Defenders of Animals honors ‘Humane Heroes’ at vigil, ceremony


“It’s been said that volunteering and helping others can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated and provide a sense of purpose,” said Dennis Tabella, director of Defenders of Animals, as he opened the 23rd annual Homeless Animals Day/Candlelight Vigil and awards ceremony recently at the Sprague Mansion in Cranston.

Defenders of Animals was the Rhode Island host for the event, which was held in cooperation with the International Society for Animal Rights.

The walkway behind Sprague Mansion glowed from the luminaries that people purchased, and participants enjoyed the sounds of Bill Reidy, who played classic music in between the speaking presentations.

The crowd gathered on the lawn on blankets and chairs, and the rain just held off until the end of the ceremony. Some pets arrived with their owners, as all were welcomed.

The focus of the event was the presentation of the Defenders of Animals Humane Heroes Awards to those who have helped further the organization’s cause.

“We have been fortunate to always have had outstanding and dedicated volunteers and legislators that were willing to consider introducing humane legislation both on the state level and local level,” Tabella said.

The recipients of the Humane Heroes Award 2019 were Malcolm Lima, Joan Major Rebello and Margy Feldhuhn.

Lima, of North Kingstown, was recognized for providing outstanding care for the animals at Smith & Agli’s Pot Belly Manor.

“Tonight marks the first time in our 41-year history that we present an award to a person under 21 years old,” Tabella said of Lima. “This young man started volunteering for Smith & Agli’s Pot Belly Manor in North Kingstown in June of 2018 and has been volunteering 24/7 ever since … He has displayed kindness and compassion to all the animals making sure that he gives each and everyone his undivided attention.”

Rebello, also from North Kingstown, was honored for her service and dedication to the welfare and protection of animals.

“We wanted to thank this next recipient for her dependability, perseverance, determination and consistency displayed in her volunteering for Defenders of Animals,” Tabella said. “She has volunteered at all our pasta events, bowling events, photos with Santa, photos with the Easter Bunny, bake sales and more. This was all done while she volunteered at the West Warwick Animal Shelter and working with the West Warwick Angels at that shelter.

Feldhuhn, of Providence, was the final award recipient.

“So many animals have been helped because of the funds that she raised for Defenders of Animals,” Tabella said. “Two years in a row, she put together two annual art shows that became the most successful fundraising events that we have had in 41 years.”

For more information, contact Tabella at 461-1922 or email defendersof


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