Elizabeth Shafiroff: International Animal Rights Champion

Elizabeth Shafiroff
Elizabeth Shafiroff

While it’s not uncommon for a person to hear a calling in their early 20s, some, like Elizabeth Shafiroff, heard her calling to a cause. After 15 years of leading the next generation of animal advocates, Shafiroff, and her more recently formed organization Global Strays, has impacted millions of animals in several countries, across three continents. She has no plans to stop there.

Shafiroff was born and raised in Manhattan. The New York City native developed a passion for animal welfare during her later years of academia, while attending Baruch College. After graduation, she turned an interest into action, and began to formulate the unique approach that today helps educate communities on the proper treatment of four-legged friends.

Throughout her career in advocacy and philanthropy, Shafiroff has fostered new educational programs in various countries. She has traveled across Central and South America, to the Caribbean, and has recently launched a program in Liberia, Africa. Her nonprofit now employs about a dozen people across the various underserved nations where their presence is felt, but Global Strays remains headquartered on the East End, right here in Southampton.

Global Strays has now created their own educational curriculum, which they are teaching all across the world. Embracing the “Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare,” it holds a series of five workshops for youth in different countries. The youth take part in activities to learn about how to take better care of pets, the environment, and other people — an initiative which Shafiroff calls “Humane Education.”

Daughter of prolific philanthropists Jean and Marty Shafiroff, Elizabeth says her transition to advocacy and philanthropy was rather natural and organic. While for the Shafiroffs, animal welfare advocacy is certainly a family affair, Elizabeth sees her actions as uniquely her own. She has garnered support from many across the industry who share her passion for animals, with notable advisors and supporters sitting on the Global Strays advisory council, like Georgina Bloomberg.

“At a young age, I felt compelled to take action, and I think that there is a difference between being interested and seeing something, or doing something about it,” Elizabeth says. “I felt a strong desire to do something about the different problems that animals face across the globe.

“Even if it wasn’t a big thing,” she continues. “This was a small thing, at first. To me, it was a necessity to living. I don’t feel whole as a person unless I am doing something to help others.”

A testament, one could say, to how many little things can turn into a big, multinational effort — as well as a testament to her character and commitment.

Founded with the mission of reducing the suffering of animals, Global Strays facilitates assistance for animal shelters abroad, and their surrounding communities who lack access to services for their pets, including veterinary care and spay-and-neuter services for those who would otherwise be unable to afford it. It now plans to do so in the United States in the near future. The organization is known as a crusader against the mistreatment of animals, while it is also an arm that inspires others to join with the cause.

Elizabeth’s leadership, she recalls, has helped many across the East End and throughout her universe of friends and associates to become involved with this admirable mission. And, with the passion in which Elizabeth speaks about the issue, no one is surprised.

“Some people have not been exposed to animals always, or their needs in this country or across the world,” she says. “Once someone gets to know the bond that humans and animals share, they can become an animal lover very easily. I am really interested in all different types of animals, and introducing the love of animals to others.

“For the first 22 years of my life, I didn’t have so much as a dog or a cat,” she adds.

That is, until she adopted Rusty, a Shiba-Inu, who she saved from a kill shelter. Now, she and her family have several pets, at one time, including pit bulls that were rescued from the crates of the New York City Animal Care & Control Centers. They were days, if not hours, away from being put down.

Just last week, she adopted a pit bull puppy from Southampton Animal Shelter.

While a New York City native, Elizabeth first came out to the Hamptons at age 11. She has brought her message to the East End which has been kindly received by many who share her passion out here. She helps rally support and critical funds for her nonprofit with events and galas, and has one slated for Friday, August 26, held at NAIA Hamptons at The Capri Hotel.

“We are having our fourth annual benefit this year on the East End,” she said. “We fundraise out here to introduce people to the concept of global animal welfare. It’s a topic that not everyone thinks about at first, but a need nonetheless, to support the welfare of animals, wherever the animal in need may be.”

“Whether an animal is in need on the East End, or in another country, I feel passionately that animal welfare is a global issue,” she continues. “Whether it’s in your own backyard or somewhere else. There are so many great animal lovers out here on the East End and in the Hamptons, and we are very excited to share our work with many who live out here and might want to get involved.”

During her time spent on the East End, Elizabeth has an affinity for Sag Harbor. She spends time there because she loves the environment, the quaint village, and its welcoming characteristics.

“There is something about Sag Harbor that I just find so beautiful, but the same can be said about all of the East End,” she says. “I feel like this town is my favorite place on the East End. There is such a charm to it, with so many good restaurants. I also love Bistro Ete in Watermill, who even serves a ‘paw course,’ where they create an elaborate feast for your animal.

“The East End is is such an amazing place to explore, there are great people to meet, and growing up spending time here I have seen its evolution, but it still has retained that charm,” she continues.

When asked about her message to aspiring advocates, on the East End and across the world, the accomplished and renowned animal welfare champion says:

“If you are passionate about something, and it fulfills you — whether it is helping another person or an animal — do it,” she says. “There are so many ways that someone can help. Personally, taking action has been the most fulfilling thing in my life — doing something where you really feel you are benefiting others.

“Your opportunity is now,” she continues. “We only have one opportunity to make a difference today, so start a cause, become involved with an organization, and become involved in any way you can. Go for it!”

Visit globalstrays.org, where tickets are available for its upcoming reception on August 26. Tickets begin at $250, with sponsorships available.

Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.

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