Houston PetSet Community Relations & Grants Manager Becky Best recently spoke with Laura McConnell, founder and president of Lone Star Animal Welfare League in Montgomery County.
Lone Star Animal Welfare League (LSAWL) founder and president Laura McConnell has seen a lot of changes since founding her organization in 2004. For starters, when they began, the organization was named The Woodlands Dog Park Club in reference to their focus at the time: building dog parks in The Woodlands.
Laura and her volunteers saw the positive impact these parks created and realized that the dogs housed at Montgomery County Animal Shelter (MCAS) would also benefit from getting out of their kennels to enjoy time running and playing outdoors. With fundraising success and perseverance, the park was built.
Having this connection to MCAS opened the door for additional collaboration to work toward better care and higher adoption rates for the animals. For example, at that time it was uncommon for shelters to vaccinate animals on intake. This would often lead to more illnesses in the shelter and make it harder for animals to be adopted. Laura knew they could do better and provided leaders with industry research proving the benefits of vaccinating pets as soon as they arrived.
LSAWL even brought in a progressive animal-welfare leader to help assess the shelter and meet with local representatives about changes that would increase the numbers of animals safely getting out of the shelter while increasing their quality of life while in MCAS care. In the end, budget increases were made to allow for these changes, which Laura considers one of her organization’s biggest accomplishments to benefit area pets. This, coupled with additional funding LSAWL provided for the shelter to create its first surgery room has undoubtedly saved countless lives.
As if creating these systems changes was not enough, during this time LSAWL also rescued and adopted out many dogs, concentrating on Labrador Retrievers, Lab mixes, and “want-to-be” labs that they simply could not turn away. With the support of amazing volunteers, fosters, and adopters, the organization has been able to help more than 4,000 dogs that were often neglected and in poor health to overcome their early challenges and become beloved family members. “I love our adopters,” Laura said. “They stay in touch, love the animals and give them a life they would have never known.”
As it became more challenging to get fosters and as the needs increased for education and prevention, LSAWL again transitioned to help fund free or low-cost spay/neuter surgeries. Through partnerships with groups such as Houston PetSet, Laurel’s House, and several private veterinary offices, LSAWL has provided more than 3,500 free or low-cost spay and neuter surgeries, along with vaccines and microchips.
Most recently, Laura recognized a lack of access to low-cost spay/neuter services in outlying areas such as Livingston and Cut and Shoot. As has become the norm at LSAWL, they are stepping up to meet the challenge and will provide support by holding events in each of these locations this spring.
At a time when many organizations are feeling crushed by the enormous amount of need, Laura is taking a positive view and notes that more people than ever seem to be open to spaying and neutering. She said the success of programs like theirs, The Empty Shelter Project and other low-cost or free programs is encouraging and that these collective efforts are making a difference. She hopes as more donors support these efforts, true and lasting change will take place for the animals.