Raising awareness of shelter and rescue animals is at the heart of everything we do, so we’re excited to share these ladies with our readers to give credit where credit is due. In the first installment, we predominantly covered women who have founded rescues, sanctuaries, and other institutions benefitting animals in need.
In the last issue, we focused primarily on benefactors and the countless women who work in large municipal or community shelters, as well as one who works in the sciences behind the scenes. We were able to focus on several of the gals from PACC, and this time around, we’ll be covering some of the hardworking ladies of the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.
But before we do that, we want to highlight two more groups with histories of women at the helm…
The Ladies of The Animal League of Green Valley
While she has long since passed, her legacy has been lovingly tended to by the women who have followed in her inspirational footsteps. Described as “fiercely committed,” Jean Davis retired in 2020 as board president, 17 years after falling in love with the organization. But she was by no means through with it. Now, she is part of the next chapter of TALGV’s mission and once again working as a volunteer after passing the baton to Kim Eisele.
Eisele moved to Green Valley in 2002. A foster caregiver for furry friends, in 2009, she began volunteering as a dog handler with TALGV and soon after became a Dog Coordinator. Over the years, her duties expanded to include being the Volunteer Coordinator, an Adoption Counselor, the Coordinator for the Dog Vet Care for Life Program, and serving on TALGV’s Board of Directors in 2012 before becoming president in 2020.
From 2009 through 2022, the nonprofit found homes for more than 11,593 pets. They work with more than 400 volunteers who contributed more than 128,868 hours of their time in 2022, the equivalent of 67 full-time staff members! talgv.org
Pathways for Paws, Animal Rescue & Welfare Advocates
Launched in 2019 by animal advocates Stefanie Seitz and Ashley Herrick, Pathways for Paws’ mission is to make responsible pet ownership easier and more affordable via their “Join the Cause” clinics offering low-cost vaccines and microchipping to the community to encourage pet owners to keep their pets protected from deadly viruses and help reunite them if they ever go missing.
The hope is that by accomplishing this goal, the nonprofit will be better able to help prevent the neglect and abuse of canines. Also acting as a vital resource to assist in the placement of adoptable rescue dogs, all animals in their care are spayed or neutered, given age-appropriate vaccinations, and microchipped before finding their furever families.
Pathways works with rescues and fellow animal advocates to continue growing a network of volunteers and supporters to meet these objectives. Their drive-thru, no-appointment-necessary clinics continue to provide southern Arizona residents with a convenient way to proactively keep up on their pets’ health. pathwaysforpaws.com
The Humane Society of Southern Arizona
And now for a look at just some of the outstanding women who work for or with HSSA. In the last installment, we touched on the work of Diana Cannon, HSSA’s Chief Development Officer and a force to be reckoned with when it comes to fundraising. Here are three more influential women in rescue to familiarize yourself with.
Inge Koopman-Leyva, Director of Education and Community Outreach at HSSA
In 2003, Inge Koopman-Leyva moved from Brooklyn, NY, to Tucson to begin her official career in animal welfare as the Children’s Programs Specialist at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. Prior to relocating, she’d received her BS degree from Hunter College in Anthropology while working as a veterinary assistant, professional dog walker, and pet sitter in New York City.
Inge’s an active member of the Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona and the Association of Professional Humane Educators, where she’s worked at various levels of the field. Her career has focused on working within diverse communities to encourage and instill humane philosophies and care of animals and people.
“So much of the work we do in Animal Welfare helps resolve an immediate problem or need. In Humane Education, we are working towards the longer-term solution of changing and reshaping how people view and treat animals and, ultimately, each other. In order to create this positive and lasting impact, education, prevention, and shelter and placement must be mutually supportive.”
In September, Inge and her team moved into the Freeman Education and Behavioral Center, designed for greater community services and opportunities in youth programming, canine, and feline behavior, as well as collaborative research in dog cognition and psychology with the University of Arizona in order to enhance and support the human-animal bond.
Lindsey Dittmer, Rescue Programs Manager for HSSA
With a background in animal welfare, ranging from volunteer-operated rescues in the Midwest to the creation of the House Dog program for Ronald McDonald House Charities, she has more than 10 years of involvement in the field.
Her experiences — including working with nonprofits — have been invaluable for assessing and tailoring new programs that best serve vulnerable animals and the southern Arizona community. Established in June 2023 in response to overcrowding at HSSA, the Almost Home Rescue Project supports foster families by providing pet food, needed supplies, and medical care.
Under her direction, the program — staffed by six dedicated HSSA members and a growing volunteer base — is helping to improve the lives of homeless animals in Pima County. A proud graduate of the University of Arizona, Dittmer’s latest project symbolizes a renewed investment in foster care versus shelter life.
Linda Grissom; Volunteer, Animal Advocate, Donor, & Program Director for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona
A volunteer for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona for more than six years, Grissom and her husband Tom introduced the New Beginnings Canine Program at HSSA while providing support. The program includes enlisting vetted males from the state prison to help train shelter dogs with behavioral issues.
Inspired by a visit to a prison canine program called Paws for Life in Lancaster, CA, the program changes the lives of the participants by giving them a purpose and a job skill while making the dogs much more adoptable as a result, allowing HSSA to match qualified adopters with terrific dogs.
In September, during the HSSA Impact Luncheon, Linda and Tom received the Grissom Volunteer Impact Award. Linda stated that while she’s been involved in many activities — both onsite and off — her most joyful time and feeling of accomplishment is walking the rescue dogs most mornings with the many dedicated volunteers at the shelter.
Volunteers & Other Unsung Heroes
We want to take a moment to echo a sentiment heard throughout the assemblage of this story, and that is that none of what gets done when it comes to helping homeless or injured creatures would be possible without the aid of vast numbers of volunteers — who are also, as it turns out, primarily made up of women. If you’ve already found a way to make their lives better and ease their suffering, our hat’s off to you.
If you’ve been considering it but haven’t made a move on it yet, think about how you could best assist, taking into account your time constraints and circumstances, and reach out to a shelter, rescue, or sanctuary that’s best suited for you. It could be fostering, dog walking, help with cleaning kennels or enclosures, feeding, or any number of vital tasks to ensure operations run smoothly and the health of the animals is being met.
Finally, if you’re aware of someone or some group we have inadvertently missed that you feel deserves recognition, reach out to us at the Tucson Dog and share their stories.