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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Passionate Protectors: Local Groups Advocate for Animals in Need: SPCA Westchester, Stray H.E.L.P. & Rational Animal

Jeanne Clune and the first Animal Reiki class at the SPCA Westchester

Most people are passionate about their animal companions. (How else to explain designer dog clothes and all those cat videos on YouTube?) But then there are the exceptional people—the ones who are passionate about easing the suffering of animals without loving homes. Our area is fortunate to have several organizations staffed by exceptional people dedicated to the well-being of these at-risk animals. Here are just a few.

SPCA Westchester

Founded in 1883, the SPCA of Westchester, located in Briarcliff Manor, NY, is a no-kill, nonprofit animal welfare organization with a low cost spay-neuter clinic and a full-time veterinarian on staff. It is the only entity mandated by the State of New York to enforce its animal cruelty laws in Westchester County. We talked to Jeanne Clune, a certified dog trainer and animal Reiki practitioner who joined SPCA in January as its behavior and enrichment coordinator. She also owns Joyful Pets of Westchester, which offers animal Reiki and gentle obedience training for SPCA alumni.

What’s new at SPCA Westchester?

Last summer, we became a SARA organization—a member of the Shelter Animal Reiki Association, which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit supporting ethical, professional animal Reiki treatment and training programs in shelters and sanctuaries all over the world. (You can read more about it on its website, The volunteers share Reiki with the SPCA animals on a regular basis, supporting their healing and transition processes. There are also monthly animal Reiki circles.

And last spring we started the Way Home Program, funded by John and Christine Tortorella and the Tortorella Family Foundation, through which a part-time trainer provides additional enrichment and training support for dogs who have lived at the shelter for longer than one month and those with behavioral challenges. The dogs spend time in a real-life setting several times a week. They receive music and scent therapy, extra training and quiet time, including massage and Reiki.

What’s on your wish list?

I would love an endless supply of Bach’s Pet Rescue Remedy for all the animals to use during their transitions into the shelter and into their new homes. Also, we need more foster homes for dogs and cats that are too stressed for a shelter environment.

SPCA Westchester

590 North State Rd., Briarcliff, NY 

914.941.2896 (x24); [email protected];


Stray H.E.L.P. (Stray Healthcare & Education to Limit Population)

Spooky is part of a colony of about 12 cats. The colony is now completely TNR'd (trap/neuter/return) and is stable. They are fed and sheltered in their territory by a dedicated caretaker.
Spooky is part of a colony of about 12 cats. The colony is now completely TNR'd (trap/neuter/return) and is stable. They are fed and sheltered in their territory by a dedicated caretaker.
Based in Fishkill, NY, Stray H.E.L.P., Inc. was formed to rescue and care for homeless animals while providing humane education to the community. “We work with members of the community to help feral, stray and homeless cats they care about,” the organization’s president, Ann LaGoy, tells us. “The ultimate goal is to alleviate the suffering and overpopulation crisis we are currently experiencing.” Stray H.E.L.P. is a state-recognized not-for-profit corporation and is currently pursuing federal 501(c)3 status.

What’s new at Stray H.E.L.P.?

Last year was a big one for Stray H.E.L.P. In 2014, we established our corporation, governances and officers and facilitated the spay or neuter of more than 750 cats, working in collaboration with Cooperative Foster Care Network, Fishkill Animal Alliance, Partnership for Animals Needing Transition and the Animal Rights Alliance, Inc. In January of this year we facilitated the care of 96 cats. We are well on our way to reaching our goal of caring for 1,000 cats in 2015.

What’s on your wish list? 

Our wish list consists of equipment we can use to conduct an even more robust trap, neuter, return and place program: cages, humane traps, cat food, cat litter and gas cards. We are also looking for volunteers to help community members conduct similar programs on their property. This includes people who can help trap stray and feral cats and teach property owner the process; provide space in their home for cats recovering from surgery; and foster cats and kittens that belong with a loving family rather than being outside and homeless.

Stray H.E.L.P.

PO Box 245, Fishkill NY 12524

[email protected]

845.489.2378; [email protected];


Rational Animal

Mother's Comfort Project volunteers at Fabric Mart in Yorktown Heights, NYRational Animal has created many campaigns and projects to bring awareness to animal issues and inspire people to get involved with community efforts to help animals, says Liz Peterson, manager of the organization’s Mother’s Comfort Project in Westchester. “We’ve raised funds for more than 30 rescue organizations working to end euthanasia in city shelters by 2015,” she says. Among their projects: Orange Ribbon for Animals, promoting animal guardianship rather ownership of companion animals; Trail to Tails, a series of maps detailing the locations of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals participating shelters and rescue organizations; and Mother’s Comfort Project, providing beds for NYC and tri-state area shelters.

What’s new at Rational Animal?

In 2014, we taught kids at Friends Seminary School how to sew animal beds and catnip toys, and they delivered them to some grateful cats at Kitty Kind; we started our Orange Ribbon Animal Guardian Awards to recognize businesses who support at-risk animals; and we worked with some amazing artists, including Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, The Kills, Peter Blachley and Eddie Sung, to raise awareness of at-risk animals and raise funds for our work. And thanks to the generous donation of Fabric Mart’s sewing studio, the Mother’s Comfort Project in Westchester sewed 501 beds and 828 catnip toys for local shelters and rescue groups. Since its inception in January 2013, Mother’s Comfort Project Westchester has sewn and donated more than 1,000 beds.

What’s on your wish list?

We would like to create an instructional video for making Mother’s Comfort Project beds and catnip toys, as a resource for individuals outside the NYC and tri-state areas. We would very much appreciate donations to help fund this project and all our other programs. (Donations can be made through our website, We also always need volunteers for the Mother’s Comfort Project. If you don’t sew, you can help stuff catnip toys. To volunteer, contact me, Liz Peterson, at [email protected] or 914.737.2228.

Rational Animal

5 Hilltop Dr., Cortlandt Manor, NY 

914.737.2228; [email protected]      

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