For Jackie Ducci, there are few bonds more precious than those she shares with her beloved animals: her horses, and her French and English bulldogs.
The lifelong equestrian found solace with horses as a young woman, working through social anxiety and finding a safe space in the barn after school.
So when she looked for an opportunity to create a nonprofit, there was no question in her mind what she wanted to support: the bond between humans and animals.
“They really shaped my childhood and even today into adulthood, the first place hat I turn when I’m going through something is my animals,” Ducci said. “I always knew that if I did something charitable, it would be animal-related. And what’s really meaningful to me is just that connection between people and animals.”
So the Human-Animal Alliance was born, a Wellington-based nonprofit that is dedicated to supporting the connection between humans and animals. That extends from grants for human trafficking organizations that have in-house therapy animals, to organizations that help pet owners in crisis, to a fire department in North Carolina that hoped to buy a crisis response and emotional and mental health dog.
As of late September, the Human-Animal Alliance had granted $84,000 to groups throughout the country.
Every dollar raised by the organization goes back into the community, Ducci said, adding that she puts in much of her own money to cover administrative costs and other overhead expenses. “Literally everything that people give gets turned around into a grant,” she said.
In determining which grants to award, Ducci said the Human-Animal Alliance looks at what is happening in the world, and what her organization can do to support the human-animal bond.
That can mean different things at different times, she said. Last year, that meant helping to recover and reunify displaced pets following Hurricane Ian.
“That’s really what we’re about, it bringing the people and the animals together any way we can,” she said.
When looking at how to structure the organization, Ducci said she found that there are many great organizations providing important programming to help people and their animals.
“What the world needs is an organization that is funneling money to those programs,” she said, “because you talk to all of them and they say, ‘I need money.’ I just felt like my strength is fundraising, and I have the network to do that and the platform to do that.
“I thought, that’s what I need to do: Raise the money and then get it into the hands of those who really are going to do something amazing with it,” Ducci said.
Just in the past year, the Human-Animal Alliance provided grants to two organizations in Texas that provide animal-assisted therapy services to survivors of human trafficking.
“The stories that come out of there are just incredible, about how the animals really help these kids and adults learn how to develop real relationships for the first time ever and get through that trauma,” Ducci said.
More recently, the organization provided a $25,000 grant to the organization paws4people to sponsor a black Labrador retriever named Axel, a crisis response and emotional and mental health facility dog for the fire department in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Axel joined two other facility dogs, Rhys and Heart, helping Wilmington firefighters combat PTSD and stress while also providing mental health care and comfort to people in traumatic situations like car crashes and house fires.
“He is sort of ‘on staff’ with a handler at the fire department, and they use him for crisis response,” Ducci said, adding, “We love that one because we feel like that one dog is going to just touch the lives of so many people.”
When talking to people about the Human-Animal Alliance, Ducci said she explains the importance of its work by taking people back to their own relationships with their animals.
“That feeling that they have is what we are trying to expose other people to,” she said. “You know, there are a lot of peoplein this world that just have never had that opportunity to connect with an animal on a deep level, or they’re at risk of losing it. … I just want everybody in this world to know how beautiful it is to have animals in their lives, and that’s really what it comes down to.”
Ducci moved to Wellington full-time about two years ago after flying back and forth between the Sunshine State and Connecticut to compete in equestrian sports.
Wellington has been an amazing home for the organization because there are so many animal lovers who are also charitable, Ducci said.
“We’re fortunate to be here,” she said.
The Human-Animal Alliance has several events planned for 2024. Details will be released online at www.h-aa.org as they are available.
To donate or for more information about the Human-Animal Alliance, go to www.h-aa.org.
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