Orphaned NYC Cat Flies High to His New West Coast Home

J Crew and SWATT volunteer, Hanna

It took a village to get J Crew, an orphaned NYC cat, to his new home in Oregon. But despite Covid-19 and extreme weather challenges, volunteer Flight Angels at Southwest Animal Transport Team (SWATT) provided the wings that carried him into the arms of his new adopter.

SWATT is a group of Southwest Airlines employees and retirees, known as Flight Angels. They donate their time and use their travel privileges to transport rescue animals within the continental U.S. SWATT collaborates with Delta Animal Rescue Transports (DART), as well as fosters, shelters, rescues that pull from high-kill shelters, and sanctuaries to transport rescued animals to their forever homes. 

Nine-year-old J Crew’s human dad adopted him from the ASPCA six years ago. Sadly, he passed away in January. His sister Sheila*, who lives in Portland, Oregon wanted to adopt J Crew. So she arranged for her brother’s long-time neighbor to care for J Crew until she could make arrangements to transport him to Portland. 

Sheila reached out to numerous rescue-related organizations seeking help with transport. A Best Friends Animal Society volunteer referred her to the Mayor’s Alliance. We contacted SWATT, who agreed to help, and, in collaboration with DART, set the wheels in motion to arrange a cross-country transport.

Preparing for the Journey

J Crew was alone in NYC except for the neighbor who cared for him each day. That made preparing him for travel more complicated than a typical SWATT / DART transport for a rescue group. 

First, it wasn’t clear how well J Crew would tolerate a harness and confinement to an airline–approved carrier. Both were required for airline travel. So a test run had to be set up. The neighbor who had been caring for J Crew handled this step. 

Next, J Crew had to be examined and vaccinated by a veterinarian to acquire a health certificate for interstate travel. Sheila’s daughter on the West Coast arranged for an employee at Animal General Hospital in Manhattan to facilitate the vet visit. Fortunately, J Crew was deemed medically and behaviorally able to make the trip. 

Meanwhile, SWATT recruited the necessary volunteers to transport J Crew. Navigating uncertain weather conditions across the country, the SWATT team coordinated with DART to schedule the transport to take place on Monday, Feb. 22. 

Travel Day 

Initially, two different Flight Angels were lined up to share the four-leg, round trip flight from New York City to Minneapolis; Minneapolis to Portland; Portland back to Minneapolis and then back to New York the same day. But Hannah, of Delta Airlines, one of the two Flight Angels, decided to handle the entire round trip. This allowed J Crew to have the comfort and continuity of a single travel companion. 

The travelers’ day began early. Hannah picked up J Crew from his West Side apartment at 5:00 AM Eastern Time. They arrived at Laguardia Airport in plenty of time to board the 7:00 AM flight to Minneapolis. 

The stop in Minneapolis allowed Hannah to give J Crew a bathroom break. Then our travelers continued on the second leg of their westbound journey. At 12:44 PM Pacific Time, Hannah and J Crew touched down at Portland International Airport. Hannah met Sheila and her daughter in the airport’s baggage area, and J Crew met his new family. 

Mission Accomplished

Hannah boarded the next eastbound Delta flight. After her second stop that day in Minneapolis, she arrived back at NYC’s Laguardia Airport just before midnight. At the end of her 19-hour journey, Hannah posted on Facebook Messenger, “I’m happy to be a part of it and had a good time today. Thank you guys [referring to her Flight Angels team] for putting it all together and standing by in the control room while I did my part. I know kitty is in good hands now and it’s all worth it.”

Sheila was beyond grateful for the generous, efficient efforts by everyone who contributed to J Crew’s safe transport. “Thank you for the phenomenal job networking J Crew to hitch flights from NYC to Portland,” she said. “It was no small task, with COVID, weather, a cat who had lost his person, and with so many other obstacles. But [you] pulled it off, with the help of some very dedicated volunteers. We are grateful for the fact that although it takes a village, there is a village.”

