Around 6.3 million companion animals end up in shelters every year in the US, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“The love that animals have to offer is one of the most beautiful and heartwarming things I have ever experienced,” Megan Teresa Mahoney, founder of Celebration of Canine Lives Sanctuary.
Words often fall short when we want to describe the infinite joy that animals can bring to the lives of human beings with their selfless love and their unbreakable loyalty. As the French writer and Nobel Prize winner, Anatole France, wisely said: “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
Yet, for some animals, the dignity and respect they are entitled to has been unfairly denied. That’s why Megan Mahoney has made her life’s work to provide stray dogs with the quality of life they deserve.
Stray Dogs and Cats in the USA
Dogs and cats are the most common companion animals but the fate of millions of them is often tragic. In fact, PETA estimates that there are around 70 million homeless dogs and cats in the country.
Furthermore, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which is the first humane society of the USA, indicates that there are no national statistics on the protection of animals but their estimates are alarming. According to them, around 6.3 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters every year and approximately 920,000 of them get euthanized in the US.
Lessons of Love
Megan Mahoney started volunteering at no-kill animal shelters when she was only 16, it was there that she found her calling for working with animals. One of the dogs she met at a shelter was Melvin, a mixed pitbull who had been rescued from Hurricane Katrina.
“Melvin changed me in many ways,” remembers Megan. “He taught me to feel what was truly important and to treasure every day. We had a lot of precious time together.”
Megan’s love for animals was something that had always been present in her life; it was something she’d been taught by her parents when she lived in Fredonia, New York.
“Both of my parents are animal lovers,” recalls Megan. “When I was little my dad would always stop if there was an animal injured on the road. He would take the animal to a wildlife rehabilitator and if he couldn’t find one he would nurse him/her back to health in our basement and then free him/her when the animal had recovered from his or her injuries. My mom has always had a huge heart for all animals; around 4 years ago, she became vegan.”
A Different Dog Shelter
After volunteering at many shelters and becoming a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Megan‘s dream was to open a shelter that would offer dogs the quality of life they deserve. So, along with her parents, she purchased an 85 acre property in Cuba, New York, in 2019 to create Celebration of Canine Lives Sanctuary. She named her barn, “Gee’s Home,” in honor of a shelter dog she took care of years ago.
Over the last 4 years, Megan has been working along with her parents and friends to build a very different dog shelter. They are transforming their pole barn to receive homeless dogs but they are going to have rooms instead of kennels.
“The barn will have 10 dog rooms with comfortable flooring, beds and toys; the dogs have a homey environment,” says Megan. “We are working right now on getting the first room ready. The rooms are fairly large, 15 feet by 15 feet. And if two or three dogs get along they can share the room. Giving dogs a high quality of life is most important to us. We want them to be able to enjoy activities like hiking, swimming and socializing with others on a daily basis.”
Some of the dogs will be available for adoption to loving, well-screened homes. Other dogs who have more complicated medical or behavioral issues will have a lifetime home at the sanctuary.
Working Towards Animal Dignity
In order to complete the first room for Gee’s Home, Megan reached out to The Pollination Project.
“I heard about TPP when I was reading about a small chicken sanctuary in Alabama that promoted veganism,” says Megan. “I was impressed with the sanctuary and TPP, so I decided to apply for a grant from TPP. When I saw in my email that I had received the grant, I think my heart stopped beating. I was so excited. It was really amazing.”
With the help of The Pollination Project, Megan expects to finish the first room for Gee’s Home at the end of 2023. She hopes to motivate others to do whatever they can to give animals the quality of life they deserve.
“You don’t have to be a non-profit to help animals,” explains Megan. “Every single day people can help animals by doing acts of kindness. You can choose to become vegan. You can offer non-judgemental financial assistance to someone struggling to provide food or medical care for their pet. You can purchase products that are not tested on animals. Never think that you cannot make an impact because you are just one person. You can save and improve so many lives.”
Megan recognizes that among the greatest challenges she faces in her work towards creating more awareness around animal dignity is that people often view animals as commodities.
“When animals are viewed as commodities, people just think of how the animal can meet their personal wants and needs,” says Megan. “I wish more people could recognize that animals have their own identities, languages and interests.”
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