Meris Bickford received the EQUUS Foundation Humanitarian Award at the Pegasus Awards Dinner on January 12, 2023 during the US Equestrian Annual Meeting in Lexington, Kentucky. The EQUUS Foundation and the United States Equestrian Federation established the Humanitarian Award in 2009 to honor a member of the equestrian world who has devoted considerable personal time to making the quality of life of our equine partners paramount.
In accepting the award, Bickford said, “I am humbled at being individually recognized for the accomplishments of so many dedicated volunteers, staff, donors and equines. Safeguarding the welfare of our equines will require all of us to collaborate in the years ahead.”
At the peak of her professional success, Meris Bickford left a lively, lucrative career as a lawyer, trust administrator, and President of the Maine State Bar Association to rescue a rescue.
A graduate of the University of Maine and its Law School, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the National Judicial College and the New England School of Banking, her visionary leadership would be an asset to any organization, but it was the financially-failing Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals – MSSPA – that was blessed with her remarkable talents.
When Bickford was first introduced to MSSPA in 2005, she was surprised to learn that the facility had acquired over 100 horses and dozens of cats, dogs, pigs, goats, and other animals but was not making an organized effort to prepare the animals for adoption. After analyzing the organization, she also concluded that the MSSPA would be bankrupt within 24 months, leaving hundreds of animals without care, feed or a place to live.
Bickford stepped in and worked with the existing management to restructure the organization with a focus on adoptions as well as building the endowment. The adoption effort has grown from zero in 2007 to 32 in 2022. The MSSPA is poised to increase the number of adoptions again in 2023.
The MSSPA takes in horses subjected to abuse or neglect, some of which have been removed from owners by law enforcement agents.
The horses are then rehabilitated, trained or retrained as necessary, and offered for adoption. Adopted horses are followed for life and may always return to the shelter if necessary.
Equines not able to be placed remain in the Society’s sanctuary program for the balance of their natural lives.
Under her leadership, the MSSPA also facilitates programs that help prevent horses from entering the rescue pipeline – The Feed & Care Bank and The Maine Horse Matchmaker – and has partnerships with shelters and equine rescues throughout the Northeast.
Bickford retired in January passing the reins to a dedicated management team having successfully established MSSPA as a leader in animal rescue and rehabilitation and leaving an endowment of nearly $10 million to ensure helping equines now and in the future.
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ABOUT EQUUS FOUNDATION: The EQUUS Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity established in 2002, is the only national animal welfare charity in the United States 100% dedicated to protecting America’s horses from peril and strengthening the bond between people and horses. Donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. Contact the EQUUS Foundation, Inc., at 168 Long Lots Road, Westport, CT 06880, Tele: (203) 259-1550, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.equusfoundation.org.
ABOUT THE UNITED STATES EQUESTRIAN FEDERATION: Established in 1917, the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), the governing body of equestrian sport in the United States, is dedicated bringing the joy of horse sports to as many people as possible. Learn more about the USEF at www.usequestrian.org.
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Contact: Lynn Coakley