When Alexa Horwitz ’19 first stepped onto the campus of Main Line Animal Rescue, a no-kill animal rescue organization in Chester Springs, Penn., tears came to her eyes.
The 17-year-old nonprofit, which cares for 336 adoptable cats, dogs, rabbits, and guinea pigs, is located on about 60 acres of fields and forests crisscrossed with trails for volunteer dog walkers. A red barn has been converted into offices and training areas. In Main Line’s conference room live two FIV-infected male cats that like to cuddle up and groom one another. An elderly dog nicknamed Sand Crab waddles around the development office.
“When I was younger and pictured what I wanted my animal rescue organization to look like, this was exactly what I pictured,” Horwitz said recently, speaking at a picnic table outside her office while two kitties sitting inside on a cat tree studied her. She said she’s known since she was a child that she wants to dedicate her life to helping animals and to reducing the 4 million or more pets euthanized in the US each year.
One day she dreams of running her own animal advocacy and rescue nonprofit. “From middle school, I have had notebooks of the floor-plan design,” she said. In grade school she also organized fundraisers for cat-rescue groups and other small organizations in Philadelphia, where she grew up. In fact, her empathy for animals may have begun even earlier. “I think it came [partly] from when my mom was pregnant with me, and Chloe our cat would lie on her stomach and comfort her,” she said.
This summer, Horwitz received a grant from Bowdoin Career Planning’s funded internship program to support her while she works at Main Line. These donated grants enable undergraduates to pursue unpaid internships and projects around the country and the world.
When Horwitz approached Meg Springer, who works in Bowdoin’s Career Planning office, last year to speak about her desire to learn more about animal rescue, Springer directed her to the summer grant program. “I came into Bowdoin really wanting to solidify my knowledge and the skills I’ll need [to found my own organization],” Horwitz said. At Bowdoin’s annual Nonprofit Symposium last January, also organized by Springer, Horwitz learned other tips for starting a nonprofit, such as the importance of gathering a dedicated board of directors.
Although she is just a rising sophomore, Horwitz has already accumulated quite a bit of experience in the field of animal rescue and advocacy. Before Main Line, she interned at Philadelphia’s largest animal care and control provider (ACCT Philly), which couldn’t afford to care for unadopted pets indefinitely. “Working at a kill shelter takes a toll on people,” Horwitz noted. “They work so hard, they push themselves to the absolute limit, and, at the end of the day, you may still have animals euthanized.” She has also interned at a cat shelter and with the Philadelphia Zoo.
For Main Line, Horwitz is helping to organize a big “drive-in movie night” fundraiser and donor-recruitment event this summer. She is also helping with its six-week summer “humane education” program for high-risk city kids, who interact with Main Line’s animals and learn how to care for them. Horwitz pointed out that animals have been shown to have a beneficial effect on mental health.
“It’s so important to instill a love of animals at a young age,” Horwitz said, adding, “I want to devote my life to helping animals…and having an animal rescue organization is only part of this. Every rescue should incorporate advocacy, because your animals come to you when people aren’t educated about proper animal treatment.”