I established the Gregory J. Reiter Memorial Fund in honor of my late husband on April 22, 2016 (Earth Day), to continue contributing to the organizations and causes we supported together while he was alive.
In the first quarter of 2017, I had the privilege of making my most significant grants from the Fund to date – and also the privilege of partnering with the following recipient organizations on program strategy and implementation.
It’s tax week, so I’ll start by highlighting this new organization I just began supporting through the Greg Fund this quarter. Led by Anthony Bellotti, Justin Goodman, and Julie Germany, campaigners and strategists from across the political spectrum who have all been recipients of the American Association of Political Consultants’ “40 Under 40” award – the goal of this new group is to unite Republicans, Independents and Democrats to stop $15 billion in wasteful taxpayer-funded experiments on dogs, monkeys, cats, and other animals.
A key focus of the Greg Fund is animal rescue – and of course, rescue work can only happen when we know where there are animals who need rescuing. This is where White Coat Waste Project comes in. WCW is working with a bipartisan coalition of US Congresspeople, including 51 co-sponsors to date, on the Federal Accountability in Chemical Testing (FACT) Act (HR 816) to require federal agencies that conduct or require toxicity testing to report the number of animals used, their species, and what tests they were used for.
The Greg Fund is helping in particular to fund WCW’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and associated legal challenges – helping, for example, to uncover a secretive FDA lab study that forcibly addicts baby monkeys to nicotine and to expose deadly dog experiments in a Veterans Affairs lab.
Philip J. Hirschkop Legal Department. PETA boasts a truly stellar legal team – including litigation counsel Phil Hirschkop, who is perhaps best known for his landmark victory in the Loving v. Virginia case that declared laws banning interracial marriage unconstitutional. During Greg’s lifetime, he and I proudly made financial contributions to support this tough and innovative legal team.
One grant from the Greg Fund this quarter was designated to support PETA’s Legal Department. Along similar lines as for White Coat Waste above, the grant is intended to help in particular with a lawsuit PETA has filed under FOIA, to compel the USDA to return to its website all records related to puppy mills, laboratories, roadside zoos, traveling animal shows, and other enterprises that use and exploit animals. These records, which are required to be publicly available, were abruptly removed in February of this year. PETA is a co-plaintiff in this suit, together with other leading animal protection and public health advocates including the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Beagle Freedom Project, Born Free USA, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Harvard Animal Law & Policy Fellow Delcianna Winders. Over 100 members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have also joined this effort.
Cruelty Investigations Department / Community Animal Project. Greg and I had worked together with this Department in multiple ways – adopting our rescued dog Itchy and abandoned horses Henry and Caroline, and financially contributing toward a portion of the 10,000 free or discounted spay/neuter services PETA provides each year for low-income families’ companion animals.
This quarter, through the Greg Fund, I made a grant that will cover the sterilization of over 300 cats and dogs of indigent households in the region around PETA’s Norfolk, Virginia headquarters – thereby helping to prevent animal homelessness. The grant will also support PETA’s unique fieldwork program in other ways. For example, it will help PETA team members to provide free doghouses and other products and services that facilitate long-term relationships with people in local households – an initiative that saves lives of animals like my dog Itchy. It will also help support PETA’s Emergency Response Team caseworkers who are on call 24/7, 365 days a year, rescuing animals like my horses Henry and Caroline.
Horse Racing Campaign. Last autumn, in honor of Greg, I adopted a racehorse named Charlie whom PETA had recently rescued. Our story was featured in a blog post and video here. Charlie had initially been one subject of PETA’s investigation of New York trainer Steve Asmussen – an investigation which was extensively reported in the New York Times, and which led the New York State Gaming Commission to fine Asmussen and propose new regulations to protect horses.
In February, following allegations from PETA that Charlie had been cleared to race at a Pennsylvania track in 2016 despite serious injuries, the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission opened an investigation into Charlie’s treatment.
This quarter, through the Greg Fund, I made a grant to PETA’s horse racing campaign that will help to rescue other horses like Charlie; and take legal action against track managers, trainers, and veterinarians who run injured horses. This grant will also help to raise awareness about the substantial taxpayer funding that states like Pennsylvania dedicate to supporting the horse racing industry and associated gambling activities.
The California farm animal sanctuary Animal Place inspired Greg and me to become vegetarian after a visit there in the year 2000. Animal Place remained special to us even after we moved to the east coast – and for some time, we had followed with special interest its Food for Thought program designed to help companion animal shelters adopt vegan or vegetarian event menu policies.
Last year, to promote the Greg Fund focus on both veganism and wildlife conservation, I provided a grant to expand the Animal Place Food for Thought program so that it now also promotes vegan or vegetarian menu policies at environmental and wildlife organizations – thereby raising awareness of how reducing animal product consumption contributes to a cleaner environment and preservation of wildlife habitat. I also began assisting on a volunteer basis with Food for Thought outreach work.
This quarter, I made an additional grant to enable the Food for Thought program to provide recognition gifts to the first 20 wildlife or environmental organizations that formally adopt vegan or vegetarian menu policies.
Finally, I made one small grant to the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, a Northern Virginia group that played a special role in Greg’s and my life, and gave us our cat Margaret.
I have funded the above-described Q1 2017 grants primarily through sale of the Virginia farm property Greg and I purchased together in 2012; trading that for a new farm in Maryland that is a better fit for my three horses, two dogs, five cats and me. The next source of financing has been donations from many of you – and I am deeply grateful to everyone who has made monetary contributions to the Fund and/or to organizations I had earlier designated to receive direct donations in Greg’s memory.
~ Alysoun Mahoney