Throughout her adulthood, Joyce Garrity, the executive director of the Dutchess County SPCA, has carried the love and respect for animals that was instilled in her as a child. That devotion isn't stopping with her, either. Along with her husband, Joyce has raised four children, but their family has always been larger if you include their pets. Joyce's children grew up the same way she did, learning that owning a pet means showing it care and kindness while being responsible for its livelihood. In turn, her children are doing the same with their children. "It is so rewarding to see this passed through the generations," Garrity says.
Even though Garrity became a teacher after college, she couldn't escape the feeling that she had a calling to help abuse victims. Following her fate, Garrity changed careers and began work at the Task Force for Child Protection (now the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse), as well as the Minneapolis Early Learning Design Program. How did she end up working with animals? "The segue from child abuse to animal sheltering was a natural one," Garrity says. Already educated in abuse against humans, Garrity felt drawn to helping animals, who are unquestionably more vulnerable to mistreatment, not to mention voiceless. "The animals of the shelter, who come to us confused and frightened, soon realize that they are in a loving and safe place. Seeing the transformation from sick, abandoned, abused, and neglected animals to happy and cared for animals will be part of my memory forever," Garrity says.
The Dutchess County SPCA has been operating for more than 142 years, but its main purpose has always stayed the same: protecting and finding loving homes for animals. Workers also investigate animal cruelty, reunite owners with their lost pets, and provide food for animals of low-income homes through the pet pantry. Owners can also use low-cost veterinary care programs to treat, spay, and neuter pets. Collaborative initiatives include the Safe Pet Sheltering Program, which is in conjunction with the Grace Smith House. While human victims of abuse are treated at the Grace Smith emergency shelter, pets are taken care of at the DCSPCA. Also, thanks to a partnership with Mental Health America of Dutchess County, the PET Project pairs pets with people who have been diagnosed with PTSD. Animals can help to reduce depression and stress, both of which are traits of the disorder.
Interested in getting involved with animal rescue? Garrity advises you to get informed first. With all of the information accessible at your fingertips, there's really no excuse not to. Plus, there are a growing number of opportunities for animal shelter volunteers. Garrity suggests that you ask yourself if you're a patient person; if you have a love for animals; if you can show compassion. Maybe more important is whether you can keep a level head while you work hard and without complaint.
"The work of this great organization will continue long after I leave," says Garrity. "I will always continue to try and make a significant contribution in the world of nonprofits, as they do such good work with so few resources, and I have tremendous respect for those who work for, volunteer for, and support their efforts."