A shelter cat being protected by an Animaltarian.

The 2020 Animaltarian of the Year Award

In addition to providing pet insurance plans to pet parents around the country, PetPartners recognizes the hard work of inspiring animal lovers with the Animaltarian of the Year Award. The title of Animaltarian of the Year and $5,000 donation are their way of saying thank you to the hardworking groups and selfless individuals who share in PetPartners’ mission to improve the lives of animals and the people who love them.

Celebrating Animal Advocates

PetPartners established the Animaltarian of the Year Award program in 2014. Each year, submissions are collected and assessed through a two-part process featuring both public and panel voting. Working within strict character limits, entrants are asked to describe how their day-to-day efforts support animal welfare and how a donation would help their cause.

Finalists are selected based on several criteria, including the originality of their vision and their demonstrated passion for animals and animal-focused causes. Each finalist is featured on the PetPartners site and — while there’s only one winner — all eight enjoy an opportunity to spread the word about the work they do.

This year’s panel of judges includes executives from the PetPartners team as well as award-winning veterinarians. In addition to carefully reviewing all submissions, they call on their own experience promoting animal welfare. Though these experts make the final selection, the pet-loving general public plays an important role in both making nominations and narrowing down submissions. Make sure to check in with PetPartners throughout 2021 to join in the process.

What’s an Animaltarian?

Since pets and other animals can’t speak up for themselves, they need animaltarians to fight on their behalf. An animaltarian might be an emergency veterinarian, a shelter volunteer, or just an everyday pet enthusiast who’s making a difference. Some have credentials and years of experience, while others are relative novices, newly passionate about animal welfare. What they all have in common is a belief that animals deserve humane treatment and a common conviction to support their welfare. Even an animal can be an animaltarian if they’re actively working to improve the human-animal bond!

Past Animaltarians of the Year include:

Meet 2020’s Animaltarian of the Year: Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary

Congratulations to this year’s Animaltarian of the Year: Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary (BCR) of St. Pauls, North Carolina. The organization is the first two-time Animaltarian of the Year winner and an inspiration for animal advocates everywhere.

We spoke to BCR’s Director Alana Miller about the organization and its work:

What inspired you to establish Blind Cat Rescue?

My daughter and I were volunteering at an animal shelter and noticed that blind cats were regularly euthanized and never put up for adoption. We met a blind cat named Louie who was so wonderful that we rescued him. We founded BCR because we decided other blind cats deserved the same chance to live.

How has the organization grown and changed over the last 15 years?

In 2011, we opened our second building to house more cats. We also started welcoming cats who test positive for FIV and feline leukemia because they are immediately euthanized in most shelters just like blind cats. I’m also very happy to see that the BCR cats have friends and supporters literally all around the world who regularly participate with us online or, when they can visit, in person. They help us spread the word about these cats and remind others that they deserve to live.

Could you describe an average day at BCR?

Every day at BCR is busy and totally dedicated to the care of our resident cats. We have super high standards for cleaning and care, and our staff begins their day at 7 each morning, cleaning every cat room, washing dishes, and doing laundry. Cats who need special medications or treatments will get those throughout the day. Twice each day, staff members offer live Facebook tours of one of our buildings, visiting with each cat, and sharing information with our online viewers.

How has the pandemic affected BCR?

First and foremost, it has caused us to shut our doors to our friends and supporters. We can’t have our regular monthly open houses, where people come and spend the afternoon with the cats. We know how much our supporters love the cats they sponsor and we want them to be able to visit with them in person whenever they can. With COVID-19 raging in every state, however, that’s just not possible right now. We need to do all we can to be sure the staff stays healthy and are following all the recommended guidelines. Anyone on the grounds must wear a mask at all times, and we regularly take temperatures and sanitize frequently. We also try to keep as much social distance as possible. We’re definitely looking forward to the time when we can invite folks back to BCR.

How do you plan to put the $5000 donation to use?

With so many feline leukemia-positive and senior cats at BCR, our medical bills are pretty high. Last year, our medical expenses totaled $225,000, which included routine veterinary visits and procedures, specialist visits, and treatments. All the cats receive regular veterinary care as well as on-site health maintenance. We have many who receive daily prescription medications, vitamins, special diets, and other supplements to ensure their health and comfort. It all adds up pretty quickly and this $5,000 will go to support those expenses.

What can cat lovers in North Carolina and across the country do to support BCR and its mission?

The easiest way to help BCR is to visit our Facebook page and invite friends to follow us. Those social media connections have proven to be the most effective in helping spread the word about blind, FIV, and leukemia-positive cats. We love to see new faces on our tours! Another way to help is by providing the cats with the things they need, like cat food and kitty litter. Everything we need on a daily basis is included on our wish lists with Amazon and Chewy. A quick visit to our website, will direct folks to those lists. Every can of food and box of litter is greatly appreciated! Finally, if folks are able to do so, we appreciate donations. We want everyone to know that their donations directly benefit the cats. We invite everyone to see their generosity in action on our 24-hour live cameras.

Congrats again to Blind Cat Rescue and Sanctuary and all of this year’s impressive finalists.