very pet parent knows that our relationships with our animals go way deeper than simple daily walks and snuggles on the couch. Often, our animals provide support and comfort we can’t get anyplace else, especially during times of hardship. That’s why RedRover CEO Nicole Forsyth works to provide funding and on-the-ground assistance to pets and people who’ve suffered trauma—everything from natural disasters to job loss to domestic violence.
“People often call us the American Red Cross for animals,” says Forsyth, who joined the Sacramento, California-based non-profit organization as CEO in 2006.
But there’s more to Forsyth’s work than managing crisis. At its root, she says, RedRover is about strengthening the bond between people and animals. “There’s a lot of power in this bond—in this connection we feel with animals,” she says.
Forsyth’s path to RedRover began in 2002, when she experienced a crisis of her own: Her cat Calypso, the first pet that Forsyth felt was fully her own, passed away.
“I was just floored by how much it impacted me,” she recalls. “I was consumed with grief for her.”
But when she began volunteering at a local humane society soon after, Forsyth found that spending time with the shelter cats was incredibly healing, helping her to process her grief. The experience ignited her enthusiasm for working with animals, so she returned to school to earn a master’s degree in animal biology with a focus on animal welfare. After volunteering at several organizations focused on large-scale animal conservation, Forsyth landed at RedRover to focus on making a difference for companion animals.
Today, Forsyth has spent over 14 years as the president and CEO of RedRover, whose broad range of programs aims to ease a wide variety of challenges too often faced by pets and their people.
Through the RedRover Relief program, the organization awards urgent care grants to those who can’t afford emergency veterinary care. The program also provides funds for temporary emergency boarding for pets of those who are fleeing domestic violence.
“We've learned that pets are a huge barrier to people not leaving their abusive relationships,” Forsyth says, noting that not all domestic violence shelters allow pets. Boarding assistance, she adds, gives victims a chance to get out of dangerous situations ASAP.
Another arm of RedRover, the Responders program, offers assistance to communities where groups of animals are suddenly displaced—in the wake of a natural disaster, for instance, or after a large-scale rescue from a puppy mill or hoarding situation. To provide care to displaced pets, RedRover sets up temporary shelters or works with local shelter organizations to ensure the safety and health of these distressed animals.
In 2007, Forsyth launched the RedRover Readers program, which recommends books and stories to educators and provides training for them to help their students explore the human-animal bond. “Part of our ability to stay resilient is to not just help with animals in crisis but also to prevent those crises in the first place by really strengthening the bond between people and pets,” Forsyth says.
The Readers program does just that, helping kids practice the skills they need to feel empathy for animals and people alike.
That’s one of Forsyth’s biggest goals: to promote and increase empathy in those she helps and works with, especially the next generation. “I really wanted to impact kids early on so that they understand animals and animal behavior,” she says. “They can learn to build that respect and compassion.”
The year 2020 has thrown the whole world for a loop, making RedRover’s services more necessary than ever. In response, Forsyth has expanded its range of services, extending its funding for emergency pet boarding to those who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 infections and cannot care for their pet. In these difficult times, she says, helping pets and people bond with each other is more essential than ever.
“No one should feel alone,” she says, “so it’s powerful when people say, 'No one else understands how important that bond is, and you guys do.’”
A Few of Nicole's Favorite Holiday Things
Frisco Holiday Cat Tracks Cat Toy
KONG Trekkers Dog Toy
Best Friends by Sheri Throw Shag Dog & Cat Blanket
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