a man giving a speech behind a podium while several others and a dog wait on stage
Photo by Cheryl Gerber/AP Images for the HSUS

“Me and her are riding, saving dogs, like always,” Jammie Cosby says on a June afternoon as he and Paula Shaw drive around Baton Rouge, Louisiana, doing outreach for the Pets for Life program, operated locally by the Companion Animal Alliance of Baton Rouge, a PFL mentorship partner with the Humane Society of the United States. He’s a busy man and a tricky phone interview; at one point he leaves the call to investigate some roosters being kept in the back of a gas station.

Cosby, 40, a lifelong Baton Rouge resident, says he has “had a thing for animals” ever since his mother gave him a dog when he was around age 8. He made it his hobby to make sure the neighborhood dogs, owned or stray, were doing all right. His love for animals and his neighborhood connections made him a perfect fit to be a community ambassador for PFL, an HSUS initiative that provides support to local groups and focuses on door-to-door outreach in underserved communities, offering free pet care services and information.

Shaw, a coordinator for CAA’s PFL program, met Cosby in 2017 while she was walking the PFL focus area; she says he’s become both a friend and an invaluable key to connecting with local pet owners. “I feel like I hit the gold mine when I met him,” she says. “… He knows everybody, and everybody’s mom, and everybody’s dog. … He’s like the godfather of all the dogs.”

“He knows everybody, and everybody’s mom, and everybody’s dog. … He’s like the godfather of all the dogs.”

—Paula Shaw, Companion Animal Alliance

Shaw notes that residents of underserved neighborhoods might be “a little skeptical” of her, thinking she’s coming to take their animals or for some other negative purpose. “Sometimes they think that I am the feds, sometimes they think I’m Child Protective Services, I’m undercover something,” she says. But they recognize Cosby as a neighbor, she adds, and think, “Well, Jammie wouldn’t be rocking with her if she’s here for a bad reason.”

In recognition of his work introducing PFL to Baton Rouge, Cosby received the 2019 Arthur Burrell Community Hero Award in April at the HSUS’s Animal Care Expo in New Orleans. The award is named for a late cat advocate in West Chicago who, like Cosby, gave his all for neighborhood animals and connected with kindred spirits on the PFL team.

“Oh, man, I was really surprised. I was happy. It felt like I did this so many years … and I knew it was gonna pay off one day, but I didn’t know it was gonna pay off this big,” Cosby says of receiving the recognition. Stepping up to accept the award, he says he represented not just himself but his community, including the 70805 zip code that’s often described as a “dangerous” area.

“It felt like I did this so many years … and I knew it was gonna pay off one day, but I didn’t know it was gonna pay off this big.”

—Jammie Cosby, 2019 Arthur Burrell Community Hero Award recipient

“We started this award because we wanted to recognize heroes within the community that Pets for Life served,” says PFL senior director Amanda Arrington, “and those are communities that often aren’t looked at in positive ways and where people who love animals aren’t part of the official sheltering or rescue system, yet they are doing amazing stuff for people and pets every single day.”

The annual award is presented at Expo, Arrington adds, in hopes that attendees from the field will recognize the value of opening their hearts and minds to engaging people who have not traditionally been part of the animal welfare movement. To meet animal advocates like Cosby and benefit from their perspectives, she says, the field needs to reach out to all parts of the community in a positive, respectful way.

As a PFL partner, Companion Animal Alliance has brought free spay/neuter, vaccines, veterinary services and pet supplies to North Baton Rouge neighborhoods where such services weren’t previously accessible or affordable. “The program is successful because the resources are now here,” Shaw says.

a man leans on the hood of a car with his dog
Out and about in his community, Jammie Cosby is all smiles with pup Lannette. Photo by Paula Shaw/Companion Animal Alliance Baton Rouge

Cosby and his dog Lannette have long been a common sight in the area, tooling around in Cosby’s old school Cadillac, Shaw notes. The pair are now featured on information cards that PFL representatives hand out and on the side of the PFL transport van. She calls him “an irreplaceable part of our team.”

What’s next? Cosby says PFL has brought a new day to Baton Rouge: “The sky’s the limit.”

About the Author

James Hettinger

James Hettinger is the assistant editorial director for Animal Sheltering magazine at The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). He's responsible for editing copy and managing the production of the award-winning quarterly publication aimed at shelter and rescue personnel. Prior to joining The HSUS in 2008, James worked for several local newspapers and trade associations in the Washington, D.C., area. He shares his home with three cats: Edgar, Dana and Vinny. 

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