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A round-up of fun, inspiring news tidbits from the animal welfare world.

From Animal Sheltering magazine November/December 2015

After designing and constructing 10 community cat houses with the help of donations, Robbie Elliott hands off excess donations to Rob Blizard at the Norfolk SPCA.Countless animals continue to suffer in painful tests simply to bring new skin creams, hair dyes and other nonessential cosmetics to market.A happy-go-lucky Quasi Modo struts her stuff on the red carpet before claiming the title of World’s Ugliest Dog.

Scouting for Cats

Robbie Elliott of Chesapeake, Va., went above and beyond for community cats in his quest to become an Eagle Scout. He designed and constructed what executive director Rob Blizard of the Norfolk SPCA calls “the Taj Mahal of feral cat houses.”

Describing himself as “just handy,” 15-year-old Robbie researched cat houses online and consulted with architect Randy Lyall before leading friends and fellow Scouts in a five-day construction effort that resulted in 10 modern dwellings for feral colonies.

Scout leaders didn’t think Robbie would fundraise as much as he needed for the project, but with help from local businesses, he raised not only enough for materials but also an extra $820 that he donated to the SPCA.

The wooden houses feature magnetic, removable sides for easy cleaning, a sheltered porch, a polycarbonate window, a round front door and even a one-way back door to allow the cats to escape from potential predators. The SPCA distributed the houses to community cat caretakers as part of its trap-neuter-return program.

Robbie’s project “blows me away,” says Norfolk resident Debbie DeMarco, a recipient of two houses. DeMarco cares for community cats Buddy, Serena, Esmeralda, Isabella and Lizzie, who use the houses “constantly.”

“Even after all this rain, all the storms we’ve had, not one drop of rain has gotten into [the houses],” she says. “My cats love them.”

This Bill Goes Beyond Skin Deep

In 1980, a full-page ad in The New York Times asked a brutally direct question: How many rabbits are being blinded for the sake of beauty? Thirty-five years later, we’re still asking the same question: How many animals must suffer for our cosmetics?

The HSUS and Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) want to make that number zero—they’re leading a contemporary campaign against the use of animals to test cosmetic ingredients and products.

The Be Cruelty-Free U.S.A. campaign aims to make the U.S. the next cruelty-free marketplace with help from U.S. Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz.; Don Beyer, D-Va.; Joe Heck, R-Nev.; and Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., who recently introduced H.R. 2858, the Humane Cosmetics Act.

The bill would phase out animal testing of cosmetic products and ingredients, as well as the sale of newly animal-tested cosmetics. Instead, companies may use non-animal alternative test methods, many of which they already use to comply with testing bans in Europe, India, Israel, Norway and other countries.

With thousands of proven safe cosmetic ingredients and high-tech alternatives to animal tests, it’s a small ask of humans with big benefits for animals.

To help align our laws with those of more than 30 other countries, give your federal representative a polite call and follow up with an email. If you’d like a little more direction, head over to for more on the bill, a link to your legislator’s phone number and a sample email message.

The Hunchback of Sonoma-Marin

“Just because an animal or person looks different doesn’t mean they’re any less deserving of love,” reads Quasi Modo’s contest biography—and the Florida mixed breed proved it when she was named the World’s Ugliest Dog, an annual contest sponsored by the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, Calif.

With birth defects causing a short spine, a hunched back and a startling likeness to a hyena, Quasi Modo was in an animal shelter before being adopted by a veterinarian. According to chief contest judge Brian Sobel, the reportedly bubbly dog “epitomized excellence in ugliness.”

Contrary to (perhaps understandable) Internet grumblings, the organizers say the World’s Ugliest Dog contest is not about making fun of funny-looking dogs, but about drawing attention to their lovability. It scores dogs on their personality as well as their natural, unaltered appearance, among other attributes, and all owners must provide veterinarian paperwork proving that their plain-faced pups are healthy.

Previous contest winners include Peanut, a Chihuahua-shih tzu mix who was abused as a puppy, resulting in hair loss and facial deformities. His current owner adopted him from a shelter and entered the contest to shine a spotlight on animal rescue.

As for 10-year-old, pit bull-Dutch shepherd mix Quasi Modo, she traveled from Loxahatchee, Fla., to walk the fair’s red carpet and claim her title on stage. Next, she received pampering and a makeover on “Jimmy Kimmel Live”—including a massage, a manicure and a short dress that showed off her long legs.

About the Author

Animal Sheltering is for everyone who cares about the animals in their community—from shelter directors and animal care and control officers to kennel staff, volunteers, and private individuals working as activists, breed rescuers, wildlife rehabbers, veterinarians and more.