For a variety of reasons, animal protection has not enjoyed the same degree of foundation support that other causes have received. In recent years, that’s been changing, as our cause has been buoyed by more and more people, including some with the resources to set up foundations.
This became a matter of greater public interest after Leona Helmsley directed that her $5 to $8 billion estate be devoted to the care and welfare of dogs. Several weeks ago, the Hudson Institute devoted an afternoon forum to the Helmsley bequest, and HSUS officials Andrew Rowan and Bernard Unti, and HSUS director Peter Bender, published letters in The Chronicle of Philanthropy on the subject. And in a recent issue of The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin also addressed the Helmsley case.
A colleague who attended the Hudson Institute forum told me that there was no skepticism whatsoever concerning the validity of a bequest designed to support a major new foundation to benefit animals, and we’re doing what we can to ensure that Mrs. Helmsley’s wishes are honored. But I’m also personally hopeful that the Helmsley bequest will encourage other foundations to support animal protection work.
Imagine the impact that major grants from the Helmsley Foundation or others could effect in the sheltering sector alone. Capital investments in infrastructure could universalize the highest sanitary, health, and environmental standards, making shelters better places for animals, the people who work there, and the visiting public. Grants to hire humane educators would ensure that every community has appropriate youth outreach in place concerning kindness to animals, dog bite prevention, and related issues. Professional training programs for investigators and other personnel would enhance the range of services that properly constituted and funded community animal care centers can provide. And then how about efforts to address dogfighting, puppy mills, and greyhound racing.
The few foundations that have supported animal protection have had a tremendous effect. The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation had a major impact with its support of programs to understand human attitudes to animals and to promote the human-animal bond. The Elinor Patterson Baker Trust has, together with The HSUS, provided the funding to support a practical and humane wildlife contraceptive to manage populations of many different types of wildlife including wild horses, African elephants and suburban deer. The Glaser Progress Foundation helped to drive the animal protection movement toward streaming video and other progressive web technologies, and to raise public concern about the conservation and protection of chimpanzees and the protection of farm animals. Maddie’s Fund, a foundation established by PeopleSoft founder David Duffield and his wife Cheryl, has advanced the idea of a no-kill nation for our beloved companion animals—a goal shared, it seems, by Dr. Gary Michelson, who has created a foundation to combat pet overpopulation. The Morris Animal Foundation has catalyzed research concerning the health and welfare of our companion animals. Animal Welfare Trust founder Brad Goldberg has been at the forefront of advancing farm animal welfare. There are other, strong examples of foundation support beginning to emerge as well, including the many member organizations of Animal Grantmakers.
As these examples show, we’ve made some progress via foundation support. Still, I hope to see the day when every community foundation funds the local animal shelter, and when private foundations, small and large, are providing the animal protection movement with the funds needed to secure the next generation of great gains.