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Interview with Dr. Rand Wachsstock, Founder of Compassion Animal Project

Holiday Barn Pet Resorts is honored to have been contacted by Dr. Rand Wachsstock, founder of Compassion Animal Project, to…

Interview with Dr. Rand Wachsstock

Holiday Barn Pet Resorts is honored to have been contacted by Dr. Rand Wachsstock, founder of Compassion Animal Project, to participate in the distribution of 25,000 pounds of pet food to those in need in our community. The Pop Up Pantry will take place on December 3, 2022, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at our Johnston Willis location. Families and individuals are welcome for the entirety of the event from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. ORGANIZATIONS can enter beginning at 1 p.m.

About Compassion Animal Project

There could not be a more appropriate name for this project. The Compassion Animal Project was born out of heart-felt compassion for animals whose owners were not able to bear the financial burden of a lifesaving medical treatment for their pet. As an accomplished Veterinarian, Dr. Wachsstock saw this all-too-common crisis repeated time and time again in his Veterinary Referral Center. His love and compassion for the animals and their owners led him to establish the Compassion Animal Project, a 100% donor funded, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. This grant helps pay for medical procedures for patients with an otherwise favorable outcome when emergency or specialized veterinary care is needed.

Dr. Rand Wachsstock has always had a profound compassion for animals. It is no surprise that he has devoted a lifelong endeavor to this purpose. He began practicing emergency veterinary medicine in 1984. During his remarkable career, he shared his knowledge and passion with others as an Instructor at Yale University and The University of Illinois (his alma mater). The Compassion Animal Project was the culmination of his 38 years of experience and benevolence, and he believes represents his life work of helping as many pets as possible.

We wanted to know more about Dr. Wachsstock, and the Compassion Animal Project and he was happy to answer some questions about the project, its foundation, and his vision for the future.

Holiday Barn: Could you share a story or two of how your organization helped an owner and their pet that really touched you and reinforced the purpose of your mission?

Dr. Wachsstock: We recently funded a case for Rocky Balboa, a 1.5-year-old cat. Rocky was originally rescued from Dubai and brought to live with his mom in the United States by a fellow international rescue volunteer! Not only was Tracy a devoted cat mom, she has spent several years traveling overseas to meet beloved animals and travel back together to the U.S. to reunite them with their service member pet parent. When she learned that Rocky Balboa needed surgery for a congenital defect of his liver and without it, Rocky would die before his third birthday, she did everything she could think of. By the time she was connected to us through our partner Veterinary Referral Associates, she had either been denied by or had not heard back from more than 10 organizations she reached out to hoping they would help fund Rocky’s lifesaving surgery. We were lucky number 11 and more than happy to fund the gap. To be able to help a pet parent devoted to reuniting other families with their loved pets through her volunteer work, is what we refer to at the Project as compassion in action. Today, Rocky Balboa is recovering comfortably and we can’t wait to see him back in the ring!

Holiday Barn: How has your outreach grown in the year since it was organized?

Dr. Wachsstock: A decade ago, the idea was very simple: save more animals. While I owned a referral center, Regional Veterinary Referral Center, in northern Virginia, we tried our best to help clients that came in and couldn’t afford the care their pets needed. It weighed heavily on the hearts and minds of myself and our team realizing that we had dedicated pet owners who would do anything they could – but couldn’t, for whatever reason, afford the financial burden facing them. We knew we had the skills to save them, but the financial resources weren’t there — and without the necessary care, pet parents had no choice but to euthanize a beloved member of their family. We had to do something. We started small — setting aside money in a fund to save those pets that had a good chance of survival (greater than 70%). Then, in 2016 I developed Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, sold my practice, went through extensive treatment and came out the other end with my health and an even deeper motivation to save as many pets as possible. Today, Compassion Animal Project is in 34 partner veterinary centers in 15 states, with two full time directors, and countless committed and talented volunteers.

Holiday Barn: How does a local company get national pet food chains to donate to the program?

Dr. Wachsstock: As a young nonprofit, our team is constantly searching for grants and other partnership opportunities. As a well-respected pet food manufacturer, Royal Canin naturally made the list of companies we wanted to reach out to! They’ve committed to backing us with quarterly pet food donations. This will allow us to take the pop-up pet food pantry across the country and collaborate with our veterinary partners and other communities in need.

Holiday Barn: How did you choose Holiday Barn as a participant in this event?

Dr. Wachsstock: As you can imagine, our family has a menagerie of loved dogs. For the past six years my family and I have used Holiday Barn frequently not only to board our eight dogs, but also for your training services. Over the years, I’ve developed a great relationship with Dickie Martinson, the Barn’s lead trainer. As a Richmond business with an excellent reputation in the community, partnering with Holiday Barn to help us distribute 25,000 pounds of dog food was a natural fit.

Holiday Barn: What are your future goals for the “Compassion Animal Project”?

Dr. Wachsstock: Our ultimate vision is to create a world where no pet owner ever lets finances be a determining factor in the health or wellbeing of their pets. To accomplish that, we’re working hard to build a nationwide network of referral centers where people in need of emergency, critical, and specialized veterinary medicine can access our grant funding to keep their family together. Our goal is that no family ever has to choose euthanasia for their pet who would otherwise live a long and healthy life with the necessary treatment.

Holiday Barn: How can others help you achieve your goals?

Dr. Wachsstock: Compassion Animal Project is a 100% donor-funded nonprofit. To save the most pets, we rely on the generosity of donors to help us fund the critical medical intervention that our pet parents can’t otherwise afford. While there will always be a financial need, there are several other ways for people to get involved — whether that is through volunteering, hosting their own fundraisers, or even something as simple as sharing one of our Facebook posts with their network! Ultimately, we want everyone to feel like Compassion Animal Project is a community where all pet owners and pet lovers look out for each other as we fight to keep families together.

Connect with Compassion Animal Project


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