SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Many four-legged friends and other furry companions in need of homes have a champion in Doug Rubinstein, who has been tapped to again lead Animal Rescue Rhode Island’s board of trustees.
Rubinstein is a South Kingstown resident who is no stranger to ARRI, which has a spacious facility off of Curtis Corner Road. He has been a board member since 2013 and previously served as chairman from 2014 to 2019.
It was Rubinstein who led a $2 million capital campaign to build ARRI’s state-of-the-art shelter and expanded the organization’s board of trustees and fundraising capacity.
But his enthusiasm and support of the shelter has a more direct focus as well — the animals that reside there.
“When (animals) come to us, they really need a great deal of love and enrichment,” he said. “Our staff is trained and dedicated to take these animals and revitalize them and really work at giving them a second chance.”
ARRI has grown from its humble founding in South Kingstown in 1938 to serve the broader Rhode Island community and beyond.
It takes in abandoned, abused and surrendered animals without geographic limitation and follows a philosophy where no animal is ever euthanized because of time, space, breed or a humanely treatable condition.
Rubinstein praised the volunteers, staff and board of ARRI and said he looks forward to continuing to expand its lifesaving work in 2021 and beyond.
He also singled out Executive Director Liz Skrobisch for leading the shelter in 2020 as COVID-19 its affected operations and it shut down for seven weeks.
ARRI completed 600 adoptions in 2020, a record-breaking number. Usually, the shelter assists with about 500 adoptions per year, Rubinstein said.
“Because of COVID-19 there’s a real interest in companion animals and people looking to adopt,” he said. “That’s helped us enormously.”
Additionally, ARRI has expanded its service to the broader community through a pet pantry that is providing thousands of pet meals to owners with financial challenges.
Rubinstein is coming back as board chairman at a time when ARRI also faces challenges. It gets no federal, state or local funding, so it must raise money through donations and gifts.
“Every animal we save, every educational program we do, every pet meal we serve to the needy is all funded through gifts,” he said.
The usual events ARRI holds yearly, such as the “Fur Ball,” didn’t take place in 2020.
Rubinstein said the organization is looking to hold the Fur Ball in the fall, as well as some virtual events.
“We’re trying very hard to get out into the community, tell our story and get the financial support we need,” he said.
Being involved in ARRI is also a personal passion for Rubinstein.
His family has always had dogs and cats, he said. When their Samoyed, Lexi, developed kidney disease, the family cared for her until the dog passed away. It was through a pet sitter “who loved Lexi as much as we did” that the Rubinsteins learned about Animal Rescue Rhode Island and started to get involved in 2011.
“We became inspired by the work that everybody did here,” he said. “I’m very proud of the staff and volunteers.”
Rubinstein was responsible for driving the re-branding of Animal Rescue League of Southern Rhode Island to Animal Rescue Rhode Island, reflecting its work across the entire state; and the creation of ARRI’s “Tails of the Heart,” “E-Tails,” and the organization’s annual report. He also worked closely with Jozy Mainelli and her dedicated committee of supporters to create the “Fur Ball,” which has become one of the major charity events in South County.
The state-of-the-art shelter Rubinstein helped create through fundraising efforts has spacious kennels for the dogs and larger than normal “cat condos” for the feline residents. It has a special airflow system to improve the health of the animals and minimize typical odors found at a shelter. In the offices, a large bulletin board shows photos of adopted pets with their new owners. There’s also space for the animals to run and play outside and inside areas for children’s programs and educational events.
Rubinstein has had an extensive career in corporate leadership roles in both the public and private sectors. He has held numerous officer roles in several national, state and local philanthropies and has received over 250 awards for excellence, service and achievement. His daughter Jamie, a rescue dog “mom” herself, lives in Chicago.
For more information on Animal Rescue Rhode Island, visit animalrescueri.org.