Education: Masters of Science in Speech and Hearing Sciences, specializing in audiology, University of Southern Mississippi.
How many years with the organization? 23 years
A career change from running an audiology department at the Ochsner Foundation to starting an animal advocacy organization is a leap of faith. Lynn Chiche made that jump 24 years ago.
While the career change may have seemed radical, the roots of it came from Chiche’s childhood in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where her family had a lot of pets and she got her love of animals.
It was 1998 when she “decided to make animal rescue her life’s work” after she learned how many healthy animals were being euthanized in area shelters. Chiche co-founded Southern Animal Foundation that year before co-founding SpayMart in 1999 with Pam Casey.
SpayMart’s mission is to eliminate unnecessary euthanasia in southeast Louisiana by offering adoption programs and proactive spay/neuter initiatives. SpayMart’s community programs have saved the lives of thousands of homeless animals.
Among Chiche’s awards are the Civic Award of the Year (2014) by the Alliance for Good Government – Jefferson Parish Chapter for her outstanding work in animal welfare and the Health Hero Award (2018) from City Business for work benefiting homeless animals in the Greater New Orleans area and Gulf Coast Region.
SpayMart, spaymart.org, 504-454-8200; 6601 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie; Kitten Foster program with PetSmart #1023, 1000 S. Clearview Parkway, Harahan; Shelter in Picayune, Mississippi.
Tell us what your organization does.
SpayMart’s mission is to eliminate the need for unnecessary euthanasia of animals in Southeast Louisiana. We will achieve these goals through:
• Affordable spay/neuter initiatives, including TNVR (Trap/Neuter/Vaccinate/Return)
• Access to veterinary care to underserved communities
• Robust adoption programs
• Pet owner retention services
What has been the most memorable moment at the organization?
Like everyone else in southern Louisiana, I will never forget the devastation Hurricane Katrina brought to our community. There were so many animals left homeless and we were out in the streets picking up lost and injured animals in the immediate aftermath, despite the authorities’ directives to remain in place. We had a facility in Mississippi that had been left unscathed and we provided shelter, food, veterinary care and love to hundreds of animals who had nowhere else to go.
What is something about your organization that people most likely do not know about?
SpayMart was created to provide low-cost spay/neuter services to the Greater New Orleans community. Before Hurricane Katrina hit, we had a property on the east bank, a building, and nearly all the equipment needed to begin. Katrina altered our course. First, we lost everything — building, equipment, etc. But second, the clear need in the community was search, rescue and shelter. We’ve been following that path for more than 15 years but now we are refocusing on our original intent. Look for a temporary clinic on Airline Drive by the end of this year. And then expect a more permanent structure in the future!
Is there a person (or mentor) that inspired you? If so, how?
The person who inspired me to make a difference in the lives of homeless animals is Esther Meckler Grant, president of United Spay Alliance. She was the one who made me aware of the plight of so many homeless animals and was among the first to recognize and promote the only solution to the animal overpopulation crisis: spaying and neutering every animal and making this service accessible to every segment of every community, regardless of income.
Is there a book, movie and/or moment (s) that changed your life?
My greatest “aha moment” was when I heard a lecture about animal welfare in the early days of my journey in the field. A professor of veterinary medicine at Louisiana State University spoke to a group of aspiring leaders and told us, “We will never adopt, rescue or transport our way out of the pet overpopulation crisis in our country. Those efforts are fruitless.Spay/neuter is the only answer.” That was the moment I decided I was going to focus on someday opening a spay/neuter clinic. I am happy to say that “someday” is almost here!
What are you reading now?
Business plans from other successful spay/neuter clinics.
What is your idea of New Orleans bliss?
My idea of New Orleans bliss is a day in the future when we have no more homeless pets and we can enjoy gardening in our courtyards, listening to some great jazz and spending time with friends doing something other than rescuing animals!
My secret ambition is to retire to spend more time with my amazing husband and personal pets once SpayMart’s veterinary clinic is built and running successfully.