The Mayor’s Alliance is grateful to have been able to play the role of match-maker in connecting J Crew’s family with the incredible SWATT and DART teams. 

To read more about SWATT’s life-saving work, visit their website.

Footnote: (*The adopter’s name has been changed for confidentiality reasons.)

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February is Adopt A Rescued Rabbit Month

Have you thought about adopting a rescued rabbit? 

Across the country, animal shelters and rabbit rescues have rabbits of all ages, shapes, and sizes just waiting to be adopted. In fact, after cats and dogs, rabbits are the third most-adopted pets from animal shelters.

In the right circumstances, rabbits can be the perfect pet. If you want animal companionship but not the demands of walking a pet, a rabbit might be the perfect companion for you. 

Why adopt a rabbit? 

According to Cindy Stutts, House Rabbit Society Educator since 1995, and founder of Bunnies and Beyond in 2017, some reasons people adopt rabbits include:

1. Rabbits have distinct personalities and can bond well with their people. They can be affectionate, cuddly, and charming – just ask anyone who lives with a rabbit. Rabbits get to know their owners well, and like dogs, they can be very social and can be taught commands.

2. Rabbits are very clean pets. They can easily be litterbox-trained once they have been spayed or neutered and, like cats, rabbits keep themselves clean with frequent grooming. That means you won’t have to give your rabbit a bath.

3. Rabbits are great for apartment living or if you don’t have a lot of space – they’re clean, they’re quiet, and you don’t have to walk them.

4. Rabbits have long lives. Bringing a rabbit into your family is not a short-term commitment. When housed indoors and cared for properly, pet rabbits can live eight to 12 years or more. We know of rabbits living to be 15 – 16 years old. Fortunately, today rabbit owners can purchase pet insurance. 

“Many first time rabbit adopters choose a rabbit because they don’t have time for a dog, they’re allergic to cats or they’re not a cat person, and they have heard that a rabbit might make a great alternative,” explains Cindy.

“But rabbits aren’t the perfect pet for everyone,” Cindy continues. “As with any new pet, it’s critical that you do your homework before deciding to adopt a rabbit.”

Plenty of resources are available to potential rabbit adopters that provide a great deal of useful information about rabbit care and behavior. A good place to start is the House Rabbit Society website. Here you’ll find guidance to help you make informed decisions about adopting a rabbit. Also seek out guidance from an experienced rabbit rescuer. Rabbit rescue groups not only know the rabbits they offer for adoption, but they also are excellent sources of information about rabbit health and behavioral issues. And they’re there to provide lifelong guidance and support for adopters. 

Bunnies Available for Adoption from Bunnies and Beyond

Meet Oogie and Apple

Oogie and Apple are a pair of juvenile male siblings. Oogie is the Lionhead, and Apple is the black short-haired boy. They are small now and are unlikely to get bigger than about 4 pounds each. Oogie and Apple must be adopted together. They have been neutered and are in foster care. To inquire about adoption, please email adoption@bunniesandbeyond.org.

See their full Pet Finder profile.

Meet Randall

Randall is a small black and white bunny who came to the shelter practically emaciated and with an oral wound that had abscessed. He is much better now, but he’ll need frequent checkups to make sure he’s at a good weight and has no complications from his abscess. He’d do best in a bunny-savvy home. Randall has been neutered and is in foster care. To inquire about adoption, please email adoption@bunniesandbeyond.org.

See his full Pet Finder profile.

Meet Sophie

Sophie is a small- to medium-sized bundle of hugs and cuddles. She loves when her foster mom picks her up and gives her kisses. Although she is a bit over 6 years old, you would never know it given her binky acrobatics. Sophie has been spayed. We would prefer to place her with a husbun, since she has a leaky eye due to a blocked tear duct. We would consider a doting human, however. To inquire about adoption, please email adoption@bunniesandbeyond.org.

