One Man’s Plan to End Pet Over-Pop­u­la­tion

Pre­pare to fall in love with Joey Her­rick, who is us­ing his time, money, and tal­ents to make a dif­fer­ence for un­wanted pets


Pre­pare to fall in love with Joey Her­rick, who is us­ing his time, money, and tal­ents to make a dif­fer­ence for un­wanted pets.

It all started when 10-year-old Dy­lan looked out his bed­room win­dow and caught some­thing out of the cor­ner of his eye. He thought it might be a baby coy­ote, a rea­son­able guess since his fam­ily lived in Thou­sand Oaks, Cal­i­for­nia. He got his mom, Lyn­nda, and to­gether they went out­side to take a look.

The coy­ote turned out to be a dirty lit­tle dog with patches of fur miss­ing here and there. Dy­lan’s dad, Joey, took a look at the small dog, a Chi­huahua mix. She had ob­vi­ously been on her own for a long time. “Her nails were so long they were grow­ing into her pads,” Joey re­calls, “and she had a tire mark on her back.”

Some peo­ple might have walked away from the lit­tle dog. But not Joey Her­rick. A con­firmed an­i­mal lover, he also hap­pened to be the Pres­i­dent of Nat­u­ral Bal­ance Pet Foods, who reg­u­larly ar­ranged the do­na­tion of mil­lions of pounds of dog food to shel­ters across the coun­try. Af­ter tak­ing the Chi­huahua to a vet and check­ing lost dog sites on the In­ter­net, Joey and his fam­ily gave the dog, who they named Lucy, a for­ever home. A few weeks later, Lucy gave them a sur­prise in re­turn when she had a lit­ter of five pups. Joey and fam­ily kept one pup and can­vassed their friends and neigh­bours to find good homes for the re­main­ing four.

Lucy’s story has a happy end­ing, but for many, many dogs like Lucy, the out­come would have been very dif­fer­ent. Thou­sands of un­wanted an­i­mals across North Amer­ica are reg­u­larly aban­doned and left home­less and hun­gry, or dropped off at over-bur­dened an­i­mal shel­ters where, too of­ten, they are put down if no one adopts them. In the United States alone, nearly 5,500 cats and dogs are killed ev­ery day; an es­ti­mated two mil­lion an­i­mals die in U.S. shel­ters ev­ery year.

It was painful for Joey to think about what might have hap­pened to Lucy if his fam­ily hadn't found her. Never one to back away from a chal­lenge, he de­cided to tackle the pet over­pop­u­la­tion cri­sis head-on. Af­ter sell­ing Nat­u­ral Bal­ance Pet Foods in July 2013, he started the Lucy Pet Foun­da­tion, a char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion that re­duces the num­ber of un­wanted cats and dogs by of­fer­ing a mo­bile, low or no cost spay/neuter clinic

ser­vices to high-risk an­i­mal pop­u­la­tions. To get the foun­da­tion off the ground, Joey put in a mil­lion of his own money.

In the four years the mo­bile spay/neuter clinic has op­er­ated thus far, the Lucy Pet Foun­da­tion has fixed thou­sands of an­i­mals, thereby tack­ling pet over-pop­u­la­tion and thus the num­ber of pets be­ing put down in shel­ters across the coun­try. Since its in­cep­tion, the Lucy Pet Foun­da­tion has spayed/neutered over 16,000 an­i­mals. When they are not per­form­ing surg­eries, the mo­bile clin­ics vac­ci­nate and mi­crochip an­i­mals and also fea­ture dogs and cats for adop­tion. Last year, the foun­da­tion fixed over 4,600 an­i­mals but the im­me­di­ate goal is to in­crease that fig­ure to 6,000 spay/neuters an­nu­ally for each mo­bile spay/neuter clinic they have in op­er­a­tion.

Joey and his staff also work hard to build aware­ness about the pet over­pop­u­la­tion cri­sis. The foun­da­tion’s chief vet­eri­nary of­fi­cer, Karen (Doc) Hal­l­i­day, reg­u­larly vis­its schools to talk to kids. Joey turns it into a fun event by pro­vid­ing colour­ing books that il­lus­trate his mes­sage, and by send­ing along cool dogs like Surfin’ Jack, the foun­da­tion’s surfing (yes, re­ally) ca­nine mas­cot who sports a Hawai­ian shirt and sun­glasses. When the kids see that fan­tas­tic dogs like Surfin’ Jack could lose their lives, it makes the is­sue much more im­me­di­ate and per­sonal.

The Lucy Pet Foun­da­tion has also found other, more in­no­va­tive meth­ods of get­ting the pub­lic’s in­ter­est. Joey made a splash—lit­er­ally—when he de­vel­oped North Amer­ica’s first-ever por­ta­ble wave pool for dogs, the Lucy Pet Crankin’ K9 Wave Maker, which holds 5,000 gal­lons (19,000 liters) of wa­ter and fea­tures an au­to­matic wave gen­er­a­tor. While Surfin’ Jack and his ca­nine friends (plus one surfing cat!) are draw­ing peo­ple’s at­ten­tion by rid­ing the waves, Joey talks to the me­dia about the Lucy Pet Foun­da­tion.

Never one to make small plans, Joey in­tends to in­crease the num­ber of mo­bile clin­ics he has on the road from a few to 40, so even more an­i­mals can be treated. Al­though he be­gan in his home state of Cal­i­for­nia, serv­ing at risk pop­u­la­tions in Los An­ge­les and sur­round­ing ar­eas, Joey in­tends to give the Lucy Pet Foun­da­tion a na­tional pres­ence. To fund this, he be­gan an in­no­va­tive, feel-good pet prod­ucts com­pany called Lucy Pet Prod­ucts to sup­port the cause. Work­ing with Dr. Ge­orge C. Fa­hey, a lead­ing ex­pert in di­ges­tive health, Joey, along with his part­ner Rick Rock­hill, who has decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in the pet prod­ucts in­dus­try, de­vel­oped a pre­mium pet food that fea­tures Pre­bi­otic Bal­anced Fiber (PBF). This di­verse blend of fiber sup­ports a healthy gut and en­ables op­ti­mal di­ges­tion. “It’s a game changer,” Joey proudly em­pha­sizes.

100 per­cent of the prof­its from Lucy Pet Prod­ucts go to the non-profit Lucy Pet Foun­da­tion, which works tire­lessly to re­duce the stag­ger­ing rates of pet eu­thana­sia in North Amer­ica. Per­haps pre­dictably for this gen­er­ous and warm-hearted an­i­mal lover, Joey re­fuses to take a salary from either the Lucy Pet Foun­da­tion or Lucy Pet Prod­ucts. “I never took a dime from it,” he ex­plains, adding, “I want all of the money to go to­wards help­ing the an­i­mals.”

Catch­ing a wave on the Lucy Pet Crankin' K9 Wave Maker!

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