Friends speak up for pets in local shelters

Ira and Vanni with two other people and a mascot wearing a cowboy hat with the word "Texas"
Meet two 2025 Action Team volunteers in Weslaco, Texas, committed to saving pets in their community.
By Kelli Harmon

Ira and Vanni’s friendship has been going strong since 2011 when they met in high school. They have always liked doing things like shopping, dancing, and going to movies together — pretty standard friend activities. But recently, they dove into something new together: spending their free time talking to strangers about what’s happening at their local animal shelter.

Both have always loved animals, and both were moved to take action when they learned that 7 out of 10 animals who enter their local shelter in Weslaco, Texas, are killed.

[An enormous thank-you to Best Friends volunteers]

Kaitlyn Simmons, Best Friends senior manager of grassroots advocacy, says, “It's very common for people not to know anything about their local animal shelter — not know where it is, not know if animals are being adopted out or killed.”

All it took was for Ira and Vanni to learn the situation at their local shelter and that city officials weren’t taking steps to change it.

They signed up to join other local volunteers to make sure that others in the community knew what was going on and to let decision-makers at the city know they disagreed.

Volunteer advocates for animals

“I have always been a volunteer,” Ira says. And when she saw her local shelter’s data, she says, “I was in shock … so I decided to volunteer because animals don’t have a voice. I decided to be a voice for them.”

She and Vanni have been tireless and dedicated advocates in a grassroots campaign in their city. Recently, Best Friends organized efforts in Weslaco, and that’s how Carol Reyes, Best Friends grassroots advocacy manager, met the two friends.

“All our advocates are incredible and stand out in their own ways,” Carol says. And what stands out about Ira and Vanni is the passion they have brought to the effort in their community.

[2025 Action Team: Grassroots advocacy on steroids]

“They have gone above and beyond in the short time since they joined this effort,” Carol says. They worked at an informational booth at a local festival from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. They talked to countless people and collected signatures at the booth and by walking all around the event venue to reach as many people as they could.

The result was a big stack of signed postcards from people in support of changing things at the shelter. The messages were dropped off at city hall and coincided with a city council meeting, which both Ira and Vanni attended. A job well done.

A growing movement for animals

Kaitlyn says that what’s happening in Weslaco, and what Vanni and Ira are doing, is grassroots advocacy at its finest. “It’s the people of Weslaco standing up and advocating for change in their community.” And the number of people standing up is growing, with more showing up at every event and new faces every time.

Vanni says, “I feel deep down that we can make Weslaco city no-kill for animals. We all have to keep speaking out about the problem.”

And if approaching strangers sounds intimidating, Ira advises to try it anyway. “Do it. Volunteering is the best thing you can do. You get to be part of making a difference in the community, and you get to meet amazing people.”

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