From Laws to Paws
By: Jennifer Wu and Livia Zhao
A savior, an idol, and an animal whisperer—Mirah Horowitz, director of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue and Kauai Humane Society, resembles the warrior archetype of a modern Wonder Woman. Her dedication to animal welfare earned her a spot as a distinguished member of the rescue community.
However, Horowitz was not always part of the animal welfare scene. With a strong background in law and public service, she has been making contributions to society since before she founded Lucky Dog Animal Rescue.
“I was a law clerk on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and I clerked for Justice Breyer on the Supreme Court, and there’s no greater honor than [having] that window into how the world works and to be contributing to something that you really believe in,” Horowitz said.
As she began to be more involved with the law field, Horowitz felt compelled to follow the traditional route of her peers.
“I tried to get a job in the Senate, and they said you need to go to a law firm and practice actual law before coming here. I did it, and I was not happy. That was the only time I made a decision based on what I should do, [not] what I really wanted to do.” Horowitz felt uneasy about working in a job that she was not passionate about, so she decided to forge a new path for herself instead.
“I had the opportunity to go into executive recruitment to recruit executives of nonprofits. That gave me a look into how nonprofits run and how they need an effective leader.”
While journeying through her professional career, Horowitz became a volunteer at a local animal shelter which allowed her to develop a vision of what a responsible rescue center should be.
“The decision to start Lucky Dog came out of an idea… that focusing on both the people side of things and the animal side of things was really the way to make an organization truly successful.”
With her extensive knowledge of nonprofit leadership, Horowitz was able to turn Lucky Dog into the thriving organization it is today. However, Lucky Dog is not like the typical rescue center.
“I really wanted Lucky Dog to be...responsive and supportive… We were one of the very first organizations in the D.C. area to say ‘if twelve people applied for the dog Jojo, [and] there’s only one Jojo, you eleven others that didn’t get Jojo [can] let us help you find a dog,’ rather than saying ‘Sorry you eleven other people, find another picture you like on the internet.’”
This matchmaking system is not the only unique aspect of Lucky Dog. The organization runs on a foster-based model, which houses all the animals in volunteer homes across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC.
Due to its success, Lucky Dog is able to save animals from high-kill shelters across the United States from North Carolina to Puerto Rico. Although COVID-19 has restricted travel, Lucky Dog still operates relatively smoothly because it was already virtually based.
"The decision to start Lucky Dog came out of an idea… that focusing on both the people side of things and the animal side of things was really the way to make an organization truly successful.” - Mirah Horowitz, director of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue and Kauai Humane Society
Since Lucky Dog was founded in 2009, Horowitz has been the executive director, and she has loved every minute of it.
“On January 20th of 2019, Southwest Airlines donated a 737. We put 14,400 pounds of cargo on that plane… We flew down to Puerto Rico and unloaded [all those animal supplies] and loaded up 62 animals… and flew back. That really was one of the coolest things I have done in my entire life.”
Along with working at Lucky Dog, Horowitz serves as the executive director of the Kauai Humane Society in the state of Hawaii. Despite the long commute, she manages to run both organizations efficiently.
“[Before COVID-19], I spent two weeks in Hawaii, 10 days in DC, and balanced with my family in California and that worked really well for me. With COVID…both organizations had to completely change how they did all their operations. And there were a couple of weeks where I would get up at 5 in the morning and work all day and then collapse and [repeat the next day].”
Horowitz took over at Kauai Humane Society at a time when
the organization was in desperate need of a leader.
Horowitz claimed this role through her hard work, and she restored the less than reputable shelter.
“The organization was nearly bankrupt, had very high euthanasia rates, and had a really terrible reputation… [but] we have really turned that around. Our live release rate for dogs is well over 90 percent; for cats, it’s getting to a consistent over 80 percent… The community is starting to see the changes we were able to accomplish.”
Although being the director of two organizations is challenging, she balances her work life and personal life with grace. Of course, everyone still needs to take a breather. For Horowitz, her favorite things to do to calm her mind are exercising and reading.
Despite the difficulties, she still perseveres because she truly loves her job. Her dedication serves as an inspiration to everyone in the workplace. No matter the profession, a piece of advice she carries with her is from her father.
“As long as when you wake up in the morning and you’re excited to get out of bed, you’re doing the right thing.”