Laura McConnell was a volunteer at an animal shelter in 2007 when she saw a yellow Lab that had already been stuck with a needle escape from a euthanasia room and die in front of her. When she asked why the seemingly healthy dog had been put down, she was told it was because the dog had not been vaccinated in time.
Nine years later, as the president of the Lone Star Animal Welfare League, McConnell and the rest of the organization’s board have rescued and found homes for more than 2,600 Labs and Lab mixes.
“Our tagline is, ‘Bettering the lives of our best friends,’ and that’s what we try to do,” McConnell said. “We saw the need for a Lab rescue group because there were so many big dogs—especially Labs—being euthanized in shelters because a lot of rescue groups don’t take the bigger dogs because vetting them is more expensive.”
Formerly known as The Woodlands Dog Park Club, LSAWL was established as a nonprofit in 2004 with the initial purpose of raising money for rescue groups to cover emergency veterinary costs.
Over the past decade, the organization has evolved into an animal welfare advocacy group through several different initiatives.
Through the Fixing Montgomery County program, LSAWL works to spay and neuter animals in the Greater Houston area at a reduced cost for families in need. To date, the organization has provided vouchers for more than 4,000 low-cost spays and neuters for cats and dogs as well as more than 2,000 vaccinations.
According to McConnell, on average, a spay or neuter surgery can cost $300-$400 per animal. LSAWL is able to provide vouchers for the same service for only $20.
“That’s the problem—I mean [the cost] is high,” McConnell said. “But it needs to get done because spaying/neutering is crucial in our area. If it’s not a high priority, we’re never going to decrease the number of animals coming into our shelters and being euthanized.”
LSAWL also provides $10 microchips, which can cost $35-$65, McConnell said.
For LSAWL’s Lab Rescue program, which began in 2007, organization members serve as foster families for animals prior to finding them a permanent home.
“We’re all about making sure that it’s the right fit for the right family,” McConnell said. “We do vet checks and home checks to make sure the house has proper fencing and to find out where the dog will sleep and stay all the time. We will absolutely not adopt any outside-only dogs—they have to be a member of the family.”
In addition to the organization’s own programs, LSAWL has fought for the welfare of animals in other local facilities.
According to McConnell, the Montgomery County Animal Shelter did not do any adoptions in 2004, so the only way animals could get out of the shelter was through rescue groups. In addition, the facility had a three-day holding limit, which resulted in a 90 percent kill rate.
“We fought for an adoption room to open, we fought for vaccinations on intake and we paid for a no-kill expert to come and do a review of the shelter in 2006,” McConnell said. “There were a lot of changes that happened because we were persistent.”
LSAWL also raised funds to build the dog park located behind the Montgomery County Animal Shelter.
Throughout the year, LSAWL hosts several fundraising events, such as the annual Mutts & Putts Open Golf Tournament, which took place June 27 and raised $20,000.
In 2016, Gillman Subaru North chose the organization as its local charity of choice during its Share the Love event. The dealership donated $16,000.
The next voucher day will take place July 30 at 19110 Unity Park Drive, Magnolia, and is sponsored by LSAWL, Texas Animal Society and Montgomery County Precinct 2.