Denice Heatherly, co-founder of Music City Animal Advocates

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Denice Heatherly—co-founder of Music City Animal Advocates, a non-profit organization whose stated goal is “to create an animal-saving culture in greater Nashville and surrounding counties” —describes her formative years, when her grandmother was a serious animal lover, and always had a dog, whereas Heatherly’s mother didn’t want animals in their house. 13906774_656797301135515_1150830571483924827_nShe recalls moving to Nashville in 1980, and participating in a campaign to persuade the city to allow dog parks (at this point, there were none), which she marked as the beginning of her activism. Providing an instructive case study for how activists can work to reform a municipal animal shelter that’s dogged (sorry) by old-school policies, ineffective leadership, too low of an adoption rate/too high of a kill rate, and other problems, Heatherly details how she and her partner, Leslie Rouffe, and other individuals and organizations mounted a well-researched, well-organized effort to implement reforms at Nashville’s Metro Animal Care & Control—MACC-logoultimately centered around a petition that generated tremendous response, buttressed by social media support from such artists as Kelly Clarkson and Miranda Lambert, and ultimately garnered more signatures than required. This led, she recalls, to sweeping reforms, including ending some of the shelters antiquated policies, the director retiring and being replaced by a fantastic, widely applauded new one—and a kill rate that dropped from 78% to about 11% today (www.musiccityanimaladvocates.org, www.facebook.com/StandbyyourMACC)

9780399186417_FoundDogs_JKT-Final.inddALSO: I spoke briefly with Erica Sirotich, a St. Petersburg author-illustrator whose first book wearing both those hats, “Found Dogs,” presents a positive look at adoption and shelters in a picture book intended for young readers, age 2-6. “Found Dogs” will be unveiled in an event on July 22 at Inkwood Books, in Tampa, where The Humane Society of Tampa Bay will provide adoptable dogs. (www.ericasirotich.com, www.facebook.com/ericasirotich)

COMEDY CORNER: Greg Fitzsimmons’ “Adopting A Dog” (www.gregfitzsimmons.com)

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: Elton John’s “Grey Seal”

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About the author
Duncan Strauss is the producer-host of “Talking Animals,” which he launched at KUCI in California in 2003, combining his passions for animals, radio, journalism, music and comedy. The show has aired since late 2005 on Tampa’s WMNF. Strauss lives in Jupiter Farms, FL with his family, including four cats, two horses and one dog. He spends each day talking to those animals, and maintains they talk right back to him, an as yet unverified claim.

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