Have you ever believed strongly enough about an issue to pick up the phone, write a letter or email, attend a meeting, and do something about it?
And then stick with it for say, 70 years. You do if it improves the lives and welfare of the animals you love.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with a few extraordinary people, but none more accomplished than the woman from the north shore who now lives in Baton Rouge, Holly Reynolds.
Jeff Dorson, executive director of the Humane Society of Louisiana, says, “Holly is by far the greatest animal rights advocate in the state.”
In 1953, Holly Frederick Reynolds started the first Humane Society in St. Tammany. In 1983, we worked together in the Legislature to pass the state’s first dogfighting law — and make it a felony.
Animal advocacy wasn’t Reynolds’ occupation. She graduated from LSU with a master’s degree in recreation in 1941 — when fewer than 4% of American women had more than 4 years of college.
Holly worked full-time for Mandeville State Hospital from 1953-1973, then Jackson State Hospital from 1973-1977.
Holly found out that Baton Rouge SPCA went out of business so she moved to the capital city and asked The Advocate’s Smiley Anders for help in starting a humane society. In 1979, Reynolds started Capital Area Animal Welfare Society (CAAWS), the first no-kill shelter.
Nancy Mulhern, a volunteer with CAAWS says, “There is an ease, an openness about Holly because she is such a positive person. She believes both in her cause of helping needy animals and in the willingness of other people to help when asked. Her enthusiasm is contagious and her approach to others might be more ‘How would you like to help?’ rather than, ’Will you help?’”
In 1997, to make sure that her work continues, she established and generously funded the Holly Frederick Reynolds Support Foundation for Animal Welfare. “I’m not getting any younger, you know!” she said with a smile.
Her foundation contributes annually to many animal welfare groups. Recently, Holly requested $5,000 from her foundation to purchase pet food for pet owners impacted by COVID-19 since local food banks were unable to stock and pass out pet food. Then Holly asked CAAWS to handle the distribution. “Ours was the first organization to do this,” she said.
Don’t think for a minute that with so many accomplishments, Holly Reynolds is ready to retire: “As I get older and older, I realize that God might have something more for me to do.”
So, if you are a Louisiana legislator, expect some lobbying in the upcoming session from the state’s oldest animal welfare activist, still working for the animals she loves. At 102, Holly Reynolds is supporting House Bill 223 sponsored by Rep. Matthew Willard, of New Orleans. It’s some needed clarification of what constitutes a proper animal shelter.
HB 223 amends the present definition of "proper shelter" to mean an upright, weather-resistant structure with three walls, an opening, a roof, and a floor. The proper shelter shall be free of waste and standing water, and sufficient in size for an animal to stand in an upright position, turn around, and make normal posturing positions.
And don’t worry about any problems from the administration on this one. Holly knows Gov. John Bel Edwards from an animal welfare bill signing a few years ago. When Edwards found out a 98-year-old animal welfare activist was present, he asked to meet her.
Holly’s probably already lobbying the governor already to make sure he’ll sign HB 223 when it’s finally passed.
Email Garey Forster at Garey.Forster@gmail.com.