2012 Pet Hero Award Winners
NBC Today's Jill Rappaport
Pet Humanitarian of the Year
Jill Rappaport was always known for her stellar work on the red carpet, interviewing every A-LIST star and covering all of the entertainment award shows. She was NBC Today Show's "star reporter" in every sense of the word and for 16 years she was the 'go to' gal for "All Things Entertainment!" But in 2007 her life and career changed forever when her beloved dog Jack got bone cancer, had his leg amputated and underwent chemotherapy. While chronicling his recovery on Today, the response was so overwhelming for her beautiful 11 year old German Shepherd that she realized animal issues were her true calling. Sheasked her boss at NBC to change her beat to cover "All Things Animals!" So after 16 years of being the entertainment correspondent, her title was changed to "Animal Advocate". She jokes, "I went from the red carpet to the wee-wee pad and I couldn't be happier!"...
In her popular, award-winning "Bow To Wow" series, shelter dogs get a makeover and a second chance at life and a loving home, with a 100% adoption success record to date. Through her work, she has helped to save hundreds of horses that were severely abused. She also keeps
TODAY viewers informed about the latest health trends for pets.
Jill Rappaport is also the bestselling author of "People We Know, Horses they Love," and has written three other books, including "Jack & Jill: The Miracle Dog with a Happy Tail To Tell," about her dog Jack and "500 Cats".
In addition to the Pet Philanthropy Circle’s Pet Humanitarian Award, Jill has received numerous others. She is the first recipient of the "Voice for the Animals Award" for her work on and off the screen from the Humane Society of the United States, presented by Matt Lauer. The Humane Society also awarded her the Genesis Award twice, which is the preeminent award of the animal world. She also received the coveted MSPCA-Angell Animal Hall of Fame Award in Boston and the New York City Parks Citizen award from the Mounted Auxiliary unit. She was also honored for Outstanding Community Service from the LI Veterinary Medical Association and received the coveted 2012 Global Pet Expo Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contributions to the Pet Industry Award. Jill was also named the ASPCA Good Will Equine Welfare Ambassador in 2011 and ended that year with the honor of ringing the NYSE Opening Bell for animal welfare and adoption.
Jill’s commitment to rescue never stops; she just introduced her Rescued Me Collection, a line of neon leashes/collars, horse halters and lead lines promoting rescue and adoption. The clever sayings include "Opt to Adopt", "I'm a Heart Melter from a Shelter", "Smitten With My Rescue Kitten" and "A Shelter Cat is Where It’s At". Rappaport insisted the collection be made in the USA with a portion of the proceeds benefiting animal cancer and shelters. She accomplished another first, while promoting the line on HSN, Jill persuaded the producers to allow her to bring along a dozen cats and dogs to be used as the models for her collection. Another success - all were adopted.
Later this summer Jill will launch her equestrian jewelry line called Hannah’s Heart, named after her cherishedlate mare. Jill designed the line exclusively with London Jewelers and will benefit the ASPCA. In between her shows at NBC and public service engagements, Jill spends time on her western horse ranch in Water Mill. She refers to her 5 rescue dogs and 7 horses as her "fur angels", but she also deserves the recognition of being an animal angel herself. Thank you, Jill, for your commitment to animal wellbeing.
Debi Boies, Pilots N Paws
Rescue Organization of the Year
Amazing how a South Carolina retired nurse’s determination to adopt a rescue dog led to the formation of Pilots N Paws, an organization of over 2,600 pilots that volunteer their time, airplanes and fuel expenses to transport tens of thousands of shelter animals from certain death to safety. Amazing, that is, unless you know Debi Boies, Co-Founder.
Debi Boies, a long-time animal rescue advocate, wanted to save a Doberman Pinscher destined for “death row”. She was aware of an existing organization of volunteers that coordinated a caravan of drivers, changing pets from vehicle to vehicle to reach their new homes, but realized the stress this caused to the pets. Discussing this dilemma with her friend, a private pilot Jon Wehrenberg, she thought for a moment. The light bulb went off. Flying! “Pilots look for reasons to fly," he told her, and as a result, Pilots N Paws was born.
Since their inception in 2008, Pilots N Paws continues to make a difference in the lives of innocent animals having flown thousands of rescue animals, among them military working dogs, animals with medical needs, and service dogs. The animals are almost always remarkably calm about the adventure. The pilots report, "It's almost as if they understand that this is their chance for life."
Pilots N Paws volunteer pilots have also assisted with dogs who have been adopted by our soldiers in war zones by transporting them to the soldiers’ hometowns once the dogs arrive in the states.
