Located in the Heights, Friends for Life was founded by Salise Shuttlesworth, who graduated with a law degree from UT-Austin, but apparently knew that the real money was in finding homes for "unadoptable" hard-case dogs and cats. The rescue launched in 2002 and opened its first brick-and-mortar space in 2009. But, according to an OutSmart profile, Friends for Life outgrew its space and opened its current East 22nd Street location in 2012. In 2013, the organization teamed with BARC, the city of Houston's animal shelter, to create Fix Houston, a public-private partnership offering free spay/neuter surgeries to underserved parts of the city. (Friends for Life handles the cats, while BARC snips the dogs.)
According to the rescue's website, the Fix It program has allowed Friends for Life to spay or neuter more than 1,500 cats and stabilize 489 feral colonies, which prevented "more than 30,000 births, keeping stray cats off the streets to an impressive degree."
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Especially notable is the fact that Shuttlesworth is able to do this without sounding like a Crazy Cat Lady. She told OutSmart:
“I had a love for animals before I ever knew the word activism. But I don’t know that I’m much of an activist. My strength is more in doing things that seem pragmatic. If we believe we owe life to a dog who is too terrified to come out of his cage, we’d better get a plan around how to rehabilitate him—and a business plan to scale and sustain [our goals]. But let’s go with ‘activist.’ It sounds cooler than ‘planning wonk.’”
Of course, it's not just Shuttlesworth, but an awesome team of staff and volunteers who are tackling the city's animal overpopulation problem. The award is well-deserved.
Update: September 23, 12:55 p.m.
Shuttlesworth told the Houston Press that the anonymous donor is no longer anonymous — her name is Carolyn Levy. So now we know who to give huge props.