion pets everywhere.
FOP also grew our professional contacts in a variety of fields. In 2002 we hosted the initial First Strike Workshop, illuminating the link between violence against animals and violence against women and children. The workshop brought together professionals in law enforcement, animal welfare, child protection and domestic violence and began a dialogue on these significant issues facing our community. In 2003 we invited members from the community to a forum as part of a Board retreat to gather information on how Friends of Pets could better meet community needs. This laid the groundwork for future strategic planning efforts.
In 2004 we honored the 10th anniversary of “Operation Barklift”, a rescue of abandoned pets on the Adak naval base. This had taken a collaboration of many concerned individuals and humane agencies. One of those pets, a sweet husky mix named Tilly, was our 2004 Dog Jog mascot to celebrate the anniversary of that lifesaving mission. When Tilly passed away in 2009, the Dog Jog was dedicated to her memory.
Looking Back: The Last 5 Years
Part 4 of a 4 part series
The recent years of our journey to our 20th anniversary have continued to be full of vigorous service to our community. Besides continuing our regular efforts in rescuing hundreds of dogs and cats, offering 24 hour information center services, providing emergency assistance to several hundred families, offering Safe Haven services to pets of domestic violence, and spaying/neutering nearly 5000 pets, other highlights of the recent years include:
♥ Produced a new PSA “Commitment” in partnership with Sprocketheads, and won the National Dog Fest Film Festival for our “Hero” PSA
♥ Participated in creating the Animal Control Advisory Board’s strategic plan for animal care services
♥ Created a pet loss grief support resource packet which reaches out to over 80 families each year
♥ Received awards from both the Alaska Kennel Club and Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) for the Safe Haven Program
♥ Collaborated with the Anchorage Municipal Library and the Center for the Book to present a joint Be Kind to Animals and Reading Rendezvous celebration, reaching a much larger audience for humane education
♥ Received the BP/AAVA Golden Heart Award for Outstanding Volunteer Program
♥ As part of the Anchorage Museum’s Spot the Dog exhibit, presented a display of Pet Patrol featured pets in partnership with Alaska Pet-ography
♥ Hosted another First Strike workshop which resulted in progress of collaboration between Animal Care & Control and the Anchorage Police Department. As a result, APD has appointed their first animal cruelty detective.
♥ Averaged over 360,000 visits to our website annually
♥ Collaborated with Alaska Mill and Feed to present Art in the Garden and the Alaska Pet Idol contest
♥ Celebrated our 20 years with long time business partner Alaska Pet-ography (David Jensen Photography) with an exhibit featuring all of our Pet Patrol portraits through the years.
As we look forward to the next 20 years we are humbled by the support of the community for our volunteer efforts. We are also grateful for the growth in public awareness of companion animal issues, and will continue to work toward our vision of a community where all animals are loved, wanted and cared for. Thank you for making our efforts possible and for sharing this journey with us!