See her full Pet Finder profile,

Meet Rosie

Rosie is a medium-to-large New Zealand White/Florida White mix with an award-winning dewlap. This girl is a group favorite! She’s both highly intelligent and very sweet – she hunkers right down for petting, her dewlap puffed out on both sides of her head like an Elizabethan ruff. If you stop petting her, she’ll lick her chops with her unusually long tongue while waiting for you to recommence. Apart from that dewlap, Lola has rather delicate features – a slender face, smallish eyes, and slim front legs. By virtue of her winning personality, he would make a great choice for a first-time bunny owner. She has been spayed and is in foster care. To inquire about adoption, please email adoption@bunniesandbeyond.org.

See her full Pet Finder profile.

More rabbits are available for adoption from the New York City Animal Care Centers and these local rescue organizations. 

All About Rabbits Rescue, Inc. (AARR)

Bunnies and Beyond

Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group

Rabbit Rescue & Rehab/NYC Metro Rabbits
The New York City Chapter of the House Rabbit Society

Posted in Animal Care & Control of NYC, Bunnies and Beyond, Long Island Rabbit Rescue Group, Pet Adoption, Rabbit Rescue & Rehab/NYC Metro Rabbits The New York City Chapter of the House Rabbit Society, Rabbits, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Local Organizations Feed Hungry NYC Pets During Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a uniquely difficult time for people around the globe, New York City became the country’s epicenter for the virus in early 2020. Pet owners struggling to care for their pets faced a range of challenges – including food insecurity and diminished resources for pet care. Finding the help they needed to care for their pets became a major hurdle for many NYC pet owners. Some local organizations stepped up to fill the gaps.

Examples of large organizations offering assistance to pet owners were widely publicized. The ASPCA, one of the leading organizations that serves on NYC Emergency Management’s Animal Planning Task Force (APTF) along with the Mayor’s Alliance and numerous other organizations, launched free pet food distribution centers in New York City. They established by-appointment pick-up locations for free dog and cat food and pet supplies in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. As a result of their efforts, thousands of local pet owners were able to access free food for their pets.

Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC), also an APTF member, distributed more than 100,000 pounds of pet food in 2020. They donated pet food to human food pantries in NYC, provided curbside pet food deliveries regularly to 178 clients, delivered pet food to a Queens community housing complex, and held food clinics out of their Bronx Resource Center.

But the ASPCA and ACC were not alone in providing emergency food and supplies to struggling New York City pet owners. Other local organizations adapted their operations to the challenges imposed by the pandemic and forged ahead in their respective missions to provide essential services to some of New York City’s most at-risk pet owners. We’d like to highlight three of these organizations with which the Alliance partnered on food donations and requests for food over the past months.


Since 2008, PAWS NY has been helping some of the city’s most vulnerable residents, particularly seniors and disabled people, overcome the physical and financial limitations they face caring for their pets on a daily basis. Their core program, the Housecall Program, dispatches PAWS NY volunteers for on-site home visits to their clients. These volunteers assist clients with daily pet care, including dog walking, litter maintenance, administering medications to pets, feeding, and watering. The program also attempts to assist clients with other specialized needs, including transporting pets to medical appointments, and in some cases, with temporary foster care for their pets. 

With the onset of transmission risks and social distancing requirements, PAWS NY had to suspend its Housecall Program to ensure the safety of its clients and volunteers. But that didn’t stop them from providing their existing clients with critical services. The organization continues to support its clients through their Pet Pantry and Veterinary Care and Foster and Emergency Care programs. Over the past months, PAWS NY has continued to deliver pet food and supplies to clients, facilitate dozens of veterinary visits, and coordinate foster care for pets whose owners were hospitalized or unable to care for their pets at home. In December, PAWS NY volunteers even made Holiday Gift Bags and delivered them to their clients!

