For the love of animals: Annual vigil, awards ceremony to be held in city

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On Aug. 15, Defenders of Animals will hold its annual Humane Heroes Award Ceremony as part of the Homeless Animals Day/Candlelight Vigil, to be held at the Governor Sprague Mansion located at 1351 Cranston St. in Cranston. The event will be held outdoors (to move indoors in case of rain) beginning at 7 p.m.

“The Homeless Animals Day/Candlelight Vigil is about keeping the Rhode Island dog and cat populations down so that cats and dogs will not have to be destroyed or left without homes. That’s done through spaying/neutering and adopting from local animal shelters. We want people to adopt locally and not buy from pet stores, breeders, or adopt animals from out of state. We have an opportunity to make Rhode Island a no-kill state, but it’s not going to happen unless we can get a handle on these factors,” said Dennis Tabella, director of Defenders of Animals.

Tabella has served as the director of Defenders of Animals for the last 37 years and has guided the agency with the mission of defending the inalienable rights of both companion animals and wildlife through education, legal and legislative activism. The group Lobbies on legislative issues, coordinates a pet placement service, offers a low-cost spay and neuter program, and does legal work. Defenders of Animals was founded in April 1978 by Tabella and his wife Patricia.

“It can’t be done consistently without the help of members and volunteers,” Tabella said. “Everyone can help out some way or another. Sometime it’s just a phone call to a legislator regarding important animal protection legislation.”

The master of ceremonies on Aug. 15 will be John J. Tassoni, a former state senator, president of the Sentinel Group, host at Recovery Radio and of the Common Ground Radio show, and publisher at the Smithfield Times and Common Ground newspaper.

During his tenure in the General Assembly, Tassoni introduced a number of pieces of legislation related to animals that have become law in Rhode Island, including a ban on gas chambers and mandatory spaying and neutering of cats.

Special guest speakers include state Rep. Charlene Lima, the deputy House speaker who represents District 14 in Cranston and Providence.

Lima has also sponsored and passed several pieces of animal-related legislation.

“In 2006, we met with former Sen. John J. Tassoni, Jr. and Rep. Charlene M. Lima to have a mandatory spay/neuter bill regarding controlling the cat population in Rhode Island and legislation that would ban the use of the gas chamber. Both bills became law in Rhode Island in 2006 and have had a significant factor in lowering the number of animals destroyed in Rhode Island,” Tabella said.

State Rep. Patricia A. Serpa, who represents District 27 in West Warwick, Coventry and Warwick, will also be a guest speaker.

A total of four awards will be given out at the event to honor those individuals who have gone above and beyond for the sake of all animals.

Cranston resident Michelle Cantini will receive an award for her years of rescuing animals in the Ocean State. She has been a volunteer at the Scituate pound for 12 years and has proved that she will do anything possible for the benefit of these creatures. She has developed her own registered non-profit animal rescue group, named Precious Angels Animal Rescue.

Also receiving an award will be state Rep. Joseph Solomon Jr., who represents District 22 in Warwick. He is responsible for a bill that would require the shelter and nourishment of dogs conform to standards set by Tufts Animal Care and Conditions Scale.

Susan and Harry Parker of Dynamic Dog Training Services will also receive an award for their work with animals through the Little Rhodie Bully Breed Club. The club is dedicated to aiding shelter pit bulls in Rhode Island.

The fourth award will go to Defenders of Animals’ Keith Swerling, who is an IT expert and operates RI Lost Pets on Facebook. The page has been very successful in reuniting pet owners with their lost pets.

At the vigil, musical entertainment will be provided by Scarlett, a three-piece acoustic/electric band performing classic rock, modern rock, and country.

There is no fee to attend the vigil, and the entire community is encouraged to attend.

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