Sixty-three years ago, Alice Herrington, the self-described dairy farmer’s daughter from Wisconsin, founded Friends of Animals in New York City as an anti-cruelty organization and out of frustration that for every cat or dog she adopted out, another came in. That’s the early impetus behind our nationwide low-cost spay-neuter breeding control program.

Seventeen years later in 1974, Alice hired me to work as FoA’s public information director, and to my astonishment, when she retired at the close of 1986, the board of directors elected me to continue as FoA’s president. That’s when we expanded our mission and began to focus on freeing animals from cruelty and institutionalized exploitation around the globe.

FoA’s early spay-neuter work started off with a group of volunteers dedicated to creating a network of veterinarians to offer low-cost surgeries to prevent births of cats and dogs, sparing animals from abandonment and premature deaths. We were the first group to address the problem of homeless cats and dogs in the U.S. and our breeding control became a national program—the first of its kind.

Our work has grown to include 700 veterinarians and sterilization surgeries have passed the 2.8 million mark. We continue to lead in this field thanks to members such as you. Still, in 2020, we hear too many stories about owner/ breeders surrendering dogs to a shelter or rescue groups. While people who shop (rather than adopt) for dogs say they’re looking for a “good breeder,” that’s a misnomer if more than 1.5 million cats and dogs don’t have decent, capable homes and end up killed each year.

Recently, one such 5-year-old brown, black and white bulldog was surrendered to a shelter because she could no longer produce litters. Luckily, she was scooped up by my favorite rescue group, Long Island Bull Dog Rescue, and she’ll be spayed before she’s officially adopted. Each year, FoA offers either spay/neuter certificate subsidies or finances to an assortment of reputable rescue groups to make these vital surgeries possible.

In late 2019, I learned another bulldog had been dumped after producing litter after litter. As soon as her “Christmas puppies” were ready for market, she was discarded and found living in the woods in Connecticut with winter approaching. Fortunately, Long Island Bulldog Rescue took her in before she died from the cold weather and helped her recover, reach a foster home and eventually be adopted into a loving home after being spayed.

This issue of Action Line features information about spaying and neutering (see page 7), which has helped dramatically reduce the number of cats and dogs killed in animal shelters each year from 2.6 million in 2011 to 1.5 million animals currently. It’s ongoing work, and your support for our continuing efforts are enormously valued.