Our goal is to be a model for animal sanctuaries, and a destination for animal welfare advocates that will inspire, educate, and empower others to make change. We’ll continue the important work we are currently doing; add learning centers for veterinary students and animal advocates; and create a sustainable model that will attract visitors far and wide. I’m grateful my efforts have been recognized around the country. My vision is for a future that is nothing short of amazing.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Laurie Hood, founder and president of Alaqua Animal Refuge, Laurie Hood is a recognized leader in animal care, protection and advocacy. In addition to placing more than 15,000 animals in 11 years, she originated Florida Statutes 828.126 and 828.12 strengthening animal rights; created the Unconditional Love program providing trained companion dogs free of charge to PTSD patients, the elderly and special needs individuals, while offering inmates a contributing role in the process; appeared in a key role in Animal PD, a series on Nat Geo WILD showcasing stories of Alaqua’s animal rescue efforts in conjunction with the Walton County Police Department; authored a curriculum to assist law enforcement with animal abuse cases; and served on the Committee to Protect Greyhounds in Florida which celebrated the passing of Amendment 13 in early November 2018 phasing out greyhound racing in the state by 2020. One of Laurie’s strongest traits is the ability to change course and take immediate action. In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael’s landfall on the Florida coast in October 2018, Laurie has led Alaqua’s actions including rescue operations, medical care, food distribution and much more. She also worked with Florida Georgia Line’s Brian Kelley and his wife, Brittney, of Tribe Kelley/Tribe Kelley Surf Post, GreaterGood.org and Wings of Rescue to transport 20 dogs and 26 cats from Alaqua to the Nashville Humane Association for adoption. Located on 10 acres in Freeport, Florida, Alaqua Animal Refuge is the premier, no-kill animal shelter in Northwest Florida, providing care and sanctuary to abused and neglected animals. The facility includes animal housing, an equine center, two quarantine buildings and an infirmary operated by a full-time veterinary staff. Alaqua offers an adoption center, educational outreach and community programs, and robustly advocates for the welfare and humane treatment of animals. Alaqua is a member of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When my husband and I moved to this area near the beautiful Gulf of Mexico in 2007, I didn’t set out to save thousands of animals. However, once I learned something that could not be “unlearned” — that five counties in the region were without animal shelters of any kind — my path was set. Animals were held for a few days at holding facilities, then basically 100% were euthanized. I wanted to rescue a Border Collie with eight puppies on the brink of euthanasia at one of these facilities and was shocked to learn the animals would cost $900 to adopt but could be removed by a shelter at no charge. I returned with paperwork for a newly-inked sanctuary and drove away with 39 animals. Eleven years later, more than 15,000 animals have passed through Alaqua Animal Refuge.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Here’s an example: not a single animal cruelty case had ever been prosecuted in the five-county area and yet the abuse I uncovered was unreal. So I challenged the system in every way: approached law enforcement, prosecutors, and animal control officers with free training and support for cases so that they could be prosecuted effectively; made sure that media covered the events to show the hard work of the agencies; allowed the refuge to take on the animals from abuse and neglect cases to build evidence so abusers could be sentenced; and figured out how to get in front of lawmakers to lobby for stronger state statutes for animal rights cases. I looked beyond the status quo to what needed to be done.
My “disruptive” work continues to be met with support from the public and my methods of achieving change are not to directly criticize the system, but to offer effective methods so that everyone benefits.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share how they made an impact?
My work has been about trailblazing, but mentors are all around us if we’re are open to hearing them. I love being around people who recognize and use their God-given talents to be the best they can be in their field.
That said, going through the process, witnessing need firsthand, is the key experience. You must get out of your office. I learned about the correlation between spouse/child abuse in the home and animal abuse by working with law enforcement on these types of cases.
How are you going to shake things up next?
Transform the shape of animal sanctuaries around the globe! We’re preparing to build a one-of-a-kind refuge and sanctuary on 100-acres of donated land. Our goal is to be a model for animal sanctuaries, and a destination for animal welfare advocates that will inspire, educate, and empower others to make change. We’ll continue the important work we are currently doing; add learning centers for veterinary students and animal advocates; and create a sustainable model that will attract visitors far and wide. I’m grateful my efforts have been recognized around the country. My vision is for a future that is nothing short of amazing.
Do you have a book that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
When I was a young girl, my father, a successful businessman, gave me my own copy of “Think and Grow Rich.” He even highlighted passages for me! I read it over and over and although I was never focused on becoming monetarily rich, the advice in the book guides me today:
“Set your mind on a definite goal and observe how quickly the world stands aside to let you pass.”
This holds true in everything that I do. When I am clear about what needs to happen, things generally fall into place to make it a reality.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I hope to create a movement that spreads far and wide: during the practice of healing thousands of abandoned and abused animals, we realized that we could also help people through the powerful effects that interactions with animals have on the human spirit and body. I want to inspire empathy for all life, and create a kinder, healthier society by healing animals and people.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
As I mentioned before,“Set your mind on a definite goal and observe how quickly the world stands aside to let you pass.” This has manifested in my life many times.
How can our readers follow you on social media?