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The Gift of Time

October 10, 2022
sleeping black and white cat
A cat naps at Laramie Animal Welfare Society’s office, waiting for adoption. (Photo by Reesie Lane)

Students, staff and alumni volunteer for animal-related charities at home and abroad.

 

By Micaela Myers 

Since I was in high school, I’ve been volunteering with animal-related nonprofits, most recently joining the board of the Wyoming Coalition for Animal Protection. I knew many other University of Wyoming faculty, staff, students and alumni share my passion for helping animals. Here, we highlight a few of these individuals, though there are hundreds more doing great work in their communities.  

Laramie Animal Welfare Society

Many UW students, alumni and staff members volunteer with Laramie Animal Welfare Society (LAWS), a nonprofit with a mission to enhance the welfare of animals in Albany County, primarily through a trap, neuter and return feral cat program, a foster and adoption program, and funding of medical care, including spay and neuter for animals at the Laramie Animal Shelter.

“This work has become very important to me over the past few years,” says nursing junior Emily Mangus of Lovell, Wyo. “Taking care of animals that can’t take care of themselves, and that would be in a much worse situation if not for LAWS, is really fulfilling and motivates me. I find it relaxing, and I love being able to spend time with the kittens and puppies.”

Mangus fosters cats and kittens and takes shifts at the LAWS facility. She wants other students to know that it’s totally possible to be a full-time student and volunteer, and that all expenses are covered for fosters.

“It’s amazing seeing success stories and watching these cats and other animals find their forever homes,” she says. “LAWS is completely volunteer based, so it’s great seeing the community come together with donations in order to help these animals.”

Gisele Knopf, an assistive technology program specialist with the Wyoming Assistive Technology Resources on campus, also volunteers and fosters for LAWS.

“I have fostered about 45 cats/kittens in my 2.5 years,” she says, adding that dogs are also available to foster. “Opening up to fostering cats and kittens who have been neglected has given me a sense of contributing to their future. My cats also play a part in socializing these kittens as well as other family members. It is very rewarding to see them get adopted.”

woman with a dog
(Photo by Janelle Rose Photography)

Cheyenne Animal Shelter

Britney Tennant earned her bachelor’s degree (animal science and zoology and physiology ’04) and her master’s degree (reproductive biology ’06) from UW. She founded the nonprofit Black Dog Animal Rescue in her hometown of Cheyenne in 2008 and took on the role of CEO of the Cheyenne Animal Shelter last year, continuing her lifelong dedication to animal welfare.

“Animals are something that’s always spoken to my heart,” she says. “I’m convinced animals play a really critical role in our understanding of our humanity. Understanding that relationship with animals has always been important to me.”

At UW, she was a member of The Wildlife Society, and a professor connected her with a wolf sanctuary.

“It snowballed from there,” she says. “I volunteered with the Laramie Raptor Refuge, worked at the state vet lab and volunteered with Game and Fish. That’s one of the great things about UW is that it’s so connected. If you’re paying attention, you can really find an outlet for all of your passions.”

At UW, she also learned critical skills such as how to sift through information, work well with others and make good working relationships. Black Dog was formed one relationship at a time, Tennant says. With the nonprofit well established, she was eager to make a further difference as CEO of the Cheyenne Animal Shelter.

“Shelters are critical to the infrastructure of the community and the community’s success, so it was important to me as someone who is civically minded to think about the future

of the shelter and see it thrive,” Tennant says. “Our big goal is to become the premier animal shelter in Wyoming. We want to model best practices for the industry and be an education and resource center not just for the community but also for other institutions.”

cheetah lying in the grass
A male cheetah at Namibia’s Cheetah Conservation Fund. (Photo by Kathan Bandyopadhyay)

Cheetah Conservation Fund

This past summer, two UW students headed to Namibia to work with the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), thanks to funding from a generous donor to the Global Engagement Office and various UW departments.

For zoology and physiology Ph.D. student Kathan Bandyopadhyay of Kolkata, India, the opportunity is a continuation of many years of wildlife research. After cheetahs’ extermination there in the 1950s, they were reintroduced in India this fall. Bandyopadhyay’s UW research — under the supervision of Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources Dean John Koprowski and Wildlife Institute of India Dean Y.V. Jhala — looks at density estimation, niche partitioning and movement dynamics of several carnivores.

“My Ph.D. dovetails with the cheetah reintroduction project to understand the cascading effect of this first intercontinental mammal translocation,” he says. “This project is extremely crucial because it will not only contribute to the global ecology and genetics of cheetah but also a knock-on effect to protect the carnivore guild of grassland ecosystem. At CCF, I am working on two different projects: one in spatial tactics of release of cheetahs and the other on measuring carrying capacity of cheetahs and other large carnivores in CCF properties.”

After graduation, Bandyopadhyay hopes to contribute his expertise to manage the carnivore populations of Wyoming as well as promoting carnivore conservation in other parts of the world.

Undergraduate Lindsay Buckhout of Richland, Mich., a senior majoring in zoology and environment and natural resources with a minor in honors, also spent the summer with the CCF. There, she worked with the Livestock Guarding Dog Team and in the education department.

“The livestock dogs are Anatolian shepherds, and CCF raised them to be loaned to local farms in order to protect goats and sheep from predators. Just having a dog from CCF guarding your herd lowers predator kills on livestock by 80-100 percent. It works well as a conservation method because the dogs deter cheetahs from hunting livestock, and in turn the farmers don’t feel the need to kill cheetahs in order to protect their herd,” she says. “For the education team, I help lead tours and talks on the importance of cheetah conservation. I am also working to quantify the effectiveness of CCF’s education plan. Education is the key to conservation!”

Cheetahs have long been Buckhout’s favorite animal and inspired her to choose conservation as a career path. Prior to CCF, she participated in a research initiative in the Iwokrama Rainforest Reserve in Guyana. 

Mountain Shadows Equine Revival

This horse rescue depends on volunteers who are members of the UW community to rehabilitate and train horses coming from dire situations. Master’s student Jessica Evans is one of these volunteers. When it came time to design her program goals, her volunteer experience played a major role. Watch online at bit.ly/mountain-shadows-equine to learn more!

 

A Passion for Good

By Riley Box 

Animals deserve love, respect and kindness, as they have been partners to human beings since the beginning of time. This point is ever present in the life of Micaela Myers, editor of UWyo Magazine at UW. Myers began volunteering at a therapeutic riding facility in high school and from there went on to volunteer with pit bull rescues and other animal nonprofits.

Locally, Myers helps provide animal food for those in need in our community and serves on the board for the Wyoming Coalition for Animal Protection (WYCAP). When it comes to animal protection laws in the United States, Wyoming ranks in the bottom five. WYCAP is working to change this statistic through education, advocacy and improved legislation.

During her time at WYCAP, the nonprofit assisted Wyoming Against Gas Chambers in its efforts to encourage the city of Green River to stop using gas chambers to kill shelter animals and instead adopt more human euthanasia methods. WYCAP members also conducted a letter writing campaign this summer that helped take a local dog abuse incident from a misdemeanor to a felony. Myers serves on several of WYCAP’s committees, including fundraising, legislation and quarterly newsletter.

In her lifetime, Myers hopes to see a reduction in animal abuse and unnecessary euthanasia. She hopes her volunteer work will provide even the smallest difference in the world.


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