This remarkable organization has grown in appreciation, trust and demand. Their pilots were involved with flying a Steppe eagle from Afghanistan, whom our Navy Seals rescued and saved after the eagle was shot. That eagle is now sharing space at Berkshire Bird Paradise with an American eagle.
Debi Boies and Pilots N Paws have received honors and awards from all over the country. Broadway Barks Award/Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore, the American Dog Magazine’s 1st Annual Humanitarian Award, the Augusta Humane Society's Casie Ritchhart Memorial Award, The Humane Society of Naples Animaltarian Award, the Dog Rescue and Relief Award, and the Pets and Heroes award from the Amazing Grace Foundation. She is listed as one of the top "25 Pet People of 2010" at Petside.com.
We commend Debi Boies and Jon Wehrenberg for your dedication to animal rescue. Keep on flying high!
Jonathan McCann, Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation
Shelter of the Year
The Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation was founded in 2010 as a call to action when the town decided it could no longer care for the animals at the town shelter premises. Not only were the 225 animals currently housed there in jeopardy, so were all others that would be found. It was the selfless financial, emotional and personal determination of their Board of Directors that initiated this remarkable new rescue organization.
The President of the Southhampton Animal Shelter Foundation, Jonathan McCann, is totally absorbed in the daily activities of the shelter, as are all of their officers and Board members. When he speaks of the challenges of meeting the needs of animals at the shelter, he frequently mentions the past and present “residents” by name. Jonathan resides in Sag Harbor on his bayside estate with his horses, dogs, guineas, parrots and numerous other companion pets.
Most notable among this group’s attributes are the quality, commitment and attitude of the staff. Each staff member has been selected and trained to strive for perfection. No animal is too great a challenge to invest love, diagnosis, and rehabilitation. When Chance, a disobedient dog, was left at the shelter and diagnosed as deaf, the entire staff learned sign language to communicate with him. Chance now lives with his new adoptive family that leaned his sign language, as well!
The Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation offers a low-cost spay/neuter clinic to help combat pet overpopulation. All privately owned pit bull type dogs are spayed or neutered free of charge. Dog obedience classes are also offered to the public.
The Shelter is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization relying on the generosity of individuals and businesses to help us save lives at the adoption center and provide much-needed programs that benefit homeless pets, your contributions will be greatly appreciated.
Sony Schotland, Co-Founder of Arf of the Hamptons and Southampton Animal Shelter
Founder's Award of the Year
When Sony Schotland left her homeland in France and arrived in the United States as a teenager, she was already an avid animal lover. Little did she realize that this affinity would lead her into a lifetime commitment! Over 50 years ago she started a campaign to prevent our Long Island animals from being euthanized by horrible methods. With the help of
three others; Barbra Posener, Dorothey Wahl and Cleveland Amory, an animal organization was founded in the Hamptons that is now recognized as being one of the finest in the nation, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons. Most everyone knows it by the acronym, ARF. Sony served on ARF’s Board for 37 years before she faced an even greater challenge.
Being recognized as a leader in the pet community, the town of Southampton asked Sony to serve on their advisory committee relating to animal issues where she met Susan Allen, another member of the committee. The town suddenly announced that due to fiscal difficulties the shelter would be shut down. the scope of the peril for the 225 animals living there at the time was incredulous The town’s only involvement as requested by law would be to pick up strays , These strays could have been euthanized if they remained unclaimed for more than five days. And yes, that includes lost and missing companion pets with loving families trying to find them.
When a benefactor generously offered to privatize the shelter for a few years, Sony joined in this new seemingly impossible challenge and helped enable the newly formed Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation (SASF) to become self-sufficient. After all, no single individual can afford to maintain an entire shelter. Confident that ARF was established, financially independent and well-organized, Sony took the leap and joined Susan Allen in this new, seemingly impossible challenge.
Sony has donated her wisdom, heart and personal finances to animal welfare. Seldom has a day gone by in the last fifty years that she has not worked on and off rescue and shelter premises to save countless animal lives. We commend Sony for her life’s work and the progress she continues to make for animals. Sony, you are awesome!
Sharon Levine and Richard Rubin, Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard and Horse Rescued
Political Action Award
Hollow Farm Horse Rescue. In the fall of 2007, they were approached
by a horse rescue organization concerning an old barn and some corrals
that were being under-utilized at the Rubin family farm in Baiting Hollow. Richard and Sharon were presented a picture of a year old Thoroughbred filly, Angel, who was in a kill pen in Pennsylvania. Since that rescue organization's facilities had no remaining space, there was a tear-filled request begging Sharon and Richard to save this beautiful horse. It didn’t take much persuasion; destiny took its course with this family of dedicated animal lovers.
