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 Lowcounty to ride horses competitively with the 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.
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. Kelsey held one of these educational events at the SPCA Albrecht Center in October, where we saw a wonderful turnout of animal advocates across the CSRA.
“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.”
While meeting with the state’s advocates, Kelsey quickly learned that her state was concerned with four main animal welfare issues: the strength and enforcement of animal cruelty laws, the overpopulation of pets, how we can become a no kill state, and 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.
Kelsey shares some of the same concerns as the communities she visited. When asked about the animal issues she’s most passionate about, she responded, “Coming to a no kill state in South Carolina, where no adoptable animals are euthanized, that’s really important to me. Humane Education at an early, early level is [also] important, where we’re able to teach children compassion and love for other living things. And then, environmental preservation.”
Kelsey believes all of these things are attainable with the help of the passionate, animal-lovers in the state. In addition to the people being Kelsey’s favorite part of her new job, she also thinks they are the state’s biggest strength, “We had a great turnout for the grassroots meetings across the state. I had other State Directors asking me, ‘How did you get so many people to come?’ And, I think [it’s because] we have a lot of passionate people.”
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 ‘new blood’ and new communities in the state that will bring about fresh ideas and change for the betterment of our state’s animals. Just as Kelsey is excited to start working with South Carolina’s advocates, we’re equally excited to work with South Carolina’s newest powerhouse!
Kelsey welcomes any comments, criticisms, ideas and/or feedback. You can contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at (843) 494-8794.
The Humane Society of the United States is a national animal welfare organization that is recognized for their many lifesaving efforts. HSUS provides direct care for animals in need, passes animal protection laws, ensures existing laws are being enforced, helps corporations reform their animal welfare policies, and educates the public through awareness and investigations. Recently, they have been massively involved with saving animals from the California wildfires and were integral in the lifesaving efforts following Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael. The SPCA does not receive funding from HSUS, or any other national or government organization, but we are proud to work alongside HSUS to help push our state towards a brighter future for our animals.
To learn more about HSUS and their successes, please visit www.humanesociety.org.