BY CLAIRE R. GRIMES
FROM A SMALL SOUTH DAKOTA TOWN, Kelsey Gilmore-Futeral spent her upbringing surrounded by dogs, riding horses and discovering her love for animals. She always had a passion for companion animals, but a high school tour of a hog slaughterhouse turned her love for animals into full-on advocacy for all living beings.
After high school, Kelsey moved to the Lowcountry to ride horses competitively on College of Charleston’s equestrian team and went on to the Charleston School of Law, where she started the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.
With a law degree in hand, Kelsey went on to work as an attorney. It wasn’t until she learned of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) that she realized she could turn her growing passion into a career. “I learned of the Humane Society and the upper-level advocacy and policy-making decisions that they were helping to influence. That’s when I understood that I could have a career in something that would benefit animals, that wasn’t necessarily veterinary science or shelter work,” Kelsey recalls.
Late last summer, Kelsey jumped at the chance to mix her advocacy work with her already stellar career in law, and was hired as HSUS’s new South Carolina State Director.
CHANGE FOR ANIMALS
Kelsey has been working to bring about change for animals through policy change and law, “The work that the shelters do to save individual lives is so impactful for those individual animals, but if you can make a policy change that prevents those animals from ever needing care in the first place, that’s what makes change through law and policy in the legal field so enticing.”
Kelsey’s first order of business as the new State Director was to tour South Carolina and host grassroots meetings in numerous communities across the state. The meeting, appropriately called “Turning Compassion Into Action in Your Community,” was Kelsey’s first chance to meet the state’s advocates and hear about the issues they cared most about.
“The people have been the best part of it,” she says, “I was absolutely blown away by the passion, the compassion and the energy in all of these different communities. It’s so inspiring.”
WHAT KELSEY FOUND
While meeting with the state’s advocates, Kelsey quickly learned that her state was concerned with four main animal welfare issues:
- Animal cruelty laws
- Pet overpopulation
- Becoming a No Kill state
- Animal fighting
During Kelsey’s tour, she helped our concerned citizens understand how they can best help fix these issues, “The most important thing is to be a voice. The animals that we love and care about don’t have a voice for themselves and that’s where the advocates come in.”
Kelsey urges her fellow advocates to call on their city and county council members to make changes or volunteer at their local animal shelter. “It really depends on the needs of the community and the passion of the advocate. We’re all most effective when we’re doing something that we love. There’s no impact too small,” Kelsey explains.
In regards to what Kelsey believes the state needs to work on, she hopes to see state animal welfare laws get passed more easily, “I understand it can be a little challenging to get some state laws passed. I’m not sure I quite understand why that is yet, but I know that’s something I’ll be working on.”
Overall, Kelsey is most excited for all of the fresh ideas she heard on how to improve the lives of South Carolina animals. As she gets rolling in her new job, all of us will be cheering her on as South Carolina’s newest animal advocate powerhouse!
Kelsey welcomes any comments and feedback. You can contact her via email at email@example.com, or by phone at (843) 494-8794.