In September I was contacted by Patricia Jones, founder of the marketing agency PAWS PR, and asked if I would like to speak with noted cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy about the Jackson Galaxy Foundation and his upcoming book, Catify to Satisfy, co-authored with Hauspanter’s Kate Benjamin. Being a huge fan and loyal viewer of Galaxy’s My Cat from Hell TV series on Animal Planet, I couldn’t write back to Patricia fast enough to say, “yes.”
What follows comes directly from our 25-minute telephone conversation on October 5 as well as my research.
We Believe the Best Dreams Are Big
Galaxy and I began by discussing the Foundation’s Mission and beliefs.
Mission: The Jackson Galaxy Foundation improves the lives of at-risk animals by transforming the places they live and by helping the people who care for them.
Beliefs: We believe the best dreams are big. We believe no animal should die waiting for a home. The Foundation is working to make this dream a reality for all sheltered animals and the people who care for them.
When I asked Galaxy how the Foundation specifically planned to achieve their mission and meet these beliefs/goals, his immediate off-the-cuff reply was, “It will be through magic.” After a laugh, we began our conversation in ernest.
For Galaxy, the creation of this Foundation is the culmination of everything he has worked for in the past 20 years—the vision of what the animal welfare system could look like and not just in terms of a no-kill reality. According to Galaxy, ”It’s about ideas coming from within the system and the rescue workers themselves.”
The Foundation will:
- Focus on programs that drive innovation in sheltering by raising awareness for important issues in animal welfare,
- Work to improve shelter design and construction,
- Empower staff, rescuers and adopters with knowledge about animal behavior that will deepen the human/animal bond and get more animals adopted.
- Provide “Elevation through Education”; inspiration to effect real change and raise the status of rescue animals through increased knowledge.
Just as he has educated the public about cats, Galaxy now wants to educate everyone about the animal welfare reality—the sacrifices the people in animal welfare make in terms of their lives, families, financial reality and emotional stability in order to give the animals better lives.
Galaxy wants the public to know that the Foundation is an organization right at its beginning. He says, “I think it is exciting to join an organization that is at that level of enthusiasm and optimism right off the bat.” He adds, “Getting the 501(c)3 was the best day of my life.” Though the foundation has his name on it, Galaxy wants people to realize that it’s not his money funding it. He says, “I really don’t have any. Reality TV is what it is.”
Though the Foundation is in its infancy, Galaxy has surrounded himself with people who know how to manage such an organization. Executive Director Sandy Montrose has a long history in animal welfare serving such groups as the ASPCA and National Animal Rescue and Shelter Coalition (NASARC). She is well-known and trusted in the world of animal welfare. This is of the greatest importance to Galaxy.
He adds,”One of the things I am so honored by is that a lot of my friends in animal welfare have basically raised their hands and said what do you want me to do? That is better than any other feeling you can imagine, and we are gathering.” He says that those involved are talking about the Jackson Galaxy Foundation as much as possible to build excitement from not just a donation standpoint but also to gather volunteers from the world of animal welfare.
Galaxy says that the Foundation will raise money through the web-site but also the “bully-pulpit” of his celebrity. He will use his social media platform and the Foundation to resolve problems and issues within the animal welfare community. As an example he sites the following incident.
I was having a conversation locally about what can be done in Los Angeles to get landlords to accept animals in their rental units. It is a significant problem in terms of adoption. What can I do as someone in the public eye to force that issue through? We were standing at a random event making these connections.
According to Galaxy, this is what thrills him about the Foundation: He can identify a place in the community that needs bolstering and he can help.
When asked about future plans for the Foundation as it grows, Galaxy replied, “I trust other organizations who are doing great work because I don’t want to do everything. He cites as examples, Alley Cat Allies, which is dealing with TNR legislation, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund as two of the those “other” organizations. He adds, “I want to help and be a significant part of the community but sometimes I have to step back and focus.”
The Foundation continues with the Monthly Mojo Award, which started on Galaxy’s Facebook page. He says,
I know there’s a ton of rescues and shelters and other organizations helping at-risk animals and doing fantastic work. I want to push those organizations forward, specifically for looking outside the box, pushing forward and not just accepting the reality of the moment. I honor everybody who sacrifices their lives to these animals.
I think at this particular juncture we have to be thinking of new ways…we have to be willing to improvise, to stick our necks out there. That in itself will change your organizations. And our (Jackson Galaxy Foundation) goal is not just funding you. My goal is to make sure others hear you. We can encourage great thinking. I want to make sure these voices are heard. My goal is to make sure others hear you so we can encourage great thinking.
At the time I interviewed Galaxy, the Foundation had one corporate partner: natural pet food company, Wellness. Galaxy says, “I think that Wellness is the first to recognize that this is a significant win-win. I believe others will jump on as it makes perfect sense from a philanthropic and a corporate standpoint. We can do a lot of good by joining together, and I think that’s what is going to happen.”
According the Foundations web-site, Wellness is sending more than 113,112 Divine Duos cups of premium cat food to six shelters, selected by the Jackson Galaxy Foundation, as the result of a “Buy One, Give One” Campaign. That amounts to 36 pallets of food for animals in need. Recipient organizations include the following, as well as the local rescues they serve:
- Allen County SPCA of Ft. Wayne, IN
- Stray Cat Alliance of Los Angeles, CA
- Cats Cradle of Fargo, ND
- Mid Hudson Animal Aid serving the Hudson Valley area of New York
- Good Mews of Marietta, GA
- Help Humane of Belton, MO
Since the time of our interview a contribution of more than $4,600 in cash and products has been received from PetFusion to help advance the mission of improving the lives of sheltered animals. PetFusion is the manufacturer of Galaxy’s favorite cat scratcher product, Ultimate Cat Scratcher Lounge.
If you have not yet visited the Jackson Galaxy Foundation site, click on the link above. You can make a monetary donation or volunteer your services to the Foundation. But best of all, from the standpoint of this pet guardian, is the section entitled, LEARN. There you will find the Cat Mojo Series 101-104. The subjects are: Basics, Special Occasions, Problems and Special Needs/Alternative Treatment/Life Stages.
Other tabs on the site include CONNECT, which lists upcoming events, and SHOP, which connects to Galaxy’s store as well as the Spirit Essences web-site.
You also can enter your favorite U.S. 501(c)3 animal shelter, rescue group or municipal animal agency in the Catify to Satisfy Giveaway for Shelters with a $12,450 grand prize, three 2nd prizes and seven 3rd prizes.
While you are on the site, place your advance order for Galaxy and Kate Benjamin’s new book, Catify to Satisfy. A dollar of each advance purchase as well as from books sold on an upcoming book tour will be donated to the Jackson Galaxy Foundation by the publisher, Tarcher/Penguin.
This is the first post in a three-part series, which will appear during the next couple of weeks. The subsequent posts will cover the part of our interview dealing with Galaxy’s and Hauspanther’s Kate Benjamin’s, Catify to Satisfy, including a review of that book and a list of cities and dates on their upcoming book tour. The final post will cover answers to some questions that did not fall within the parameters of either the Jackson Galaxy Foundation or the book.
(Credits: Photos of Jackson Galaxy: Jeff Newton. Excerpted from CATIFY TO SATISFY: Simple Solutions for Creating a Cat-Friendly Home by Jackson Galaxy and Kate Benjamin with the permission of Tarcher/Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Copyright Jackson Galaxy and Kate Benjamin 2015.)