Two local foundations strive to help humans help the pets they’re crazy about
It’s been said that dog is “man’s best friend.”
In this modern day, we should probably broaden that phrase. Pet is “human’s best friend.” Through the best and worst of times, your pet—whether it be dog, cat, rabbit, flying squirrel—is there, being cute and cuddly, and not minding that you’re curled up under a mound of blankets on the couch, watching When Harry Met Sally with your buds Ben and Jerry. They’ll lick your face (probably try to steal a little of that Chunky Monkey), and before you know it, your problem is a thing of the past.
So why not return the love? Whether it be caring for your own pet when needed, or helping those less fortunate pets in the area, Central New York offers its own pet-loving non-profit organizations. Along with the nationwide Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Humane Society, Syracuse is home to two other organizations: the Priscilla Mahar Animal Welfare Foundation and the Shamrock Animal Fund.
“What we normally like to do is give out small amounts of money to a wide variety of groups,” says Wayne Mahar, creator of the Priscilla Mahar Animal Welfare Foundation. The organization’s aim is to raise funds to assist local animal non-profit organizations, such as the CNYSPCA, Syracuse Area Humane Society and Kitty Corner of Liverpool. Mahar began the organization three years ago in memory of his animal-loving mother, Priscilla Mahar, who died in March 2007.
The Shamrock Animal Fund’s aims differ slightly from those of the Mahar Foundation. The organization, founded by husband-and-wife team of Matt Mulcahy and Jamie Pomilio-Mulcahy, strives to raise money for individuals in need of veterinary assistance.
“We were inspired to start the fund in memory of our dog Shamrock. He died Jan. 9, 2010, and would have been 19 years old on St. Patrick’s Day last year,” Pomilio-Mulcahy says. “The last year of Shamrock’s life, we spent a lot of time and money at Cornell University Hospital for Animals in Ithaca. We also witnessed people crying in the lobby, not because of a fatal diagnosis, but because, at some point, pet care becomes expensive.”
The Shamrock Animal Fund works with veterinarians, asking them to provide some sort of financial accommodation, be it a discount or payment plan, and then helps pay off a portion of that bill.
Coincidentally, the operatives both work at WSTM-Channel 3, Mulcahy as evening anchor and managing editor, Mahar as chief meteorologist. Some in-office rivalry, one might wonder?
But that is most certainly not the case. “Matt and I have different goals for our organizations,” Mahar says. “But it’s just something we’re doing personally.”
Mulcahy agrees. “What he does with that foundation,” Mulcahy says of his co-worker’s initiative, “is he raises money and gives it to shelters and welfare groups. It’s a nice contrast to what we do.”
Since the birth of both the Priscilla Mahar Animal Welfare Foundation and the Shamrock Animal Fund, the organizations have grown easy to care for a pet, especially when caring means paying large bills.
“Certainly if animal owners are contacting us, they care about their animals. They’re trying to do the right thing,” Pomilio-Mulcahy says. “We’re helping keep a pet united with its family. The animal stories are so compelling, but so are the human stories. Things happen to people, but it doesn’t make them bad people. They’re trying to do their best to keep their pet connected with their family.”
In a society where animals hold a vital place in families, and money is often tight, these nonprofit organizations come in handy. “Animals play such a critical role in the lives of people, in their everyday lives and joy,” Mulcahy says. “We’ve been able to step in with a little bit of help, and it’s made a really big difference in their lives.”
The founders of the Shamrock Animal Fund also organized a group called the Central New York Animal Welfare Coalition. The coalition consists of various local animal welfare organizations, such as the SPCA and Humane Society, and meets once a month to discuss how to improve local animal welfare in the current economy.
“We put it together to try to get people talking to each other,” Mulcahy explains. “We brought everyone to the table—whether it be groups helping cats, dogs, shelters—so we’re face to face, helping each other and sharing ideas.”
The coalition is getting together for it second meeting on Tuesday, April 18, at the Veterinary Medical Center, 5841 Bridge St., East Syracuse to talk about their next big goal: “We’re trying to do a no-cost spay and neuter clinic in the fall,” Pomilio-Mulcahy says. “We’re all trying to change things in the community by working together with these agencies.”
If you missed Shamrock’s Celebration and Paws and Pucks, there’s another opportunity to show your support of human’s best friends on Aug. 6. The Priscilla Mahar Animal Welfare Foundation is holding the second annual Canine Carnival at the Good Dog Park in the Cold Springs section of Onondaga Lake Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is free.
“Last year, we had a nice, sunny day and music and food and entertainment and all kinds of dog demonstrations,” Mahar says. “Three thousand people came out. Onondaga County Parks said it was the best first-time event they’d ever dealt with. And this time, we want to make it twice as big.” This time, there’s also a possibility of an animal/human walk/run before the event, so stay tuned for further developments.
Animal Fund hosts informational tables at various The Priscilla Mahar Animal Welfare Founda- festivals and events, and always accepts donations tion, along with the Humane Society and the throughout the year, Mulcahy adds. SPCA, set up informational tables, and a portion The Priscilla Mahar Animal Welfare Founda- of the admission charge was donated back to tion held Paws for Pucks earlier this month in the foundation. “I’d say there were probably 75 extensively and raised money and awareness. In conjunction with the Syracuse Crunch hockey to 100 dogs from fans,” Mahar says. “And the the past month, both have held fundraisers. team. On April 3, the Crunch invited people to SPCA and Humane Society brought in dogs for “We just finished our major fundraiser of the bring their dogs to the 3 p.m. game. “We had a adoption, so there were probably another 20 dogs year,” Mulcahy says, the second annual Sham- certain section for just the people and their dogs. roaming the halls.” rock’s Celebration on March 19 at PJ’s Pub and What you saw, you had people in the seats and In this tough economy, when supporting one’s Grille in Armory Square. “This year we had close you had dogs in the seats,” Mahar says with his family might prove more trying than in past to 300 people come. We had a silent auction, live trademark chuckle. “During the game, you heard years, it’s important that organizations like the auction and charged admission at the door.” Along some barking, and that’s a little unusual at a Priscilla Mahar Animal Welfare Foundation and with this big fundraising event, the Shamrock hockey game.” the Shamrock Animal Fund exist. It is not always
For more information on the Priscilla Mahar Animal Welfare Foundation, visit www.pmawf. org. For more information on the Shamrock Animal Fund, visit www.shamrockanimalfund.com.
Chief dog walker: WSTM-Channel 3 chief meteorologist Wayne Mahar
spends some quality time with his two Havanese dogs, Rudy (left) and
Eli, at Cold Springs Park in Liverpool.