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A Creative Twist on Animal Welfare
New initiative helps low-income artists cover medical care for their pets.
Graphic designer Rob Kelly donated the initiative's logo, which features the founder's American Bulldog, Dolly.

Laura Menck doesn’t want artists to have to choose between caring for themselves or their animals. But she knows it happens all the time. Her husband, rock musician Ric Menck, is one of many artists who have gone into debt over pet care costs.

So she got together with some like-minded arts-loving, animal-welfare advocates to build a backstop against just such a problem. The Animal Care for Artists Initiative aims “to assist low-income individuals, employed in the arts, in covering the cost of medical care for their animal companions.” Artists whose income falls within California’s low-income guidelines can apply for financial assistance to cover veterinary costs including spay/neuter procedures, vaccinations and emergency care. Cosmetic procedures are not covered.

The initiative is brand new; the organization is currently testing its application and financial assistance reward process, and just starting to raise awareness and funds. “It took everything I had to get the entire 501(c) (3) process going,” Menck says. A longtime animal welfare advocate and volunteer, Menck founded the initiative while pursuing a graduate degree in nonprofit management and public policy and working as a pulmonary lab clinical research supervisor at UCLA. She and her husband have an American Bulldog named Dolly; who is featured in the organization’s logo.

“I feel—in today’s world—we need to support the arts because creative expression is needed for creative change to come about; socially and politically,” Menck says. “It’s no secret that artists, on average, make much less than people realize so they have a hard time maintaining their creative objectives and financial stability. At the same time, I want to make sure animals are spayed/neutered, healthy, and don’t end up in shelters. ”

The Animal Care for Artists Initiative kicked off a website, and Facebook and MySpace profiles in August.  “I instantly started receiving requests for assistance and offers from volunteers and donations,” Menck says. The initiative also launched a drive through Kickstarter at the end of August, which runs through October 31. “Right away, the committee chair for Los Angeles Animal Services Spay/Neuter committee donated on Kickstarter!” Pledges were up to $1,345 in the first week. “We received generous support from a couple in Nashville who are very devoted to the welfare of artists and animals in their city. That was really exciting,” Menck reports. “And entertainer Emily Volman is already on the case helping us find artists we can help in Nashville.”

It’s a grassroots, cooperative effort: A local vet provided help with the application forms, graphic designer Rob Kelly donated the logo, and local artist, Thomas Valle-Guatemala, created the website. Our first volunteer, Sarah Northcutt, is hard at work establishing contacts. In the past week we have received offers from people willing to volunteer their time and donated artwork, such as that by Denver artist Gemma Huang, for a future fundraiser to include performances by artists such as The Del Reys.

“We are getting inquiries from animal lovers and artists,” Menck continues. “That both groups seem to, overwhelmingly, appreciate the support and the uniting of the two worlds has been incredibly inspiring and compelling for me; which makes me think this will be bigger than any of us realized.”

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Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com

Thumbnail image features initiative founder Laura Menck and her American Bulldog, Dolly.

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