When my mom and I started the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation in memory of my brother four plus years ago, we were animal lovers like many of you. We had pets and had always cherished them, but through our work with animals and the shelters in Los Angeles and the United States, we have learned a tremendous amount about the national challenge of homeless animals.
Did you know that in the United States, we kill almost 4 million animals a year? Euthanasia is the number one killer of cats and dogs. Why are so many animals being put down? Is it because our shelters are overflowing with unadoptable, mean, old animals? Many people believe that animals that are in the pound are damaged goods — that the dogs and cats have somehow done something to belong there. However they are very often the victims of circumstances. Their owners might have lost their jobs and had to choose between vet care and food for their family. Foreclosure could have forced the family to move into an apartment where pets weren’t allowed. Or the once beloved puppy might have grown into an unwieldy adult. Most animals killed each year in shelters are killed for one reason — lack of a good home, NOT for behavior issues. Puppies, kittens, purebred animals alike — they all suffer when there is no home to take them in and space restrictions mean that the shelter can no longer hold them. Half of all of the dogs and three-quarters of the cats that enter the shelters of America each year are killed, more than 10,000 each day.
At the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, we work to change the outcome for thousands of pets annually. In 2012, we transported over 800 dogs from high kill shelters in Los Angeles to no kill shelters elsewhere in the U.S. Here in Los Angeles, the shelters are overflowing with small dogs while elsewhere in the country, the shelters have none. We relocate the dogs so that everyone can find the kind of pet that they want. We provide funding for free spay/neuter for dogs and cats — over 2000 in 2012 alone! We offer no questions asked sterilization for pets — if you want to get your cat or dog fixed, we’ll pay for it*! We offer free training classes to help new owners learn the basics about how to care for their new pet. Our goal is to end the needless suffering of animals. In the past, my mom and I have funded the Foundation with help from an occasional grant. However we know that we can’t continue to do it alone — we need your help to really make a difference for the animals of America who don’t have anyone to speak on their behalf.
I’ve been working on a very special project lately — and it’s not one that you can see on your TV or movie theater — it’s called Just One and it’s a line of pet products whose profits go to help support the work that we continue to do to help save pets. The name Just One isn’t a marketer’s manufactured title. The name actually speaks to the goal of the Foundation — it only takes Just One person to make a difference. So when you hear numbers like “almost 4 million a year” or “over 10,000 a day” there’s no need to get overwhelmed by how many animals are suffering because you can make a difference — by helping us help Just One at a time! Each of us can help one and together we’ll help them all. For more about this project and the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, visit the website www.just1pet.com.
As author Libba Bray says, “And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.”