Written by Renee DiNino / Protography by Christine Penney
Jody Macrina is the current president and a volunteer of Protectors of Animals, Inc. (POA), and has been for 22 years. Starting as a volunteer when she moved to Connecticut from Southeastern Massachusetts, she decided to continue her volunteer work with animals at various rescues until she found POA. POA now has a strong board of directors with 13 accomplished individuals with various backgrounds with approximately 250 to 300 volunteers in varying capacities from foster homes to medical to program coordination and shelter staff. Transparent about their operating funds, the group only has two full-time employees and one part-time employee. More than 95% of the funds go directly back into the care of the animals for building maintenance, food, medical needs and more.
POA was first imagined by three women in South Glastonbury who started rescuing stray dogs and then cats. It wasn’t until 1975 that the group incorporated and received its nonprofit status after a few years of hard work. POA remains one of the oldest and most respected grassroot rescues in Connecticut. At the beginning of the incorporation and 501c3 status, the group concentrated on abandoned, abused and stray cats and dogs.
Fast forward to 2000, the group secured its first brick-and-mortar facility where they opened a cat adoption center at 144 Main Street in East Hartford. POA is still located in the same spot where employees and volunteers take care of all the cats’ needs: cleaning, food, medical, playtime, cuddles and their favorite day of prepping for adoptions.
After volunteering for only one year with POA, and with the blessing of the board and other members, Macrina became president of POA in 2001; she hasn’t looked back! In 2017, POA added another space to that property, the POASpay Clinic, which was created for high-quality, low-cost spaying and neutering performed by highly skilled, board-certified veterinarians with an incredible staff. This is by appointment only.
“It’s just the fabric that you’re made of, something you’re born with; it’s just woven into who you are and strengthens as you grow. It happens organically. At least it did for me. I even remember as a kid seeing a kitten hanging on the ledge of an embankment, begging my father to let me help,” said Macrina. She can even remember what she was wearing because the experience was so traumatic. In her yellow sundress with brown polka dots, her father clearly recognizing the desperation from his daughter, crawled down the rocks on the side of a dam and grabbed the kitten. The kitten became one of many rescued cats, dogs, sheep—anything Macrina felt needed saving that would come into the Persson (her family name) household where her mother lost the battle of “No Pets Allowed!”
“A common misconception about running a rescue is that we can help everybody, and we can’t,” added Macrina. “There is just so much need; it absolutely breaks our hearts to say no to people. It’s gut-wrenching that we can’t help everyone that calls us. We try to offer solutions, but when we have to say no, it breaks our hearts more than I think people understand. I would think this sentiment rings true for other rescue groups too. I don’t think people understand or truly know the amount of animals that need help, from stray dogs and feral cats to accidents and the horror stories of neglect and abuse. There’s so much. It’s overwhelming, and to say ‘no,’ it runs through our minds, my mind, that we couldn’t help. It’s haunting.”
“The trauma rescue workers and volunteers experience is real, and they need help and support from mental health community too,” said Macrina as she recalled stories of people and animals that haunt her to this day. “Rescue really is a good network of like-minded people who understand this calling.”
In 2022 alone, POA placed 509 cats and kittens and 66 dogs in loving homes. The dog adoptions from the city pound they work with are not included in this number. Additionally, they spayed/neutered 3,429 dogs and cats, not including the feral cat community numbers, which could be in the thousands. They’ve helped hundreds of pet owners keep their pets in home with medical aid, food and training.
Cats have a special place in the mostly volunteer-run organization. There are so many feral colonies in Connecticut and, left alone, they tend to multiply. Many municipalities do not have a “cat plan.” In other words, rescues like POA are needed to help control the cat population with their TNR programs. Specifically, POA has many volunteers trained to trap and or help educate the public on feral colonies. TNR stands for trap and release; many of these cats are not fit for domestication. What they can do at the least is give a cat some medical treatments, neuter/spay the cats and release back out to their “home.” If a cat is assessed as a potential adoptable cat, they will keep it in the center, find a foster and help to re-home the cat in a safe environment within a loving home.
When adopting a kitten or a cat from POA, you must fill out an application and there is one important thing to keep in mind: you must agree to keep your cat as an indoor cat. Most of them have come from horrific conditions, abused and severe neglect, so they want to ensure their kittens or cats will live a happy and longer life inside. POA works with many animal control officers and other groups and volunteers to help with the ever-growing cat population in Hartford, East Hartford, Glastonbury and other communities around the state. This is in addition to helping dogs! In fact, they have a wonderful partnership with the Wethersfield Police Department and their city pound. The volunteers handle the cleaning, food, exercise, play and kisses with treats, and enrichment programs to help get the dogs adopted out of the pound.
“The animal control officers appreciate us very much, and we appreciate them just as much,” said Macrina. “Our work in Wethersfield exceeds 28 years of a respectful partnership of helping to get these dogs what they need from spay/neuter, medical, vaccinations and ultimately adopted.”
The start of 2023 is especially memorable; they received a call from an animal control officer friend about a dog left badly beaten New Years’ Day at The Cove in Wethersfield on a dog bed by the water. This dog was nurtured back to health at a cost of over $5,000; it is living a safe and happy life thanks to the efforts of POA. This is just a small breakdown of what POA does for the communities, people and pets they serve.
You may also see POA’s Hip to Snip van around the state. The van is used for transporting food, dogs and cats to their clinic and as a reminder to spay or neuter your pets. They have a kennel in East Hampton for smaller dogs (to keep the big dogs from the smaller dogs).
“Currently, POA is active in helping educate the public about being a good neighbor amongst rescues and citizens wanting to help. Education is key and we need volunteers and, of course, donations to keep our mission alive,” said Macrina. Their application for both cats and dogs may seem a bit long. When you realize the love, hours and funds that are happily invested into the lives they save, you can begin to understand and appreciate the process.
“Oh, my gosh, POA could not do what it does without our volunteers,” added Macrina on a personal note to all the POA team and volunteers. “They give so much of themselves. We have 15-year volunteers, 10-year volunteers, etc. It’s the people that make POA what it is. I don’t like my title of president because I’m just a volunteer; we are all there to make a difference. POA is a team. They are why we do what we do.”
For more information about Protectors of Animals, to donate, volunteer or adopt visit poainc.org.
Renee DiNino is an iHeartMedia radio and TV host, blogger, podcaster, and public speaker. Connect on Facebook @ReneeDiNinoCT, Instagram@reneedinino and Twitter @MyCTcommunity.