Poverty and structural inequality create barriers to accessing healthy food, education, jobs, health care and housing. Pet resources are no different. Over 20 million pets experience poverty with their families in the U.S., and 70% of these pets have never seen a veterinarian. Our More Than a Pet campaign is leading the charge to raise awareness of this overlooked national crisis and to attract new corporate support to increase access to pet resources and veterinary services and help keep people and pets together. This year, with the help of our partnersSmalls, Tractive, Motel 6 and TQL—we’re introducing the More Than a Pet Community Hero Award to honor three individuals for their exceptional contributions to their communities. Here, Amanda Arrington, vice president of Access to Care for the Humane Society of the United States, describes their wonderful work.

For more than two decades, through our Rural Area Veterinary Services and Pets for Life programs, we’ve provided pioneering access to care programs. In doing this work, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about and to meet some truly incredible individuals dedicated to making a difference for the people and animals in their communities. It’s an honor to recognize three amazing advocates as our 2024 More Than a Pet Community Hero finalists: Jamal Hughes of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Julie Cassadore of San Carlos, Arizona; and Ingemar Woods of Altus, Oklahoma. All three have received a prize of $5,000 to honor their efforts to increase access to care in their communities. Now we’re asking the public to VOTE to help decide who will be named the 2024 More Than a Pet Community Hero. The organization that nominated the Community Hero winner will receive an additional $10,000 to further its access to care efforts. Here’s just a glimpse of the life-changing efforts from these heroes:

Jamal Hughes, Baton Rouge, Louisiana