Disaster Relief Start-up Focuses on Local Animal Welfare Charities

American Red Lion Disaster Fund makes rescuing animals easier

A Houston resident carries her pet on her shoulders as they evacuate their home after flooding from Hurricane Harvey. (Joe Raedle/Getty, ABC13.com)

A newly-launched nonprofit has set its sights on making giving to animal welfare charities easier, especially those earmarked for smaller charities.

During catastrophic weather events such as hurricanes or floods, animals are often the forgotten victims. Among the many heartbreaking images from hurricanes Harvey and Irma are those of animals — cats and dogs stranded in floods, families with nothing but their clothes and their pets, and desperate pleas for news about lost animals.

Since hurricane Katrina, much has changed in the way we conduct animal evacuations. This is due to the fact that nearly 45% of individuals that stayed behind did so because they were worried about their pets, according to the Fritz Institute.

The 2006 Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (Pets) Act provided a better framework for handling animal rescues, including a high degree of coordination between national rescue groups and local partners. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) are two well-known organizations that rescue and assist animals when disaster strikes.

But with the destruction of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, followed in short order by hurricane Maria’s devastation to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, many animal welfare charities may struggle to cope with providing shelter to displaced animals. As a result, large numbers of animals are left to suffer and fend for themselves.

Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

Wilmington, North Carolina-based American Red Lion Disaster Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, recently launched a unique platform aimed at distributing funds to animal welfare organizations, rescuers, and shelters. The company hopes to make it easier to facilitate immediate care and rescue for animals struggling to survive natural disasters or abusive situations.

“We work to collect funds and supplies on behalf of animal welfare organizations that provide immediate care for animals,” says Janelle Babington, the founder of American Red Lion Disaster Fund.

According to Babington, the company’s companion fundraising portal, One Red Lion (ORL), is the only online platform designed exclusively for animal welfare charities to fundraise and solicit donations.

The company’s mission is to provide a fast, easy way for animal lovers to connect with and support nonprofit animal welfare organizations serving the causes that are most important to them on the local and national level.

Babington says her company’s online platform serves as a means of discovery for potential donors interested in animal welfare causes to support charitable organizations that they may not know exist.

Charitable Giving — By the Numbers

Over 90% percent of high net worth households donate to charity. In 2016, American donors gave over $390 billion dollars to charitable causes. Babington estimates that while there are over 1.6 million charities in the U.S., a small percentage receive the majority of total donations. “There are lots of missed opportunities for smaller organizations,” says Babington.

By focusing on small and medium-size nonprofits, Babington believes ORL and American Red Lion act as a trustworthy go-between for donors and volunteers, as well as charitable organizations that don’t always have the resources to promote their services.

Infographic: GivingUSA.org

Babington says the One Red Lion portal currently has over 30,000 animal welfare nonprofit organizations on its platform, allowing donors to access a list U.S. organizations addressing a variety animal-related of issues.

What’s in a Name?

Janelle Babington has been an animal lover for as long as she can remember. Those that know her will tell you she is continually seeking opportunities to contribute to an animal welfare cause, either financially or with her time.

In fact, Babington chose the “Red Lion” moniker as an homage to Zimbabwe’s beloved Cecil the Lion, killed in 2015 by a Minnesota dentist — an event that raised animal welfare awareness internationally.

Photo credit: conservationmagazine.org

That is when she discovered a huge problem — Babington says “Although the story was being promoted heavily online, no one was soliciting me for a donation and I was frustrated.”

American Red Lion Disaster Fund/One Red Lion CEO Janelle Babington

In the end, she decided to create a solution to the problem. And the rest is history.

Looking into the future, Babington wants to take her platform beyond donation collection. The company also distributes a newsletter and publishes disaster-related news.

Ultimately, Janelle Babington’s vision for ORL and American Red Lion is to make it easier for animal lovers to support animal welfare organizations, and to foster an environment where all animals are treated humanely and with respect.