Community advocates and volunteers are vital to the animal protection movement and communities all around the world, especially in remote areas or neighborhoods with a lack of resources. They embody the spirit of compassion, tirelessly dedicating their time and efforts to ensure the well-being of animals living with families who are often overlooked or underserved.

Our Pets for Life and Rural Area Veterinary Services programs rely on community ambassadors to fill critical gaps when resources are scarce, bringing essential services and supplies to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access. The advocacy efforts of community heroes, whether at city council meetings or grassroots initiatives, are instrumental in promoting animal-friendly policies and fostering a culture of compassion within their communities.

To honor the work of these incredible individuals, we created the More Than a Pet Community Hero Award. This award, part of our More Than a Pet campaign to give everyone a fair shake at pet ownership, recognizes three volunteers for their exceptional contributions to advancing equity in access to pet resources in their communities. As a sign of our appreciation for their work, they each receive a cash prize for their dedication to supporting animals and the people who love them.

Award winners

Jamal Hughes holding a large check, sitting next to a dog
Ari Ross
Launch Media

Jamal of all trades

Jamal Hughes, Companion Animal Alliance, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Volunteering at a pet food pantry, dropping off pet supplies to neighbors, advocating for equitable, animal-friendly policies at city council meetings… Jamal Hughes does it all! And according to his nominators at Companion Animal Alliance in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he does it with kindness and compassion. Jamal takes every opportunity he can find to support his neighbors, working closely with the Pets for Life team at Companion Animal Alliance to ensure people in his community have what they want and need for their beloved pets.

Ingemar Woods holding and kissing a cat
Michelle Robertson
Grand Splash Marketing

A hero for cats in rural Oklahoma

Ingemar Woods, Southwest Oklahoma Community Action Group, Altus, Oklahoma

Ingemar Woods’ rural property in Altus, Oklahoma, may be 50 miles from the nearest low-cost spay/neuter clinic, but that doesn’t stop him from caring for the area’s community cats. In his retirement, he’s become a resourceful and dedicated cat advocate and an extended member of the Pets for Life program at Southwest Oklahoma Community Action Group. Acting on what he describes as a “sense of duty” to help, Ingemar spends much of his time trapping cats so they can receive medical care and spay/neuter surgeries. In partnership with Pets for Life, Ingemar has truly made a difference for cats in Altus—many of whom find their way to his property and end up staying.

Julie Cassadore crouching next to a dog, outside.
Carolina Palancade

Dedicated in the desert

Julie Cassadore, Desert Cross Veterinary Hospital, San Carlos, Arizona

No matter the day, no matter the time, Julie Cassadore is ready to assist the people and pets of the extremely rural San Carlos community in Arizona. Three to five days a week, Julie transports animals from the San Carlos Apache Tribe to the Desert Cross Veterinary Hospital, a drive that can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes each way. In fact, staff say she shows up at the clinic morning, noon and night, and not just with cats and dogs: Julie’s been known to bring goats, chickens and ducks! After founding her own rescue group and working closely with our Rural Area Veterinary Services team, Julie expanded her skills. She now triages emergency cases, helps distribute pet food donations and always supports the human-animal bond any way she can. Julie is a true lifeline for her community.

About our work

Through our programs such as Pets for Life and Rural Area Veterinary Services, we support people and pets who do not have access to veterinary care and pet essentials. Through our DEI efforts, we aim to build upon that work to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the veterinary profession and the broader animal welfare field.

Since 2002, we’ve served more than 500,000 pets and their families living in poverty with veterinary services such as spay/neuter and vaccinations at no cost to the pet’s family. We’ve also donated more than $40 million worth of pet supplies, including 14 million pounds of pet food.

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pets live in poverty and that’s three times more than the number who enter animal shelters every year.
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of pets living in poverty have never seen a veterinarian.
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of pet owners are unable to access veterinary care.

Your support is helping us ensure that everyone can experience the joy of caring for a pet. Learn More

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This was written and produced by the team behind All Animals, our award-winning magazine. Each issue is packed with inspiring stories about how we are changing the world for animals together.

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Cover of All Animals Magazine Summer 2024 Issue showing a dog outside.