January 21, 2022

MSSPA celebrates 150 years of helping horses

Tater Tot meets his new friend Windy River
at the Maine State society for the Protection
of Animals in Windham.
By Elizabeth Richards

This year, 2022, marks the 150th year of operation for the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals (MSSPA).

The non-profit organization was originally formed in 1872 to provide after care services for the horses that pulled fire engines and streetcars in Portland, said Assistant CEO Kathy Woodbrey. When the gasoline engine eliminated the need for horses to do that kind of work, the society had several years of relative inactivity, though Woodbrey said old correspondence shows that the society supported the Animal Refuge League during those years.

“In the 1970s, we had a re-energized effort from the modern-day founder Lawrence Keddy and Marilyn Gaudreau,” Woodbrey said.

Keddy purchased 124 acres of land in Windham from the State of Maine and gifted it to the MSSPA, where the society relocated.

“We’re very fortunate to sit on property that is owned by the non–profit,” Woodbrey said. The mission of the organization is “to protect the health and welfare of neglected and abused equines.”

Under the direction of a robust board, the MSSPA has continued to grow and thrive.  In 2018, a capital expansion led to the next big change: the building of onsite administrative offices and an indoor training facility. 

“In Maine when it’s icy, snowy, rainy, muddy, it really can hinder our ability to have consistent training for the shelter horses,” Woodbrey said.

The training the horses receive is an important component in preparing them for adoption. 

“The better behaved the animal is for both the veterinarian and a farrier, it makes them more appealing adoption candidates,” said Woodbrey.

The organization hopes to have an event to celebrate their history sometime this summer, Woodbrey said, which in light of the COVID-19 pandemic feels like the safest time of year to do so.  If that isn’t possible, she added, they’ll get creative in finding ways to include people in a virtual celebration.  Though that’s all still “to be determined,” the MSSPA has kicked off a social media campaign including historic photos and highlights of their 150 years of operation.

The organization is also tying the 150th anniversary to their Horse Heroes giving program, where donors commit to a regular monthly donation of any amount. 

“We would like to have 150 horse heroes to celebrate 150 years,” Woodbrey said.

There are many ways the public can support the MSSPA, Woodbrey said. 

Volunteering, networking on behalf of the organization to share the story of the work they do, and both financial and in-kind donations are some ways people can get involved. While some volunteers come to help clean barns and paddocks, others help by repairing fences and doing other projects, like building a “horse teeter totter,” Woodbrey said.

“People bring so many different talents and we’re happy to access that for the animals,” she said.

In the coming years, Woodbrey said, the organization will stay true to the core mission of serving at-risk and neglected/abused animals in the State of Maine.  They have recently developed a five-year strategic plan, which includes considering adding some walking trails on 30 wooded acres, sustained financial growth, and networking and advocating to raise awareness of the work they do. 

One important aspect of the organization is that when animals are brought in by law enforcement, whether through the state or municipalities, there is no charge for any of their services.

 “I think that speaks to why some of the individuals support the program,” Woodbrey said.

A recent Facebook post highlighted key accomplishments of the MSSPA in 2021, which included providing services to 158 horses; adopting out 27 horses, including 9 members of the “neglected 20” herd the farm took in last July; raising over $838,000 in financial contributions and $65,000 worth of goods and services donated; over 7,000 hours of work from 142 volunteers; and participation by more than 1,750 individuals in programs, including scheduled visits and field trips.

For information about upcoming 150th-anniversary programming and events, follow MSSPA on Facebook or Instagram, or sign up for email updates at msspa.org/email-list. <

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