Way back in 1944, a few animal lovers in Port Washington, New York got together and formed the North Shore Animal League. Their animal work was a very modest effort at first, with the shelter being located in someone’s garage. Soon, a few fenced outdoor runs were built, and a tiny bit of money trickled in to feed and care for the many stray animals they now took in. 

One or Two Individuals Truly Can Make a Difference

The Lewyts and their rescuesThe League grew very slowly; but they cared for the animals as well as possible, never destroying any, not even the older or ailing ones. But soon, North Shore Animal League was a tiny new animal shelter that had quickly fallen upon hard times; yet their ‘no-kill’ rule was a bedrock policy for them, and it was this difference that finally began to attract important local attention.

In 1969, one animal lover who heard about the League was Elisabeth Lewyt. She couldn't believe this unusual shelter never destroyed any animals, so she attended their next meeting with her husband, Alexander M. Lewyt. He was known nationally as a retired inventor (the Lewyt Vacuum cleaner was one of his ideas) and he sat quietly through the entire meeting until the treasurer's report was read. As usual, the League’s treasurer reported that there wasn't very much money and there weren't very many members, but there were lots of stray and abandoned dogs and cats that needed continued care and feeding. Costs were going up, and the future looked very bleak for this tiny shelter.

Mr. Lewyt's first suggestion to improve things was to start up a membership drive. This closely-knit group of animal lovers immediately saw the spark of enthusiasm in Mr. Lewyt's eyes and naturally gave the job to him; and he immediately came out of retirement. He quickly got together a list of dog owners and asked his friend and neighbor, Perry Como, a dog lover himself, to serve as chairman of the drive. Away they now went, and once the smoke cleared, the League had several thousand new members, and enough money to pay the bills.

And now, in stepped his wife, Elisabeth Lewyt, who was known to all as Babette. The new expanded animal rescue program at North Shore Animal League America began with this one woman's desire to save even more innocent animals.

While visiting a local pound one day, she saw all the puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats about to be destroyed. Those forlorn abandoned animals had no idea how quickly their luck was about to change. Babette immediately paid all the pound fees and put all the pets in her station wagon - every last one of them.  In a matter of minutes, these doomed creatures were given a second chance at life.

In the words of Mrs. Lewyt, "These are not strays, there's no such thing as a stray. All these animals had homes at one time or another - some were good, some were bad. But they all deserve another chance."

Thanks to Alex & Babette Lewyt's spirit and dedication, North Shore Animal League America has now grown to become the largest pet adoption agency and ‘no-kill’ animal shelter in the world. Their animal orphans are rescued not only from shelters and pounds close-by, but also from animal organizations in near and distant states.

All across the United States and around the world today, dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens now rely on North Shore Animal League America to represent their interests and to provide them with healthier, happier lives.

Today, North Shore Animal League America is dedicated to saving animal lives- not just in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut areas—but all around the world. While the League’s main adoption facility is still located in Port Washington, New York, their mobile units now allow them to travel throughout the country rescuing animals from various different situations. And, they are expanding their programs worldwide. Today, they are involved in emergency rescue efforts, out of state rescues, breed specific rescues, and international animal relief efforts.

In 1995, their Pet Adoptathon began simply as a North Shore Animal League America adoption weekend, with the goal of finding homes for dogs and cats in their shelter. The first weekend in May was set aside, and plans were made for the shelter to stay open 36 hours straight. Local media was called, and special fun activities were held under a big tent to call attention to the many dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens up for adoption at the League. And it worked! That weekend, over 500 needy pets were placed in excellent adoptive homes.

It also soon became apparent that the overwhelming success of this Pet Adoptathon had to be shared. Soon the League extended invitations to shelters everywhere to participate in Pet Adoptathon '96. That year, over 700 animal organizations joined together; and the result was thousands more loving pet adoptions.

And every year since, their Pet Adoptathon has continued to grow. Last year, over 1,500 organizations participated all across the United States and around the globe. Twelve years later, Pet Adoptathon has been responsible for over 229,000 loving adoptions worldwide.

The League's commitment to help the animals impacted by Hurricane Katrina has also been unwavering. They continue to assist in the re-homing of pets from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama with continued monthly trips to the South. They are still transporting animals back to the League, nurturing them, providing necessary medical attention, and placing them up for adoption into loving homes.

In the last twelve months since Hurricane Katrina struck, North Shore Animal League America members have made 33 road trips to the Gulf Coast and have conducted two unprecedented airlifts - enabling them to rescue 1,234 dogs and cats from the hurricane ravaged areas.

I was very proud to learn that North Shore Animal League America had chosen my book, Through Katrina’s Eyes, Poems from an Animal Rescuer’s Soul, as their August Book of the Month.  And, if you had purchased this book from www.Amazon.com, a percentage of your purchase was donated back to the League.

To learn more about this wonderful organization, and how you can help their marvelous animal work, please visit their website listed below.

Just one or two dedicated individuals can truly make a difference, in any worthwhile endeavor.

In the words of Mrs. Lewyt, "These are not strays, there's no such thing as a stray. All these animals had homes at one time or another - some were good, some were bad. But they all deserve another chance."

 

© Ed Kostro

For more of Ed's articles, poems and wonderful stories, please go to his index page:

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Dogs Come when Called

"Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you."

"Of course, every cat is really the most beautiful woman in the room."

Edward Verrall Luca (essayist)

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