A lifesaving mission

Women’s Animal Shelter hosts 25th anniversary rededication ceremony

Labor of love: Women’s Animal Center, at 3839 Richlieu Road, recently hosted a rededication ceremony. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

When Bensalem Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo was elected into office in 1994, one of his first tasks was to cut the ceremonial ribbon at 3839 Richlieu Road, marking the grand opening of the Women’s Humane Society’s brand new location after 125 years in North Philadelphia.

On the afternoon of Thursday, June 27, DiGirolamo’s mayoral duties came full circle when he was reunited with those larger-than-life scissors. This time, he used them to cut a second ribbon, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Humane Society’s (now rebranded as the Women’s Animal Center) residence in Bucks County.

DiGirolamo addressed the crowd of community members, staff and volunteers, reflecting on how his daughter used to care for the countless cats people abandoned at their family farm.

“So I understand the work that you’re doing,” he said. “It’s so important because today, a lot of that stuff still goes on and there are a lot of stray animals.”

The mayor presented WAC chief executive officer Catherine Malkemes with a certificate, which declared June 27 the official “Women’s Animal Center Day” in Bensalem.

Malkemes took a few moments to explain the vast history of WAC, also known as America’s First Animal Shelter, which all started 150 years ago with its founder Caroline Earle White. Along with 30 other women, who met in her home at 9th and Market streets in Philadelphia, White launched the concept of animal sheltering and adoption. She was tired of witnessing the abysmal conditions of pounds and set out to do something about it.

“These women who did not have a voice of their own, 50 years before they had the right to vote, were speaking out for animals,” Malkemes said, adding how there are currently more than 3,500 shelters across the country because of White’s advocacy.

White and her team petitioned the mayor of Philadelphia to take over management of the pound, stopped hospitals from using animals for experiments, opened a free veterinary clinic in Philadelphia, which cared primarily for horses, and founded the American Anti-Vivisection Society, which included Mark Twain on the board.

Additionally, White created the first educational program to teach children how to take care of animals. She believed that if someone was capable of showing compassion to animals, they’d be more likely to show it to fellow human beings.

“We see our mission as fulfilling her vision,” Malkemes said.

Based on statistics from 2018, the Women’s Animal Center seems to be doing just that. Last year, WAC saw 1,641 adoptions (a 14 percent increase from 2017); more than 7,000 pets received care in its veterinary hospital, which was accredited two years ago by the American Animal Hospital Association; 1,700 pets were spayed/neutered; 28,000 vaccines were administered; 263 lost cats and dogs were reunited with families; 10,000 volunteer hours were logged; and $93,000 in waived fees and discounts were granted to in-need families.

“We are very proud of those services that we offer and we are also very proud to be a part of the Bensalem community, a community that really supports our mission through individual donations and business support,” Malkemes said.

The CEO gave shoutouts to local business supporters in attendance, including the Bensalem Business Association, Camp Bow Wow, Doll 10 Beauty, Reedman-Toll, Republic Bank, Streamline Payroll and Parx Casino.

Representatives from the offices of Rep. Gene DiGirolamo and Sen. Tommy Tomlinson were also recognized, with each presenting Malkemes a commendation.

“We really just wanted to take a moment to rededicate ourselves to this community and to the animals in the community,” she said. “Hopefully, we’re not here in another 25 years, or in another 150 years from the animal sheltering perspective. Hopefully, there is no cruelty to animals happening in 150 years. From a veterinary hospital standpoint, we will surely be here. From an animal sheltering perspective, we will be here as long as there is a need.”

In addition to a rededication of the facility, WAC unveiled the Annie L. Lowry Watering Trough, named in memory of the shelter’s first vice president of the board of directors, who was an avid animal lover. The trough was commissioned by WAC in 1910 for the relief of work horses, and recently moved from its original location in Germantown to commemorate this special anniversary.

Visit womensanimalcenter.org for more information. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com