Animal league celebrates ‘Hats Off to Rescue’ Luncheon

Gretchen Keller
Participants and sponsors play with puppies and kittens at the North Shore Animal League's 2018 Lewyt Humane Awards Luncheon. (Photo courtesy to Lisa Anselmo Photography)

Even audience members were wagging their tails.

Shortly after rescuing her from a nearby shelter in 2015, North Shore Animal League veterinarians decided that something was “off” about the coordination of Pretty Kitty, a gray and white kitten. She was found to have a neurological condition.

Despite the many challenges, Chre Soto adopted Pretty Kitty due to her sweet nature and affection. This year, Pretty Kitty was awarded the Scarlett Award for Animal Heroism at the North Shore Animal League America’s Lewyt Humane Awards Luncheon last Wednesday at Leonard’s Palazzo in Great Neck.

The “Hats Off to Rescue” luncheon aimed to award animals for their strength and resilience, and individuals for their continued support, faith and contributions to the Animal League.

Host Brian Balthazar explained the purpose of the animal league and discussed its future.  “It’s 2018,” he said. “No kill is the only way to approach animal welfare.”

J. John Stevenson, president of the Animal League for more than 30 years, explained planned renovations, including the introduction of the Bianca’s Furry Friends Feline Adoption Center.

“The lives we save there are going to be remembered for years to come, and it’s going to be something that’s so wonderful … this is going to happen in the next year. We expect to see big crowds and very, very happy cats,” said Stevenson.

The new feline adoption center will be cage-free and will offer a natural way of living. It  will be built as a second floor atop the existing animal shelter.

Jill Burkhardt, the senior vice president of development, presented the Sandra Atlas Bass Philanthropist Award to Elizabeth Freed for her generous support of the mobile units that rescue animals across the United States.

“In 2011, when Elizabeth donated a new mobile unit to our fleet, she expanded our life-saving reach dramatically. Since then, this unit has traveled to puppy mills and disaster sites. It supports humane relocation and off-site adoption. In 2011 alone, this unit facilitated the rescue and adoption of more than 1,000 animals,” said Burkhardt.

The mobile unit has been named “Ziggy’s Truck” after Freed’s beloved Jack Russell terrier that she adopted from the league years ago. Ziggy’s Truck even traveled to Florida after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

Over the years, Freed has also helped fund another new unit, named the Freed Special Recovery Center. The center gives financial support to qualifying families for emergency veterinary care.

Beth Stern, a feline foster parent and wife of radio personality Howard Stern, also attended the luncheon. Stern currently has 27 foster cats, and has hosted over 600 cats in recent years, helping them find the right homes.

“I’ve just always been an animal person. Always. It really bugs me when people just might move into a different apartment and just leave the cat there. It’s like leaving a family member, you know? I just try to take care of every cat I can find,” said Stern.

Beth Stern at North Shore Animal League America’s Annual Lewyt Humane Awards Luncheon
(Photo by Rob Rich/ ©2018)

Philanthropist Sandra Atlas Bass, who also attended the luncheon, said that she believes the future of the Animal League looks very bright. “I think the North Shore Animal League does a fantastic job. Everyone who works there works beautifully. There are many shelters out there that work beautifully, but this one I see personally.”

When asked about the future, Bass said she is most excited about the feline adoption center. “I can’t wait because then the cats will be free,” she said. “They will not be caged. Hopefully it will be finished this year.Tthat will be just wonderful.”

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