About a decade ago, Peters Township resident Faith Bjalobok decided to care for one of the many horses that was seized in an abuse case.
Today, Annie is thriving on the Nottingham Township farm where Bjalobok keeps rescued animals.
“My horse has gained over 1,400 pounds. That’s how thin she was,” the longtime animal rights activist said. “But it gets expensive.”
To provide assistance on behalf of animals that are victims or cruelty or otherwise seriously injured, Bjalobok has spearheaded an effort to form the nonprofit Washington Abused Animal Relief Fund.
With support from Tom Flickinger, Washington County treasurer, the fund has been established to receive donations that will go toward providing reimbursement for medical expenses.
“She was passionate about the cause,” he said about Bjalobok, “and I felt that I needed to listen to the taxpayers of the county and assist them where I can to achieve their dreams. When I was elected as treasurer, I kept my promise and helped her to create and support WAARF, and I now serve on its board.”
He is treasurer, and Bjalobok is president of the 501©(3) entity, which is registered with state Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations. County Commissioner Nick Sherman serves as vice president.
Also integral to the fund are two veterinarians, Dr. Mary Ann Bender and Dr. Paul Volz, and attorney Hal Kestler, who is handling the legal work.
To finance the fund, Washington County residents who purchase pet licensed are asked if they would like to make a donation. And members of the general public, of course, are welcome to contribute on behalf of their animal friends.
“In addition, I’m going to look for grants to increase the fund and ask people I know if they want to donate,” Bjalobok said.
The county treasurer’s office will receive all voluntary contributions and hold those funds in a separate account. Established animal shelters and animal caregivers can apply for reimbursement for direct-patient medical care costs exceeding $500.
“In addition, we’re going to cover dogs working for police departments and fire departments,” Bjalobok said, including after they “retire.”
An adjunct lecturer at Duquesne University, where she earned her doctorate in philosophy, Bjalobok is the founder of another animal-oriented nonprofit: The Fluffyjean Fund for Felines, an all-volunteer, low-cost program to spay and neuter cats. She said Fluffyjean would not be eligible for WAARF money.
In regard to cats, she also has shown her diligence on behalf of animals by caring for one that ended up having 10 blood transfusions to battle health issues.
“I used to have to take it to Ohio State to get a blood transfusion. Drive at night, come back and teach and then go pick it up,” she said.
In the academic field, applied ethics is a major area of interest for Bjalobok, specifically animal rights, and she teaches a Philosophy of Animals course at Duquesne. She has contributed writings to multiple publications addressing the topic, and is a frequent speaker at animal law conferences.
She has been working on establishing a rescue fund in her home county for quite a while, and she expressed plenty of gratitude to Flickinger for bringing the effort to fruition.
“If you help the rescues and reimburse them, then there will be more money to help more animals,” she said. “And that’s all I’m really interested in doing.”
Donations to the Washington Abused Animal Relief Fund can be sent to the Treasurer’s Office, 100 W. Beau St., Suite 102D, Washington Pa. 15301. The office is working on creating a WAARF web page.