By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The American Humane Association (AHA) is commemorating 100 years of animal rescue with an event that debuts a 50-foot-long animal rescue vehicle at Oklahoma State University – Oklahoma City, 900 N. Portland Avenue, on Friday, May 20, at 10 a.m.
The truck will be stationed in Oklahoma’s Tornado Alley and deployed throughout central areas of the United States.
This event is happening in conjunction with the anniversary of the deadly 2013 EF-5 tornado that tore through the city of Moore, killing 24 people, destroying over 1,000 homes, and separating hundreds of animals from their families, leaving them frightened and hungry.
To this end, the American Humane Association and the Kirkpatrick Foundation are partnering to help protect Oklahoma’s animals in the future.
The vehicle will be dedicated to helping Oklahoma’s animals caught in tornadoes, floods, other natural disasters and cruelty cases.
“At Kirkpatrick Foundation, we are committed to improving the quality of life for all animals in our state,” said Louisa McCune, executive director of the Kirkpatrick Foundation. “In fact, by the year 2032, we want Oklahoma to become the best place in the United States – and the world over – to be an animal.
“Our first grant to American Humane Association helped defray costs of their rescue efforts in the aftermath of the 2013 tornadoes. We then began working with them on a larger, more visionary effort to help make Oklahoma City a pacesetter in animal rescue.”
Funded by the Kirkpatrick Foundation and the New York-based William H. Donner Foundation, the animal rescue truck was unveiled at the New York Stock Exchange on May 9.
Staffed with a licensed veterinarian, the new vehicle will carry lifesaving supplies and sheltering equipment for one hundred animals.
“With this vehicle and American Humane Association’s new relationship with OSU-OKC, Oklahoma will become a regional leader for all disasters requiring immediate rescue care for animals,” McCune added. “National and state experts in animal rescue working in unison with public safety officers will help advance animal and human welfare in the state.”
When deployed, American Humane Association’s disaster responders and members of its national corps of volunteers will travel to disaster zones and reside there until the crisis is over.
When not deployed, the vehicle will be used for rescue in cruelty and hoarding cases and as an important teaching tool to help first responders train and prepare for disaster situations.
“OSU-Oklahoma City is honored to house American Humane Association’s newest animal rescue vehicle on our campus,” said Natalie Shirley, president of OSU-OKC.
“The vehicle’s mission aligns with our university’s commitment to improve and advance animal care by educating some of the best veterinarian technicians in the country. OSU-OKC’s acclaimed vet tech program transforms students’ passion for animals into rewarding careers that not only benefit our graduates, but the animals they treat.”
The gift comes as part of the 100th anniversary of American Humane Association’s animal rescue program.
As the country’s first national humane organization, the AHA began rescuing thousands of wounded horses on the battlefields of World War I in Europe.
Since then, the organization has been a part of every major disaster relief effort including Pearl Harbor, Hurricane Katrina, the Fukushima earthquake in Japan, the terror attacks on 9/11 and the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri and Moore, OK.
Following the Moore disaster, American Humane’s Red Star® Rescue team deployed for a full month, helping rescue, shelter, and care for hundreds of animals.
Kirkpatrick Foundation, OSU-OKC, and AHA invite the public to join in this historic dedication event this Friday on the OSU-OKC campus.
Speakers will include Randal Collins, National Director of American Humane Association’s animal rescue program; Louisa McCune; Natalie Shirley; and Dawn Assenzio, philanthropist and member of AHA’s board of directors.
Officials and dignitaries will include Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese, City of Moore Fire Chief Gary Bird, State Veterinarian Rod Hall, National Weather Center’s Rick Smith (warning coordination meteorologist), former Oklahoma Governor David Walters, and Interim dean of OSU veterinary college Chris Ross.
Other special guests will include a Lutheran Church Golden Retriever Comfort Dog from Edmond, Oklahoma; three adoptable dogs from The Bella Foundation; two New Leash on Life therapy dogs; and two Oklahoma City Fire Department rescue dogs.
Singer Olivia Kay will sing the national anthem and country music star Patrick Gibson will also perform.
The event will conclude with tours of the rescue truck and a barbeque luncheon. To attend, RSVP to [email protected].
“This new rescue vehicle is a major investment in America’s animals and families,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association. “It is specifically designed and outfitted to provide a wide array of animal emergency services and will be a beacon of hope for communities reeling from disasters.
“This strengthening of our nation’s emergency operations is a great gift and we thank the Kirkpatrick Foundation, the William H. Donner Foundation, Oklahoma State University and all those in this effort who care about the most vulnerable in times of greatest need,” Ganzert continued.