PAWS NY Program Director Carrie Nydick Finch, MS, LCSW says that “suspending the Housecall Program was a heart wrenching decision for us, but we knew we had to prioritize the health and safety of our clients and volunteers. We are so pleased that we were able to pivot and provide increased, and much needed, support through some of our supplemental programs. Since the pandemic began, we have provided $16,385 worth of direct veterinary care and $18,086 worth of pet food to our clients. In addition, our volunteers have provided 1,330 days of foster care to 16 of our clients’ pets.”

PAWS NY recently was featured in Shape Magazine as one of the “Nonprofits that Connect People and Pets to Improve the Wellbeing of Everyone Involved,” and was also featured with a two-page spread in HealthyPet magazine.

Because of the ongoing health crisis, PAWS NY currently is unable to take on new clients. But those interested in receiving services or looking to refer someone can begin the intake process now by emailing referrals@pawsny.org. Those interested in volunteering are invited to contact PAWS NY. Visit PawsNY.org or email volunteering@pawsny.org or call (212) 203-4760 to find out about their virtual volunteer orientations. 

Healthy Pets Project of NYC, Inc.

Healthy Pets Project of NYC, Inc. (HPPNYC) was created in 2015 to help pet owners in crisis to care for and keep their pet companions at home. By providing support, services, and education, the organization seeks to prevent pet owners from surrendering their companion pets to a shelter. 

As the Covid-19 crisis engulfed New York City, HPPNYC stepped up its efforts to support the needs of the community’s struggling pet owners. Recognizing the crucial bond between people and their pets, and understanding that each pet and each person has a unique story, the organization has provided emergency Pet Food Packages to pet owners in need. In some cases, HPPNYC has been able to assist in providing veterinary care. 

Since late March 2020, HPPNYC has delivered more than 1,100 pounds of dog and cat dry food, as well as 500 cans of wet food. They have been able to assist 25 pet owners with veterinary care, ranging from dentals and spay/neuter to mass removal surgeries. Missy, pictured above with her owner Joannie, on her day of discharge from the Animal Medical Center, had major exploratory surgery in September thanks to HPPNYC.

“We were not expecting our beloved NYC to be hit so hard by COVID,” says Jessica Martin, Executive Director and Founder of HPPNYC, who was named NY1’s New Yorker of the Week in October 2015. “I have a full time job as a teacher, and in March I found myself teaching from home. We knew that we were living through unprecedented times and we were ready. We took all the necessary precautions, and we delivered pet food after hours and on the weekends in our own car to keep everyone safe. The appreciation from pet owners has made it all worth it and we hope to continue to make a difference in pet families’ lives.”

HPPNYC believes that access to information and accessible care is crucial to a pet’s wellbeing, and reduces their chance of being relinquished to a shelter. Their website features a particularly valuable tool for pet owners in its Resources page. Here pet owners can access informative articles on how to care for their pets, as well as information about a wide range of pet care resources available to them.

The Hungry Pet Project

Lindsay Freda, founder of Partnership for Shelter Animals NYC, launched The Hungry Pet Project in April 2020 to help pet owners in financial crisis feed their pets during the pandemic. The Project’s goal is to keep pets in their homes, rather than being surrendered to a shelter or, worse, abandoned to the streets. By partnering with food pantries, they get pet food into the hands of those in greatest need.

Since April, the Project has distributed more than $22,000 worth of pet food (17,690 cans of pet food and 18,630 pounds of dry food) through its food pantry partners, as well as helping homebound owners in need. Lindsay’s current pet pantry partner is North Manhattan Improvement Corps (NMIC).

Lindsay encourages New Yorkers to “adopt” a human food pantry in their neighborhood and donate pet food to the pantry so that it is available to the pantry’s customers who have pets. 

“No one should have to choose between feeding themselves or feeding their pets,” says Lindsay. “Pet food should be available to anyone seeking food assistance. Pets are family.” 

Lindsay founded Partnership for Shelter Animals NYC in 2014 to help improve the lives of abandoned animals at ACC by sponsoring medical care and donating critical supplies and enrichment items. She also created the Smiling Cat Project to help cats with dental disease get the care they need – an expensive barrier to adoption – so they can find homes. 

