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North Shore Animal League Launches Tour for Life

Journey will find homes for pets and raise awareness on shelter animals

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, a children’s book and film, tells the story of two dogs and a cat who travel across the country to be reunited with their beloved owners. In a similar story, animals from North Shore Animal League America have begun their own incredible journey in three mobile adoption units, referred to as “shelters on wheels” that will cover more than 15,000 miles in the search for loving homes.

Of course, the difference between this story and Homeward Bound is that the animals are not embarking on this journey alone—they are being helped by many animal lovers who attended the launch and ribbon-cutting event for the Tour for Life on a sunny, spring-like afternoon in Port Washington on March 14.

John Stevenson, president of North Shore Animal League America, noted that this was the earliest and warmest send-off for the Tour for Life. He stated that the three mobile units would go to different regions across the country, partnering with more than 100 shelter and rescue groups in 33 cities and 16 states. People look forward to the units arriving in their locale, which leads to more adoptions, he explained, and the mobile units raise awareness of the importance of adopting from a shelter instead of buying from a pet store, through various mobile adoption events.

Stevenson said that there were 1,495 adoptions through last year’s Tour for Life. He is hoping to break the record this year with at least 2,000 adoptions. “We just need enthusiasm from adopters, because the animals will be there,” he said, adding that they will promote the tour through social media to let people know when the tour will be in a particular town.

Stevenson also mentioned that Purina One is sponsoring the tour. He stated that without their continued support, these events would not be possible, as it is expensive to send the mobile units across the country.

Animal League Spokesperson Beth Stern talked to the crowd about the importance of Tour for Life while holding an adoptable puppy named Fluffernutter. She said, “We are going to have so many adoptions and many lives are going to be saved…. This is going to be our best year ever, I can feel it!” She also praised the volunteers and the staff at North Shore Animal League America for making this shelter the largest no-kill rescue organization in the world.

In turn, Beth was also praised for her efforts with the Animal League. Devera Lynn, vice president of communications at the Animal League, spoke about the North Shore Animal League America 2012 Calendar, which includes photos of Beth with shelter animals that were taken at the Sands Point Preserve. Lynn said that Beth and her husband, Howard Stern, helped promote this calendar, which has raised over $110,000 for the Animal League.

Lara Spencer, Good Morning America co-anchor, attended this event with her dog, Coco, who was adopted from the Animal League. In speaking about the importance of adopting dogs from a shelter, Spencer said, “I do believe that they know you are giving them a second chance. There’s such a difference to me—I grew up with purebred this and that—but with all due respect mom and dad, to me, there’s no comparison.”

WE TV is the media sponsor for the Tour for Life, and Rosie Pisani-Foley, senior vice president of marketing there, said that the network will be supporting the tour on its airwaves. In addition, the tour concludes on April 26, in front of the offices of WE TV on 7th Avenue in New York City.

Joanne Yohannan, senior vice president of operations at the Animal League, spoke on the ways this tour will save lives. “I know John wants us to do 2,000 adoptions, but I think that we are going to be responsible for many more adoptions than that because we are bringing awareness across the country to the plight of homeless animals,” she said, adding, “Long after the tour is gone, people will continue to go into the shelter rather than go to a pet store to buy a pet, and lives will continue to be saved.”

Yohannan also spoke about the six drivers who will be giving up their time for the next five weeks to be out on the road, bringing attention to the plight of homeless animals. Route One starts in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and ends up in Parma, Ohio with drivers Dan McNena of College Point and Vinny Buscemi of Oceanside. Route Two begins in Savannah, Georgia and heads toward Brookfield, Connecticut with drivers Jen Lewis of Middle Village and Kira Principato of Forest Hills. Route Three commences in Peyton, Colorado and completes the tour in Amarillo, Texas with drivers Tristan Ismay of Flushing and Kim Lasek of Albertson.

Father Steve Peterson of Our Lady of Fatima blessed the animals, the drivers, and the overall journey. He prayed for them to have peaceful days and restful nights.

Rabbi Marc Gellman, of Temple Beth Torah in Melville, said that it was a mistake to refer to these animals as homeless, and asked everyone to think of them in a different way. “They have a home, we all have a home—and that is under the protecting wings of God’s eternal care and love,” Rabbi Gellman said, adding, “What they need is protectors. They are protector-less animals. And so, this is a search for protectors.” He blessed them on their journey and also blessed those who created and sustained the North Shore Animal League, the volunteers, the staff, and “all the people who are part of this work of love.”

Lynn noted that people can follow the Tour for Life at Twitter @AnimalLeague. People can also obtain more information about the tour at facebook.com/theanimal league.

For more information about North Shore Animal League America, visit the website www.animalleague.org or call (516) 883-7575.