Defenders of Animals Inc., which began a 43-year journey of caring for and defending the rights of animals in April of 1978, held its 27th annual Homeless Animals Day/Candlelight Vigil award ceremony and raffle at the Governor Sprague Mansion in Cranston on Saturday, Aug. 21. Five people were presented with Humane Hero awards for the year 2021.
“Our volunteers have had a tremendous impact on Defenders of Animals,” said Dennis Tabella, director of the nonprofit organization. “Their dedication has provided a very special value to this organization.”
He added: “We don’t have any paid staff, so volunteers help us to deliver vital programs and services and help to identify animal-related issues in the community that need to be addressed.”
State Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence) was honored as a Humane Hero in recognition of his successful legislative efforts, dedication and steadfast commitment to the concerns of the plight of animals throughout Rhode Island.
“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by an organization that has done so much for animal welfare in our state and Defenders of Animals have been wonderful partners in advocating for the best interests of all the animals in Rhode Island,” the representative said. “I look forward to continue working with them to protect our state’s animals and I thank them for this gracious honor.”
O’Brien has been a strong advocate for animal protection laws since first entering the House of Representatives in 2013. He has introduced and sponsored numerous bills, which became law, that strengthen penalties for animal abuse and cruelty, as well as legislation which deals with animal custody in divorce proceedings and speeding up the adoption process for abandoned or impounded animals.
Also receiving a Humane Hero award was Patricia Kohler, who has been instrumental in helping to raise funds for the organization through pasta dinners, raffles and special events. She has also assisted with the placement of animals. Her generosity has generated much needed funding for, and awareness of, the programs offered by Defenders of Animals.
Bruce Lossini also received a Humane Hero award for his work with Marge Chase of Hope for Animals. He has supported Defender of Animals events for decades and was noted for helping to rescue a dog that was hard to catch. Throughout the years, he has helped to build a number of feral cat houses and served on the Legislative Gas Chamber Commission to end the practice in the state.
Lossini also built the fencing at the Pot Belly Manor in North Kingstown Fencing for steer that were saved from slaughter. He was recognized for his outstanding dedication, concern for animals and service above and beyond the call of duty.
Also recognized by Defenders of Animals was Robin Aptt, who has made it possible for the organization to have successful raffles and auctions by donating numerous gift cards over the years. Aptt has also donated gift items, assorted dog and cat toys and monetary gifts and supported the organization at a number of fundraising events
Tonya C. Keegan was the fifth recipient of a Human Hero award. She is the lead personal care attendant at the Warwick Animal Hospital. She has secured donations for a number of Defenders of Animals clients, including carriers and food. She has also supported special events and helped raise awareness.
Defenders of Animals is a statewide organization, founded by Dennis Tabella and Patricia A. Tabella, that works to defend the rights of both companion animals and wildlife through education, legal and legislative activism.
Defenders of Animals promotes adoptions made through municipal animal shelters and local organizations. It assists with the spaying and neutering of pets, as well as ensuring pets have up-to-date vaccinations and are microchipped. Additionally, the group has endorsed pro-animal legislation on the national, state and local levels since 1978.
“The Homeless Animals Day/Candlelight Vigil is held in conjunction with the International Society for Animal Rights campaign and serves as an opportunity for animal advocates from around Rhode Island to band together on a special day and jumpstart new spay/neuter/adoption campaigns while rekindling existing programs in their communities that raise awareness about pet overpopulation,” Tabella said.
During the Aug. 21 event, attendees were able to purchase luminary bags as well as participate in a raffle that yielded more than $500.
“Volunteers are a tremendous resource for us for us to provide help to animals and pet owners,” Tabella said. “They help to promote our organization and increase the quality of our services and programs because they have a variety of skills that help us to provide those needed services and programs.”