Megan Henderson, giving animals a voice.
Updated: Jan 12, 2019
We sat down with Charlottean Megan who is making a difference in the animal welfare world by creating awareness of rescues and shelters that are overburdened with animals in need. Sadly, these organizations rarely have adequate funding. Megan is truly making a remarkable impact in animal welfare in North Carolina by being a champion for homeless and unwanted animals.
When did animal welfare hit your radar?
Super early. Ever since I can remember, I knew I was here to help animals. As a child, my loving parents allowed us to keep animals we found or animals that needed a home. By the time I was 13, my awareness and compassion for animals was so heightened that I refused to dissect the frog in science class, and at age 16, did not dissect a shark in AP marine biology class. I chose to use training models and was fortunate to have supportive teachers and classmates who helped me learn the course material. I passed both classes!
They say never forget where you are from. What are your thoughts about Kinston?
I will never forget Hurricane Fran, and the wrath of flood Floyd that followed in 1999. It nearly destroyed Eastern NC and my hometown. Say what you want about Kinston, NC, but some of the finest people are from there and still live there, two of whom are my parents.
What's the tale of Seabiscuit?
In 2004, East Kinston was pretty much non-existent and most of the homes were condemned as a result of Floyd. A worker in the area noticed a dog that was somehow wrapped around a tree, and he called animal control—said he had seen the dog for a couple of weeks, but the dog ran so fast that he couldn’t catch him. The animal control officer went to pick up the dog, and ended up rescuing Lenoir County’s worst case of animal abuse at that time. Not only was the dog emaciated, covered in fleas and dirt, dragging a tow truck chain, but his collar was embedded into his neck so deep it had to be surgically removed. The dog was taken to the vet and processed by the Lenoir County SPCA. He was given a 50-50 chance of survival. That’s when angel #2, a former SPCA board member, stepped into the picture. She called the SPCA and said she would pay the vet bills for the dog if Donna and Jerry Henderson adopted him. And that’s how angel #3, my Daddy, came to know and love our family dog, Seabiscuit— Biscuit for short.
Dad called and told me the story, and I headed home. I remember walking into our kitchen and there was a fire in the fireplace. Lying there on the hearth was a skinny dog with a mound of white, patchy fur, half a tail, and a ring of stitches around his neck. He looked pitiful. But he lifted his head—a sign he was a fighter and wanted to live. Daddy would go to the shelter each day, pick up Biscuit, and bring him home for 30 minutes (because that was all the vet would allow because he was so weak). When 30 minutes was up, Dad would drive Biscuit back to the shelter and tell him he would see him tomorrow. And he did this everyday for a month, until Biscuit was strong enough to come home.
In July 2016, Biscuit crossed the Rainbow Bridge. For 12 years, Biscuit was a big part of our family. He was such a good boy and we shared a bond, but nothing like the bond he and my daddy shared. Biscuit and Dad were best friends.
How is your family involved with the SPCA?
Through marrying my mom and adopting Biscuit, Dad became active in animal welfare. Since 2007, he has served as President of the Lenoir County SPCA. Talk about one proud daughter! He has devoted his time and talents to this organization, and with the support of the board of directors and volunteers, they have done great work for the homeless and unwanted animals of Lenoir County. But it’s a daily struggle. The building is old. There is not enough space for all of the animals that are surrendered or found. And resources are limited. So the SPCA is currently in the midst of a capital campaign to raise enough money to build a new, state-of-the-art animal shelter! In dad’s words, “They deserve better than what we have to offer right now.”
Nothing will bring our Biscuit back, or all the other ‘Biscuits’ out there. But building and financing a new shelter and in rural NC will make a difference. I launched an online campaign using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, in honor of Biscuit. Since the launch, I have personally raised nearly $13,000 to support the construction and operation of this new shelter. To contribute to the shelter, please visit Biscuit’s campaign on Paypal. No amount is too small, and donations go directly to the Lenoir County SPCA’s capital campaign for a new animal shelter. #BiscuitLives.
