"When I started Stewie to the Rescue, I knew that I wanted to help people keep their pets, especially because of what happened to me. I understand what it is like to lose your pet," said Harris Bloom, who lost his beloved terrier mix Stewie in 2008 when he was run over by a car.
Bloom, a Wall Street accountant, and a standup comedian in his free time, began performing at comedy clubs to raise money for his non-profit, Stewie to the Rescue. In just two and a half years, Bloom's fundraisers along with the help of individuals' donations, have raised over $40,000 towards saving dogs and cats from being euthanized in New York City shelters.
NYC's Animal Care and Control (AC&C) is an open admissions shelter and legally must accept every single animal that is taken there, but this means that the shelter is often at capacity and cannot care for all of the animals – and many are euthanized.
Every night, the AC&C leaks a list of the cats and dogs that are scheduled to be euthanized the next morning. The list is posted on Facebook by a group called Urgent Part 2, and anyone can pledge money for a specific animal, so that rescue organizations can pull that animal from the shelter, provide veterinarian care, and search for a safe home for the animal.
This is when Stewie comes to the Rescue. Every night at 5:15 PM, Bloom sits down to look at the Urgent Part 2 page, and makes a pledge to donate money, in hopes that a rescue organization will be able to use that money to pull the animal from the AC&C.
Second Chance Rescue is just one of the many rescue organizations that Bloom works with to save animals. Last year in 2012, the organization pulled over 600 animals from the shelter.
According to Animal Care and Control, euthanization rates in the past 10 years have actually decreased significantly. In 2004, 23,743 animals were killed, but in 2012, the number dropped 6,872 animals.
"It's tough to say what my goals are for the future," said Bloom. "I would have never guessed at I would be involved at this level of rescue and advocacy. Ten years ago, I never had a dog in my life, and now I made my own rescue. I want to raise awareness. Most people think there is something wrong with cats and dogs who come from a shelter. But that's not the case. It's often because their owners had to give up the animal due to their own living conditions or they just could not afford it. There are a lot of great animals in shelters waiting for people to come and adopt them."
Bloom now has another dog, named River, whom he found abandoned and emaciated just outside of Riverside Park in Manhattan's Upper West Side, two blocks away from where Stewie was killed.
"I can't imagine my life without being an advocate and sticking up for those who don't have a voice," said Bloom.
And it's all because of a dog named Stewie.