Angel arrived right away at their doorstep with two other horses in tow! This passion for saving horses has led to the expansion of the Rubin family's existing facilities to accommodate 25 horses. The "horse vineyard" has become so popular, it is not uncommon to see ten or more buses arriving from New York City and the surrounding areas to enjoy the wine, live music, and visit the horses. Sharon and Richard personally lead tours on weekends to educate their guests about the perils of horses. Many of these guests have been inspired to take up the fight to save lives of these majestic animals.
As Richard states; "Most horse rescue organizations are pretty obscure, so we have the advantage of being able to inform the public about the plight of American horses who are slaughtered in mass numbers (most are young and healthy horses) largely as a result of the irresponsibility of and lack of caring by owners combined with an international market for horse meat." Baiting Hollow Farm Horse Rescue provides free horse tours each weekend where visitors get to meet the descendants of Man O' War, Secretariat and War Admiral. have been rescued by the Rubins and are part of the tour. They have the chance to meet Angel, the thoroughbred filly who started it all. Angel is lovingly referred to as their star and has a chardonnay named in her honor! The profits of this great tasting wine support horse sanctuaries.
So determined to make a difference, the Rubins have encouraged others to take up the cause. Realizing that they cannot save every horse by themselves, they provide a link on their vineyard website so everyone can easily reach out to their legislators to let them know that they are opposed to the slaughtering of American horses. There is proposed legislation that must be supported since this is the only way to stop this inhumane cruelty. Richard says, "We grew up worshipping horses in the movies and on television, we have applauded their accomplishments in sports, we have fought wars on their backs, counted on them to explore this country, deliver our mail and in certain areas we still use them for farming. Horses are also pets and since it is not our culture to eat our pets, nobody should eat our horses." Baiting Hollow Farm Horse Rescue has been self-funding but has submitted an application to become a 501 (c) (3). In addition to supporting the Baiting Hollow horse sanctuary, they hope to further lobbying, education and grant money to existing and new horse rescues. They hope to encourage other land owners with facilities to take in horses with the promise of incremental payments to make this feasible.
We applaud Richard and Sharon for the countless hours they have spent dedicating their personal time and finances to enlightening others about the concerns of horses and the obligation we have to protect our pets.
oerce the Rubin family into saving this beauty. It didn’t take much persuasion; destiny took its course with this family of dedicated animal lovers.
This beautiful filly arrived right away at their doorstep with two others in tow! A commitment was made to immediately save a couple of others and so began their four year journey. This passion for saving horses has led to the expansion of their existing facilities and numerous mini-barns to accommodate 25 horses.
Crowds of people visit the Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard each week. The site has become so popular, it is not uncommon to see ten or more buses from New York City and the surrounding counties to enjoy the wine, live music, and visit the horses. Sharon and Richard personally lead tours throughout the weekends taking every opportunity to educate their guests about the perils of horses. Many of them seem to bond with the horses and have been inspired to take up the fight to save horse lives.
As Richard states; "most horse rescue organizations are pretty obscure so we have the advantage of being able to inform the public about the plight of American horses who are slaughtered in mass numbers (most are young and healthy horses) largely as a result of the irresponsibility of and lack of caring by owners combined with an International market for horse meat".
Baiting Hollow Farm Horse Rescue provides these free horse tours each weekend where visitors get to hear the stories and background of the horses and about the actual rescue of each. They have the chance to meet their star Angel (that is the name given to that Thoroughbred filly who started it all) while tasting the wonderful chardonnay that was named for her (profits go to support the horse sanctuary and rescue) as well as other horse rescue wines. They also get to see descendants of Man O' War, Secretariat and War Admiral.
So determined to make a difference, the Rubins have encouraged others to take up the cause. Realizing that they cannot save every horse by themselves, they provide a link on their vineyard website so everyone can easily reach out to their legislators to let them know that they are opposed to the slaughtering of American horses. There is proposed legislation that must be supported since this is the only way to stop this inhumane cruelty.
Richard says that; "we grew up worshipping horses in the movies and on television, we have applauded their accomplishments in sports, we have fought wars on their backs, counted on them to explore this country, deliver our mail and in certain areas we still use them for farming. Horses are also pets and since it is not our culture to eat our pets, nobody should eat our horses."
Baiting Hollow Farm Horse Rescue has been self-funding to this point but has submitted an application to become a 501 (c) (3) and will begin fundraising in earnest to support its goals which include being able to support their sanctuary, increase their rescue efforts while furthering lobbying and education. Additionally, they hope to be in a position where they can grant money to existing horse rescues thus enabling expansion and improvement while encouraging others who own land and facilities to take in horses with the promise of incremental payments to make this feasible.
