The Humane Rescue Alliance is an animal rescue organization that helps to protect animals, home creatures that are homeless, and make positive impacts on communities where humans and animals coexist. Operating out of Washington DC, The Humane Rescue Alliance is known for their brilliant Blue Collar Cat program which places outdoor cats with businesses and private homeowners to protect them against rodents and attract customers for some businesses.
Lauren Lipsey, the vice president of community programs at the Humane Rescue Alliance, recently discussed the organization, its mission, and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get involved with animal rescue and how did you find yourself at The Humane Rescue Alliance?
Lauren Lipsey (LL): I moved to Chile after graduate school and was struck by the sheer number of animals living outside, seemingly unowned. Many were in great shape, and honestly it was kind of nice to know the neighborhood dogs, where they hung out, and get to know their habits, etc. In fact, my two pups I found on the street in my first few months in Chile. But there was still suffering that existed in a lot of instances.
I got involved with a non-profit that did one-day, pop-up spay/neuter events because otherwise I felt utterly helpless. It was the first time I really felt compelled toward any particular mission and when I moved back to the United States, I was fortunate to get a job at a shelter and have really been involved in animal welfare ever since. I started volunteering at the Washington Humane Society (a legacy organization of HRA) when I moved to Washington, D.C., I was involved on its Volunteer Leadership Committee, and so I was excited when the Director of Rehoming position came open in 2014. I have been with the organization ever since.
MM: What sorts of programs does the Humane Rescue Alliance offer which have been very beneficial to animals?
LL: Not only do we provide solace to homeless animals who otherwise have no place to go, but we protect those animals who are victims of abuse and neglect and provide free and reduced-fee resources to pet owners from around our region. We also provide free trap, neuter, return (TNR) for outdoor, community cats, which has drastically reduced the intake of kittens and cats in the last 10years and ultimately decreases the euthanasia rate as we can find homes for all of the social, and behaviorally and medically treat-able animals who come in to our care.
MM: Typically, what are some of the most common situations you see happen to animals in shelters?
LL: In terms of the circumstances that cause animals to come into our shelter, it’s often a pet owner’s need to move and difficulty finding pet-friendly housing, landlords who do not permit a certain breed, or inability to afford medical care for a particular ailment. These issues are related to the socioeconomic factors affecting the human members of our community, and we try to design services that will mitigate some of the burden of pet ownership, where possible. Other than that, animal cruelty and abuse still exists in the form of dog fighting, abandonment, and other gruesome acts, so we dedicate substantial efforts to bringing these instances to light, investigating, and prosecuting the individuals responsible.
MM: What prompted you to start Blue Collar Cats and what sort of business have joined?
LL: Despite all of our fantastic programs dedicated to finding live outcome options for the animals in our care, I was still finding that there was a population of animals who were most likely to end up facing euthanasia. This population was formerly outdoor cats who were unsocial to humans (despite our best attempts to modify behavior in-shelter), otherwise medically healthy, without a safe place to return to because of construction, lack of caregiver, or known abuse in the area. In these instances, euthanasia was the most humane option. I knew that the reason we weren’t able to save them is because we did not have outdoor locations with a dedicated caregiver where they could live out their days. So, I set out to solve that problem. Businesses from coffee shops to breweries to plant nurseries have all assumed responsibility for a Blue Collar Cat.
MM: Right now, how many businesses have a Blue Collar Cat and what has the response been like?
LL: Actually, we’ve had more homeowners accept Blue Collar Cats onto their properties than business owners, which was a complete surprise! Now more than 70 percent of the locations with BCC’s are homes.
MM: People Magazine wrote about this program, so how did they hear about it and what was the experience of working with them like?
LL: We have a fantastic communications team that knows it’s important for us to share the value of programs like BCC with others so that they may adopt these lifesaving programs in their areas. It’s also a great opportunity to share with the wider audience, not necessarily cat people, about the value of the work we do. This is what has made BCC so valuable to begin with, we were able to position the program as one that was valuable and accessible to everyone, not just people with a preexisting affinity for cats.
MM: Blue Collar Cats is in Washington DC now, so might you eventually expand into NY?
LL: There are similar programs operating in areas all over the country, though they are often oriented as “barn cat” programs and so can be un-relatable to residents in urban areas. I encourage property owners to reach out to their local animal welfare organizations to see if a similar program exists!
MM: What is the most rewarding thing about working with the Humane Rescue Alliance and what are your major goals for the future?
LL: The most exciting thing is having flexibility to be innovative in the programs and services we design. So that means the most rewarding thing is that we keep helping more and more animals, and even those who are owned! Which I love, because why should our support end at our shelter doors? There are so many animals and people who don’t have access to pet resources near them, and I love being able to bridge that gap because we have a broad definition of what it means to help animals. All animals. Homeless, owned, four-legged, two-legged, and everything in between. It’s fantastic.
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To learn more, visit the official website of the Humane Rescue Alliance.