Lucy, a Chihuahua mix, was dirty, malnourished, and had likely been hit by a car when she was spotted wandering around outside by Joey Herrick and his family. What the family didn’t know then was that Lucy, like so many stray and abandoned female dogs, was pregnant as well. Thankfully, the Herrick family decided to care for Lucy after a search for her owners turned up nothing, and the little dog gave birth on Herrick’s son’s bed.
Today, Lucy and her five puppies are all in forever homes, but they are lucky. Thousands of pregnant females and young puppies who are brought into animal shelters every day are euthanized immediately because of severe overcrowding.
But Joey Herrick — the man who gave Lucy a chance at a happy life — decided to help do something about the pet overpopulation issue in the United States; he has used $700,000 of his own money to start the Lucy Pet Foundation.
The foundation is on a mission to get mobile spay-and-neuter clinics in every major city across the U.S. One mobile clinic can spay/neuter 120 animals per week, and if you do the math, more than 6,000 animals can be sterilized in a year, thus preventing a potential minimum of 15,000 new dogs and cats being added to the pet overpopulation problem.
And that’s just one mobile clinic.
Herrick says the foundation’s ultimate goal is to have 30 functioning mobile clinics, which would make a significant impact on America’s pet overpopulation.
The Lucy Foundation founder was also the president of Natural Balance Pet Foods for 29 years. An animal lover and big supporter of animal rescue, Herrick donated large quantities of pet food to shelters before starting his own foundation, and calls those who work in animal rescue and welfare “the real heroes.”
Because Herrick knew that there just aren’t enough homes for all the animals that come into shelters, he wanted to help stop the problem at its source by offering low-cost or free spaying-and-neutering programs with mobile clinics.
“[It’s] the only way to reduce the 80,000 dogs and cats who are being euthanized each week in the United States,” he explains. Sadly, that’s more than four million animals per year.
And although the foundation has just one mobile clinic currently up and running (with plans to add a second one very soon), the Lucy Pet Foundation has been able to perform 1,000 spay/neuter surgeries to date and has vaccinated more than 2,000 animals.
“We have a medical staff headed up by our Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Karen Halligan, four additional RVT/veterinary assistants, and a small office staff,” Herrick says. “Together, we do high-quality, affordable spay and neuter. At times when donations come in, we can provide no cost services in areas that need them the most.”
In addition to providing spay/neuter surgeries, the mobile clinic is also helping to find homes for shelter animals whose time is almost up. The Lucy Pet Foundation volunteers go into shelters and find animals to feature in the adoption portion of the truck at local pet retail stores and events. The visibility gives these dogs and cats a fighting chance at finding a forever home.
Despite its great success, a big challenge facing the Lucy Pet Foundation is its attempt to change people’s views on spaying and neutering their pets, while bringing awareness to the benefits of sterilization and the need to do so in order to reduce North America’s pet overpopulation problem.
“Dogs and cats who are neutered live an average of 40 percent longer than those who aren’t. Statistically, male neutered dogs and cats are just plain healthier,” Herrick says.
But in spite of the health advantages for sterilized pets, many owners are reluctant to do so, or can simply not afford the procedure.
“[Some people] want their children to see puppies being born,” explains Herrick. “Unfortunately, they don’t show those puppies being euthanized in shelters when they don’t get homes.”
Herrick also explains that some owners choose not to neuter male dogs used as guard dogs for the home, fearing the dog will be “less driven to protect, [but] that this is simply not true.”
And the Lucy Pet Foundation even has its own spokesdog: Daniel, the “miracle dog.” The Beagle mix was a six-month-old stray who was put into an Alabama gas chamber with 17 other dogs. When a shelter worker later opened the door, all of the dogs except little Daniel were dead. The worker assumed Daniel would die shortly after, but didn’t have the heart to put him back in the gas chamber. He gave him some water and waited. But Daniel didn’t die, and in fact he got the chance at a new life with his new adoptive dad, Joe Dwyer, the east coast director of the Lucy Pet Foundation.
Today, Daniel is a happy, healthy dog who is helping the Lucy Pet Foundation raise awareness about pet overpopulation and the inhumane practice of gassing animals in overcrowded shelters.
Herrick is proud of the work his foundation is doing, and credits the people involved with the Lucy Pet Foundation for making it so special.
“We are all animal lovers and put animals first,” he notes. “Every dog or cat who comes on our bus for services is treated like our own. Corners must never be cut because people are paying low cost or getting it for free.”
If you’d like to learn more about the inspiring work the Lucy Pet Foundation is doing or to help out, please check out the website. A donation of $45 will allow a cat to be spayed/neutered, while a gift of $90 will spay/neuter a dog. Each animal sterilized is helping to reduce pet overpopulation and potentially saving thousands of lives.
All photos used with permission via the Lucy Pet Foundation’s Facebook page unless otherwise noted.
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About Crystal Gibson: A child-sized Canadian expat in France who is fluent in French and sarcasm. Owned by a neurotic Doxie mix, a Garfield look-alike, and two needy Sphynx cats. An aspiring writer and pet photographer with a love of coffee and distaste for French administration, she can be found as @PinchMom on Twitter.