Rescuer Extraordinaire: Joey Herrick

From Rose Parade floats to mobile spay and neuter clinics, one man works to put rescue on the fast track.

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You’d be hard pressed to deny Joey Herrick’s dedication to improving the lives of animals. He cofounded Natural Balance Pet Foods, at first selling it out of the trunk of his car. In 2013, after selling his stake in the pet food company, he began the Lucy Pet Foundation, the first national organization dedicated to spay/neuter. Read more about Herrick’s vision for making animals’ lives better.

1. What inspired you to start the Lucy Pet Foundation? Why did you choose mobile spay and neuter, and adoption as your area of focus?

Once you go into the shelters and learn that over 80,000 dogs and cats a week are being euthanized across the country, it affects you. I knew I had to not just try and “make a difference,” but I had to change this. After speaking with industry professionals, I realized the amount of animals coming in the front door is far greater than the animals being adopted. The only way to really stop that is to have a well-managed national spay and neuter program. That’s why I decided to have affordable mobile spay and neuter clinics to get to the areas where they are needed most.

The mission of the Lucy Pet Foundation is to reduce pet overpopulation by having mobile spay/neuter clinics across the country and to support causes that benefit animal welfare.

2. You have a long history working in the pet industry. How have your goals changed through the years?

My goal is still the same: to enrich animals’ lives. For the past 28 years I did that by pioneering great dog food formulas and making sure that high-quality ingredients went into those formulas. I donated tons and tons of food to animal rescue groups, who are the real heroes and go into shelters and rescue dogs and cats from death row and get them adopted. Now it’s using all of my experience in the pet industry to get pet overpopulation under control and to eliminate the barbaric practice of shelters using gas chambers as a form of euthanasia.

3. What is your vision for the mobile spay/neuter and adoption units? How can they reduce shelter populations for dogs and cats?

I want to have at least 50 mobile spay and neuter clinics all around the country. Each mobile is capable of doing at least 5,000 spay and neuters a year; that will significantly reduce pet overpopulation and the amount of animals going into the shelters.

4. What are the biggest challenges to achieving widespread acceptance of spay/neuter initiatives? How will you meet them?

The biggest challenge is twofold:

One, the education of the American public. People have to realize how out of control pet overpopulation is, and how many animals are euthanized each year. Also to educate people on the health benefits of spay and neuter for their own pets. Cancer is the No. 1 killer of dogs and cats, after euthanasia. The risk of testicular and ovarian cancers is reduced to zero when an animal is spayed or neutered. They make better pets because they focus more on the family they live with when they don’t have the urge to roam.

Two, we need to raise the money to do this. I personally put in over $700,000 to get the Lucy Pet Foundation running. Now we need to raise money by grants, corporate sponsors, fundraisers and donors that believe in the Lucy Pet Foundation. We came up with the slogan “A quarter a day for neuter and spay.” If we had 100,000 people in the United States donating $7.50 a month, we could be running 18 trucks a year offering spay and neuter at no charge.

5. You’ve done a great job connecting with millions of people around the world with fun, eye-catching Rose Parade floats, in the past with skateboarding and surfing dogs on the Natural Balance floats, and in 2014 with rescue dogs on the Lucy Pet Foundation float. What inspires your designs and themes?

I get ideas from living life. Three years ago I was at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas with my kids. We were lying out by a pool that was making its own waves. I thought it would be a great idea for a Rose Parade float. I called the people who made the wave machine and said, “I need a wave that is 8 feet wide and 80 feet long for a Rose Parade float. They said, “Is this a joke?” I said “No!” The result was I set the Guinness World Record for the “World’s Longest and Heaviest Float” for the 2012 Rose Parade (with the Natural Balance surfing dogs float).

COURTESY OF THE LUCY PET FOUNDATION Lucy Pet Foundation's 2014 Rose Parade float featured amazing rescue dogs performing tricks and inspiring viewers.
COURTESY OF THE LUCY PET FOUNDATION
Lucy Pet Foundation’s 2014 Rose Parade float featured amazing rescue dogs performing tricks and inspiring viewers.

6. Is there someone in your life you consider a mentor or teacher?

My father always instilled in me the fact that you can achieve anything you want to achieve if you work unbelievably hard at it, and that your word and handshake means far more than any contract. Even though my father passed away many years ago, to this day, even when I’m getting discouraged and doubting myself, I think of him and finish the task.

7. In 10 words or less, what advice would you give someone who wants to help homeless animals?

Join an animal rescue group and foster an animal today.

For more information about the Lucy Pet Foundation, visit them on Facebook or go to lucypetfoundation.org.

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April Balotro

April Balotro has worked in the pet publishing industry for 10 years, a career that has dovetailed with her life-long love for animals. She is the proud owner of rescue dog Penny, a 15-year-old Chihuahua-mix who loves going for walks and curling up on soft pillows.

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