Lori Dover: A local champion of animal welfare

Published 3:10 am Saturday, November 25, 2023

For the last three years, Lori Dover has worked to create a kinder world for animals.

She is the president and founder of St. Huckleberry Animal Fund. It’s an organization founded in 2021 that is centered around making a safer and more humane world for animals through “new laws, policy change, advocacy and advanced creative innovation that improves, transforms and saves more animal lives.”

This was in response to two years of disasters — COVID-19, Hurricanes Laura and Delta, an ice storm and a fatal flash flood  — that negatively affected not only local humans, but local animals.

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“The onslaught of disasters resulted in extreme economic hardship on the human scale, and far worse for animal welfare, as pets and animals were abandoned in exorbitant numbers.”

During the flood of May 2021, she rescued her then five-week old kitten Lord Sugarplum Puddington two streets down from the gully of the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Ryan St. This is a common area for cats to be abandoned. Dover’s discovery of this phenomenon jumpstarted one of her direct animal care activities. She feeds, rescues and provides medical care for a “high volume” of cats, and finds them forever homes outside of Lake Charles through a network of personal friends and professional partnerships.

Dover believes that the animal welfare crisis in Southwest Louisiana was “compounded by a disconnect between local, state and federal agencies, lack of resources, lack of animal shelters” and a lack of animal foster care systems in the area. These are gaps she hopes to fill with the St. Huckleberry Animal Fund.

To prepare for future disasters, the St. Huckleberry Animal Fund invested in new designs, disaster-risk management and Emergency Operations Plans (EOP) for both human and animal welfare.

She has seen, and felt, animal cruelty firsthand. On July 29, 2018, her three-month old kitten Huckleberry — the animal forever honored through the St. Huckleberry Animal Fund — was the victim of a hate crime in Lake Charles.

“This animal hate crime fueled me to become more politically engaged in advocating for stronger animal cruelty laws.”

Dover has actively engaged with animal rights legislation, including the Animal Cruelty Enforcement (ACE) Act. The ACE Act was introduced bipartisanly by U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and colleagues in 2020, and enforces laws that prohibit animal cruelty under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Currently through the St. Huckleberry Animal Fund, she is working to propose legislation and language that prevent social media networks and streaming platforms with global reach —YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook — and content creators from uploading content featuring animal abuse and cruelty. While this legislation wouldn’t ensure every citizen develops a love for animals, it would mitigate animal abuse for profit, she said.

“One cannot legislate love, kindness and respect for animals, but there should and will be codified animal protection laws that are enacted and enforced at every government level.”

The fund has hosted two free events for the public. The first of these was a free Mobile Animal Sterilization Hospital (MASH) clinic in 2021 that benefited 121 cats impacted by the disasters in SWLA. In May of this year, 7 pallets of premium and natural pet food donations from the Wellness Pet Company were handed out, ultimately feeding over 1000 cats.

She is able to operate without seeking out monetary donations. Instead, she brokers donations through networked professional relationships with companies like Weruva, Wellness Pet Company, Newman’s own and Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat.

Currently, she is “laser-focused” on launching an ecommerce pet company named PETS R. FAMILY and instituting St. Huckleberry Animal Fund Hospitals across the states to provide “quality, affordable, veterinary care and offer MASH clinics to remedy the animal overpopulation crisis.” These hospitals would also provide pet health insurance.

Her efforts over the past three years have been chronicled on national platforms, including the Today Show, the Wall Street Journal and Oprah Daily, and her methods can be applied to any cause, and she wants to see a world where local citizens regularly participate in civic and community engagement.

“In this digital day and age, there is a polarity of opinion in this country on practically everything and anything can be politicized and tribal, from disaster-relief allocation to recalibrating animal laws. … Get out there and vote for the change you want to see. Your vote counts and trust that long-standing phrase,’ all politics is local.’”

For more information on the St. Huckleberry Animal Fund, visit https://sthuckleberryanimalfund.org/