We thank Richard and Sharon for the countless hours they have spent dedicating their personal time and finances to enlightening others about the concerns of horses and the obligation we have to protect our pets.
Dr. Joseph C. Ramaekers, D.V.M.
Veterinarian of the Year
Dr. Ramaekers’s contributions to animal health make him the perfect choice for “Veterinarian of the Year”. Well respected and widely renowned, Dr. Ramaekers has traveled extensively worldwide where he has served as an international consultant on animal nutrition. From the onset of the opening of his veterinary practice in Santa Cruz, California, Dr. Ramaekers has had a great interest in the nutritional approach to animal health. He began his research in 1969, performing extensive environmental analyses of soil and water. In addition to traditional diagnostic methods, his thorough approach includes hair analyses, blood chemistries and nutrient analyses. By identifying nutritional deficiencies and toxicities he turns to nature to find cures. He is a firm believer that every ailment can be treated with natural remedies; it is up to humans to find those natural cures.
By focusing on preventative medicine, he discovered many nutrients with powerful medicinal value. Dr. Ramaekers is passionate about improving animal welfare and preventing diseases before they occur. His 40 years of global research and clinical experience help him successfully develop many remedies that are now being used by other knowledgeable and dedicated veterinarians.
He currently holds numerous patents in the United States and Internationally. Included in his list of medical successes are methods for treating Cushings syndrome, Cushings disease, benign tumors, onchoceriasis, hypothyroidism, and equine protozoal myelitis. Never resting when it comes to animal health, he now has pending patents for fertility, a method of treating inflammation and ulcers, treating flea bite dermatitis, feline leukemia, and chronic dust allergen cough, to list a few of the health challenges he has conquered.
There are many veterinarians that deserve recognition. Gratefully, many of them are going beyond traditional medicine and are now prescribing nutritional remedies, as well. Dr. Ramaekers goes many steps beyond the norm, if a remedy isn’t currently available, he researches the cause and finds the cure. He never stops. Research documents his success. 80% of benign tumors and over 60% of cancerous ones have been successfully treated with nutritional supplements he has developed. The results have been so acclaimed; they are now being used to treat humans.
Dr. Ramaekers completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska and was awarded a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Missouri in 1969. Dr. Ramaekers has been an active small and large animal veterinarian and nutritionist for nearly 43 years and continues to discover remedies that save and enhance the quality of animal and human lives.
We congratulate Dr. Ramaekers and share his passion for saving animals and alleviating the pain of all those who suffer. Keep up the good research!
Zoe Kamitses, Arf of the Hamptons Volunteer
Volunteer of the Year
The Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, Inc. (ARF) a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization nominated Ms. Zoe Kamitses for the “Volunteer of the Year” Pet Hero Award. Zoe is the Chairperson of Operation Cat, a feral cat TNR program that has been responsible for neutering over 15,000 cats on eastern Long Island since the program began in 1997. She is a year-round resident of Southampton Village with a long history of community volunteerism.
As a board member of ARF, Zoe was concerned by the large number of angry phone calls the adoption center received about stray and feral cats. Before Operation Cat, ARF’s only recourse was to call Animal Control. Animal Control would euthanize the cats. Zoe went on line and learned about the Feral Cat Coalition in San Diego. Back in 1997, that was about the only resource that came up on her internet search. How things have changed.
Using the information from the Feral Cat Coalition, Zoe started Operation Cat. ARF funded the program with a $10,000 seed grant and it was underway.
The first thing the program accomplished was to bring together and unify the many people who were doing TNR or feeding cats on their own. Zoe organized monthly meetings for theses new volunteers whom she called “cat activist”.
Zoe is a brilliant community organizer. To grow the program she trained the original “cat activist” to train others. Every time a new complaint was received, Zoe insisted that the caller be converted to an activist. There are now 1,000 feral cat colonies in the Operation Cat database.
Zoe is an ardent and compelling communicator. She has been responsible for swaying local governments to fund and support Operation Cat and to permit colonies to remain on public land.
Today, Operation Cat has a $90,000 budget and is one of ARF’s most successful programs. The following are program highlights which would not have been possible without Zoe Kamitses:
1999: All local vets participate in the program. Vets perform spay/neuter, distemper & rabies vaccine and ear tip on all cats for reduced fee of $50.
Acadamy Award winning illustrator John Canemaker donates “Breaking the Feral Cat Cycle” an educational cartoon featuring Vincent, the mascot of Operation Cat.
