It takes a village to care for its people….and pets. With all the amazing community organizations that Westerly has that provide dedicated services to humans, it’s comforting to know that animals are looked after with compassionate care as well throughout this spirited community.
Brought to you by
Stand up for Animals (SUFA), a nonprofit independent organization has been advocating for animals for over 10 years now, having just celebrated their 10-year anniversary last August. Incorporated in 2002, SUFA was created after a group of passionate Westerly residents came together and decided a dedicated space was needed to better care for the stray dogs and cats, that at the time were kept in an enclosed area next to the Westerly Landfill.
Lina Carreiro O’Leary who started with SUFA as a volunteer and has been an active board member for the past 10 years remembers their beginning story of SUFA.
“A group of citizens in Westerly, including Larry Hirsch, who the street is named after, saw a need for a better facility,” she said.
The group came together and decided the would raise the money, build a shelter, and get it done. Get it done they did, raising $2.2 million to build the animal shelter space next to the landfill where they work alongside the Town of Westerly Animal Shelter to support their needs as well. She was so happy the day the building was finished in 2009 and they celebrated with a grand opening ribbon cutting for the community
Along with finding forever safe and happy homes for lost and abandoned pets, another amazing component of the SUFA mission is to educate the community on the care and well being of their pets. Their educational component includes a humane education specialist, Jane Greco Deming who visits local elementary and middle schools to teach students how to respect and take care of animals, including a wild animal science lesson.
Last year more than 1,300 kids were educated throughout Westerly and Stonington schools, and SUFA included their humane education at the Stonington Human Services Summer Camp.
“We are very proud of what the educator has been able to do,” said Deb Turrisi, executive director for SUFA. “It’s very touching the great work in the community we do and honor to be a part of what we do.”
As part of their services they also offer a wellness clinic, working in partnership with local veterinarian Dr. John Turco and the Westerly Animal Shelter. The wellness clinic is open to the community and people can make an appointment for low-cost pet exams, dental cleaning, vaccinations, and spay and neuter services. Through their fundraising, donations, and grants SUFA is able to help families with emergency situations and in times of hardship with their pet’s care.
“We help families with emergency pet services and spent over $18,000 last year on that,” Deb said. “It could include an elderly person whose pet needs a dental cleaning or a pet hit by a car. We also have a feral cat trap and spay/neuter program and feed them.”
This year they also plan to use the money donated to the organization and offer dog and cat training for families who need that guidance to address any behavioral issues with their pets before it becomes a problem.
What do the next 10 years look like for SUFA? They would like to expand their paw print and provide bigger spaces for the dogs and the cats, also making improvements to the building. Ideally, they would like to create a mock living room for the dogs, so the dogs can have a place to transition into from the kennels before they are adopted and go into a home.
“Many of the dogs have just been in kennels and not lived in a home before,” says Lina. “It would be nice for them so they could just chill and be taught manners and we can see how their behavior is before they transition into a home.”
They also want to provide more services to the community and support other local shelters and grow their educational component by offering more classes like adult CPR and training, as well as animal-related topics.
“Being a part of SUFA has not only opened my eyes to all of the wonderful work that we do in the community from the educational component to helping pets and families in need but it also opened my eyes to the importance of rescuing these animals that did not ask to be put in the situation that they’re currently in,” says Deb. “Pets are family and sometimes pets are all that some individuals have so although I realize that we can’t save them all but we can certainly try!”
If you are interested in adopting a pet, come visit Stand up for Animals, 33 Larry Hirsch Lane, Westerly or call 401-348-9595.