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Michelson Found Animals Foundation Gala Celebrates Animal Advocacy

It took place on Oct. 5.




(PRESS RELEASE) Michelson Found Animals Foundation, a nonprofit social enterprise committed to saving pets and enriching lives, held its 8th annual gala on Oct. 5. Hosted by founder Gary Michelson and Alya Michelson, it was a celebration of the efforts of animal advocates from the entertainment industry to local officials to an animal welfare organization, all committed to improving and enriching the lives of animals.

“Alya and I are so inspired by the influential work of this year’s honorees, who have shown tireless dedication to improving the lives of animals and have each made a huge impact in their own way,” said Gary Michelson, founder of Michelson Found Animals Foundation. “From passing legislation to getting shelter pets adopted, we appreciate these honorees for their diligence and dedication to advocating for animals.”

The 2019 honorees were:

  • Valari Staab, president of NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations (a division of NBCUniversal that includes 42 NBC/Telemundo stations). Staab’s leadership around Clear The Shelters has resulted in NBC and Telemundo owned stations’ nationwide pet adoption campaign helping more than 400,000 pets find new homes in five years. In addition, the stations teamed up with Michelson Found Animals to host the inaugural Fund The Shelters Challenge in 2019 which raised $1.564M for animal shelters. Mario Lopez, a two-time Emmy Award-winning television personality and New York Times bestselling author, and one of the hosts of NBC’s Access Hollywood and Access Daily, presented the award to Staab.
  • Simone Friedman, the head of philanthropy and impact investment for EJF Philanthropies, served as the impact producer for the 2018 documentary Eating Animals, winner of 2019 Environmental Media Association Documentary Award, highlighting the farmers, whistleblowers, and innovators who are advocating against factory farming.
  • Christi Metropole, founder and executive director of Stray Cat Alliance, has empowered hundreds of volunteers and thousands of community members to provide life-saving care and advocacy for more than 150,000 cats. SCA’s return to field programs have dramatically reduced cat intake and euthanasia at Long Beach and Orange County shelters and the group raised a record setting $266K as the first prize winner in the Fund the Shelters Challenge.
  • California State Senate Majority Leader Robert Hertzberg, who authored SB 258, led the effort to create a $5 million grant program in the 2019-2020 budget to encourage shelters to offer care for pets of Californians experiencing homelessness.
  • Speaker of the California State Assembly Anthony Rendon is a longtime champion of animals, the environment, and our communities. As speaker, he focuses on support for his colleagues’ legislation, including animal welfare bills such as this year’s AB 44 (Friedman) to ban the sale of fur in California. His personal legislative history extends to his first year as Assembly member when he authored the bill AB 711 to ban toxic lead hunting ammunition, a major source of lead poisoning in wildlife and humans.

“We’re honored to host Michelson Found Animals’ 8th annual gala and humbled to work beside these amazing animal welfare leaders to make a positive change in the lives of all animals,” said Alya Michelson, singer-songwriter and philanthropist. “I was incredibly moved by Eating Animals, and it was a privilege to present the award to Simone Friedman to commend the strides the film made in raising awareness around the consequences of factory farming.”

“I am honored to be recognized with this award, and very proud of our NBC and Telemundo owned stations for making Clear The Shelters a national campaign that has a big impact in our communities and on the lives of so many deserving animals,” said Staab. “With the support of our shelter partners, sponsors, Michelson Found Animals and many others, our campaign has helped to inspire change and save countless animal lives across the country.”

“I am so appreciative that Michelson Found Animals is highlighting the destructive role that industrialized animal agriculture plays in the well-being of the planet and all who inhabit it,” said Friedman.




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