2000: Southampton Town agrees to stop euthanizing feral cats, and passes a resolution to make Southampton Town a “no-kill” town for feral cats.
2001: Operation Cat program receives $10,000 challenge grant from PETsMART Charities which is matched by the Town of Southampton.
2002: Operation Cat program sets new record of 1,205 feral cats neutered in one year.
A local hotel, the Southampton Inn, donates the use of a conference room for cat adoptathons twice a year.
2004: Kittens and tame stray cats are regularly removed from colonies. Socialized kittens and cats originating from Operation Cat volunteers represent 39% of total felines admitted to ARF Adoption Center.
Operation Cat program receives grants from East Hampton Town, Southampton Town and Suffolk County and several private foundations.
The Meow Mix Company agrees to donate 2,000 pounds of cat food per month to support the colonies.
2005: New record of 1,220 feral cats neutered in one year.
2007-2009: Op Cat continues to grow throughout eastern Long Island, expanding to the hamlet of Westhampton.
2009: ARF hires first full time veterinarian, brings most feral cat neuters in-house, saving funds.
2010: Town funding dries up due to budget constraint, but private philanthropy makes up the difference.
2011: Number of kittens admitted to the ARF Adoption Center from the Operation Cat programs continues to decline for the third year in a row, proving the success of the TNR program. Drukier Family Foundation launches challenge grant to fund cat food for feral colonies across eastern Long Island.
Amazing Pet of the Year
Each and every pet owner believes his or her animal deserves the “Amazing Pet Award” and the Board of Directors of the Pet Philanthropy Circle agree; however, only one pet per year can win. The challenge of selecting a single animal for this award required the direction of many pet advocates who helped screen numerous candidates. They came up with a real winner, Dolce, leaving the challenge of ever finding a future “Amazing Pet” that is accomplished as this one. Dolce is the "spokes-dog" for the University of Pennsylvania, Vet School. In association with the Vet Pets Visitation Program, Dolce has spent 8 years with had over 150 visits to the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House and numerous other visits to libraries, summer camps, local conferences and events. In addition to Dolce’s civic responsibilities, he competes in agility and fly-ball and entertains his fans as a Champion Trick Dog. In addition to his 150 bag of tricks, he has many attributes we feel deserve recognition.
This year’s “Amazing Pet” winner was a rescue puppy dying from the parvovirus. Many dogs with parvo are euthanized as the disease is highly contagious and many owners are not willing or able to extend the resources to save these precious lives. We hope we can use this example to demonstrate the importance of giving all rescue pets a chance and find homes for them.
On March 13th, 2012, Dolce’s human Mother, Dr. Cindy Otto, was honored by the US troops for contributions made in training military service dogs. She received an American flag that had been flown over Afghanistan by US servicemen in appreciation of the part these animals served in saving human lives.
The fact that she works with military working dogs as a consultant for the Canine Tactical Combat Casualty Care Committee is only one of her many accomplishments. Doctor Otto is trained and certified as a veterinarian specializing in Emergency Medicine and Critical Care. She attended the Ohio State University where she received a Bachelors of Animal Science and her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. She is currently a tenured associate professor of Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia, PA. At the University of Pennsylvania since 1991, she works in the Ryan Veterinary Hospital Emergency Service, teaches veterinary students and performs research. Dr. Otto has also been involved with search and rescue dogs and disaster medicine as a member of the Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 between 1994 and 2010 (including deployments to Hurricane Floyd and 9/11), and the Veterinary Medical Assistance Team-2 since 1999 (deploying to Hurricane Katrina).
She is the founding director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. She served as the co-chair of Finding One Another’s Tribute to the Search and Rescue Dogs of 9/11. She has been monitoring the health and behavior of Urban Search and Rescue canines since October of 2001, through an AKC-CHF funded grant (now in its third renewal). She has established the AKC-CAR Detection Dog DNA bank. She is active in educating search dog handlers and members of the working dog community in canine care. She was named Pennsylvania’s 2002 “Veterinarian of the Year” and received an Alumni Recognition Award in 2006 and the OSU Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2008 from the Ohio State University.
Among Dolce’s other talents, he paints and plays the piano. Both Dolce and Dr. Otto will be performing at PetFest. Dr. Otto has agreed to be a guest speaker. When asked if a piano needed for Dolce, Dr. Otto replied, “Dolce brings his own piano!” Top dog? No doubt!
WOW! Just imagine what an amazing dog can do with an owner that loves and trains him.
Both Dolce and Dr. Otto are an inspiration to all of us.