Caring for Children: Advocating for the Quality of Life for Michigan Children and Their Families
Matt Pepper: I first started out in advertising and public relations, but realized that was not my thing. My dad taught me how to do something you are passionate about, so I switched to wildlife biology.
From there I started my chapters, up and forward. I started in Kent County as a Cruelty Investigator and then Animal Control Supervisor. I’ve been to Shreveport, Louisiana, Memphis, Tennessee, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had this vision in mind of what animal welfare is and what it can mean for a community.
When Michigan Humane called me, I realized there was something special about this community – a passion and a pride. Michigan Humane has a long history of success and this was where I was able to take that vision and make it a reality.
Burns: Tell us about the name change to Michigan Humane.
Pepper: The main driver was an evolution in this community, the industry and our organization. It really got us thinking about who we want to be. We see ourselves as a people-centered organization that works through animals.
Burns: Talk about pets and the pandemic.
Pepper: People need animals in their life because life is better with animals.
Think about the emotional and psychological support that pets provide us, including opportunities for exercise. We are still seeing numbers of adoptions coming off the charts. People welcome pets into their families to help them through these times.
Burns: What’s on the horizon for Michigan Humane?
Pepper: There is research that shows that if you have a pet you are 31% less likely to die from heart disease or stroke, you are 35% more likely to be more active and active communities are safer communities. For this new generation of workers, having an animal-friendly employer and animal-safe spaces to take your pets is a big factor in lifestyle choices. My vision for the next few years is to help make Detroit the most humane community in the country. What I love about our work is how it relates to the quality of everyone’s life, whether you are a person or a pet. I feel like the Detroit Metro can do something special and we’re going to elevate our role to be a bigger part of the solution.
Burns: What other services do you offer?
Pepper: We can deal with dog bite situations by giving people access to services and care. We participate in events related to health and human services. For example, people come for free care for their pets and Delta Dental may be there to meet human dental needs, or the city of Detroit could be there to distribute COVID vaccines.
We are working with Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest to distribute human food. If you can’t afford to feed your dog, we want to help.
Larry Burns: Tell us about your background.