Many years ago, when we began hosting an annual fundraising event where food would be provided, we became very aware of how our choices for the menu would reflect on us and our beliefs as an animal rescue organization. We recognized that animal cruelty is inherent in the commercial production of meat and so in alignment with one of the tenants of our mission statement, “with respect and compassion for all animal life,” we adopted a vegetarian policy.
How have your staff/volunteers/supporters taken to the veg menu policy?
Although not all of our volunteers/supporters embrace the idea, they respect our position. Many of our volunteers and supporters are vegetarian or vegan and these folks appreciate our position and expect us to provide a veg menu at MEOW events.
Why do you feel it’s important for shelters and rescue groups to adopt such a policy?
No one can deny the cruelty inherent in the commercial production of meat. Most shelters and rescue groups are supporters of eliminating cruelty to animals in our world. Although many focus on dogs and cats, there are rescue organizations for cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, etc. Adopting a vegetarian policy is a nod to all rescue groups’ efforts and recognition that all animal lives matter.
Can you tell us about an animal-friendly event you have hosted or are planning?
We generally have one large fundraising event each year, an auction with a buffet dinner. We usually serve a pasta dish, salads, and other sides. We find that our caterers are more than willing to come up with great tasting veggie and vegan options.
Any advice for shelter directors or event planners that may be on the fence about adopting an animal friendly menu policy?
We recognize that we can't please all of the people all of the time. Some would like us to offer vegan only, and others who would like "a little protein," as they put it. We have committed to staying true to what we believe is best for MEOW and hope that our supporters will respect that, even if they don’t completely agree on a personal level. We also try to keep the cost of the meal reasonable so that expectations of our menu based on price are in line with what we are serving. When we first started hosting an annual fundraising event, we set the time a bit after an early dinner hour and served appetizers so that people felt free to eat dinner before they came. It was a helpful transition, if not for our guests, for our planning committee. Now we serve a vegetarian buffet dinner at our annual auction.
What are some of your plans for MEOW?
Since 2011, we have offered a public no cost spay/neuter voucher program, where those families who may not otherwise have the means to have their pet altered can do so at no cost. We have been fortunate to receive a total of $50,000 in grant money for this program. Additionally, we have allocated over $15,000 of MEOW general funds to sustain the program between grants. As a result, more than 2500 owned cats and dogs have been altered in our community, which helps move us toward a day where every cat or dog born will have a home.
Our plan for the future is very similar to our day-to-day plans currently: rescue as many cats and dogs as we can and give them a soft, warm, safe place to land while we help them find their forever homes. We will continue to work with the public regarding the critical need for spaying and neutering as well as responsible, compassionate pet guardianship. We want to stay true to our humble beginnings and our guiding principal, "it's all about the animals." We imagine a day when we may have a larger space to operate, in order to do more to end pet homelessness.