Tell us about the soon-to-be new shelter:
The board of directors are finalizing site plans/blueprints for the facility and hope to be obtaining bids for developers by the end of the month. Groundbreaking will begin as soon as a development partner is selected, and I will start phase 2 of my fundraising initiative for a new facility that will increase the resources and capabilities that the shelter offers the community.
Why and how are you involved with so many rescues and county shelters?
Animals need help—someone to be a voice for them. And helping animals is my calling. I work closely with a number of rescue organizations, shelters, good samaritans and friends to network and match pets with forever homes. Financially, I sponsor animals’ vet visits and treatments to attract the attention of reputable rescues (rescues cannot afford expensive vet visits for every animal they save), donate money to various rescue groups and shelters, and help with transportation of animals to and from where they are to where they need to be. If a rescue, shelter or individual has a pet that needs a home, I network the animal via my social channels, contacts and connections and try to find the forever home that is the match for human and animal. And most importantly, I foster. To prepare animals for their forever homes, I love them and teach them the basics to help make the transition smoother. So far in 2018, I have found homes for 32 animals in need. My pets are rescues, Walter the cat and Raleigh the dog.
Politically, how are you taking action?
Education and outreach are critical to helping people understand the truth about pet overpopulation and how it impacts rescues, shelters and animal control. I am a proud member of global, national, statewide, and regional campaigns focused on saving animals, animal welfare and eradicating animal cruelty. I am active in Animal Legal Defense Fund, Best Friends Animal Society, Show Your Soft Side – all respected groups making positive changes in the lives of animals. By way of public speaking, letter writing, lobbying, sponsorships and engagement in countless Facebook groups and social media platforms, my calling is to be a voice for the voiceless. My job is to educate and advocate for stronger legislation statewide and nationally to protect animals.
Why do we need more foster homes in Charlotte?
Fostering saves lives, actually two lives at once. By fostering, you help an animal in immediate need of rescue, and make space for the next animal coming in. There is never a lull and shelters and rescues are over capacity and need help. My hope is to expand my reach in the Charlotte area and identify some loving foster families who could house animals (cats, dogs, kittens and puppies) for a few weeks until more permanent solutions are available. Added value is when a foster fails…and adopts the animal they were ‘babysitting’ temporarily.
Have you always been a Carolinian?
I am a proud Eastern North Carolinian, originally from Kinston—yes, home of the PBS show A Chef’s Life, home of LA Lakers’ Brandon Ingram, and resting place of Biscuit Henderson, the dog who continues to make a difference in the lives of homeless and unwanted animals in Lenoir County.
I grew-up in Kinston, moved to Raleigh for college, was the owner of a successful public relations firm and called Raleigh home for 25 years until moving to the Queen City in 2015.
You have a close knit family. Can you share a little about them?
Growing up, my dad served as an executive at DuPont in safety, health and environmental affairs. As my brother and I got older, mom worked as an elementary school teacher and co-owned the most fabulous catering company. They have been and still are the perfect team, providing our family with loving foundations and opening their hearts and home to others along the way, including my ‘sister’ who came to live with us when she was 19. They raised her as a Henderson, and Dad even walked her down the aisle when she got married. To this day, I claim her as my sister and can’t wait for her to move from CA back to NC. I am who I am today because of my parents.
What motivates you to be so giving of your time, resources, and heart?
It’s the right thing to do. I am blessed and believe in giving back, paying it forward, and being a kind human being. Seeing results makes it all worthwhile. Saving one animal won’t change the world, but it will change the world for that one animal.
Any advice for those seeking a pet?
1. Adopt. Don’t shop. 2. Keep an open heart and mind.
What’s up with the sparkles?
I love sparkles! I like bright shiny things—they make me happy. My nickname is Shiny Sparkles.
What are your social media accounts that you would like to share?
Twitter: SparkleMeg - @MHSparkles