For more information about resources available to NYC pet owners, visit animalalliancenyc.org/needhelp

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Time to Reassess Your Organization’s Strategic Plan?

Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals created a that roadmap to guide them through their development and evolution for the past 17 years

Looking ahead to a return to in-person meetings

As we approach the final days of what has been for many people perhaps the most challenging year of our lifetime, it’s not only a time for reflection, but also a time to look ahead to what we hope will be better times for all. It’s a time for those of us who work in animal welfare to reimagine how we will operate in a new “normal” as we reevaluate and realign our priorities and practices.  And it’s an excellent time to revisit your organization’s strategic plan and make adjustments to be successful in a new and uncertain environment. 

You don’t have a strategic plan? Well, now is a good time to create one!

When the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals was created in 2003, developing a 10-year strategic plan was one of the most critical tasks we undertook. Without that roadmap to guide us through our development and evolution over the past 17 years, we would never have been able to accomplish the progress and breakthroughs we, in partnership with Animal Care Centers of NYC and approximately 150 other shelter and rescue partners, achieved in increasing the live release rate at NYC’s shelters from 26 percent in 2003 to a sustained 90+ percent live release rate for the past three years. 

Over the years, rescue organizations both locally and nationally have asked for our guidance in developing their own strategic plan and programs to meet their own challenges in reducing euthanasia in their community. While we never would presume to have all the answers, we never passed up an opportunity to share our experience, best practices and successes, as well as our shortfalls, with animal welfare leaders and innovators across the country and, in some cases, in countries beyond our borders.

From our very beginning, we recognized the value of having a strategic plan to guide our efforts in lifesaving, to create targeted and result-oriented programs, and to evaluate our successes and understand where we came up short.

We prepared a Powerpoint which we use when we consult with organizations that ask for our help in creating a strategic plan. Recently we posted it on our website in the hopes that it will be a useful guide for other animal welfare organizations.


If you or others you know are interested in exploring the process of creating or updating a strategic plan for your organization, we will be happy to speak with you. Just email us at info@animalalliancenyc.org.

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Jane Hoffman Named to Alley Cat Allies’ Feline Forward Task Force

Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies, earlier this year named Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals president Jane Hoffman to her Feline Forward Task Force. The task force is composed of leaders in animal protection whose experience and breadth of knowledge in navigating challenging situations qualify them to help animal organizations either remain on or get back on track during these extraordinary times. 

“No one wrote the playbook for our field to survive a year like this,” explains Becky. “We’ve all prepared for disasters, but nothing as comprehensive and sustained as the COVID-19 crisis.” 

Most organizations whose mission is to save animals are adapting to shrunken operating budgets, extended closures to the public, furloughed employees and volunteers, and postponed fundraising events. An uncertain future looms large, causing great anxiety and concern.

It is with those organizations in mind that Becky created the Feline Forward Task Force. “We want to help our colleagues across the country adapt to new realities and reimagine ways to serve their communities and save the lives of animals,” Becky says.

The task force provides organizations with access to solid experience and proven new strategies for thriving in this difficult environment. “We are all being forced to find new protocols and new tools, some of which will take us into the future,” says Becky. 

Specifically, the task force can help organizations large and small address new challenges in a wide range of activities, including spay/neuter programs, adoptions and foster placements, budgeting, fundraising, events, social media, and numerous others.

Jane’s extensive background in animal protection spans more than three decades and includes the creation of the Alliance and its innovative, lifesaving programs, including the NYC Feral Cat Initiative.

“I am honored to be a part of the Feline Forward Task Force and join this impressive team of extremely talented, creative, and accomplished leaders in our field,” says Jane. “Once again Becky has demonstrated a keen understanding of the most pressing needs of the moment by creating this task force. I look forward to collaborating with my fellow task force members to seek solid solutions to the new challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis.”

To learn more about the Feline Forward Task Force, its members, and how it is helping animal protection organizations, visit the Alley Cat Allies website.

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