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Co-founder of San Carlos Apache Tribe nonprofit wins ‘More Than a Pet Community Hero’

Coverage of tribal natural resources is supported in part by Catena Foundation

San Carlos Apache Tribe member Julie Cassadore was recently named the "More Than a Pet Community Hero" by the Humane Society of the U.S. This national award recognizes people who improve access and equity to pet care in their communities.

“When they called my name,” recalled Cassadore, “I was like, ‘What, it was me?’ I didn’t expect that.”

She and a couple of her volunteers drove 12 hours from the San Carlos Apache Reservation nearly 900 miles away to the Humane Society’s annual Animal Care Expo, held this year in San Antonio, Texas.

That’s where Cassadore found out she won following a period of online voting at a reception alongside her fellow finalists: Jamal Hughes of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Ingemar Woods of Altus, Oklahoma.

“They’re working as hard as I am in their own communities, and they have the heart for what they do. And I know there’s a lot of other communities that share the same struggle,” added Cassadore. “I was just, you know, thankful for all of the votes. We had so many people want to see me win.”

The award also comes with a $10,000 grant to fund efforts at the Thatcher-based Desert Cross Veterinary Hospital that nominated her for the national recognition.

Cassadore, a co-founder of the nonprofit Geronimo Animal Rescue Team, has been transporting reservation animals and pets some 70 miles away to Thatcher for years now. This has even become part of her daily routine, with Cassadore taking these long road trips at least three times a week.

Last year, her nonprofit supported the direct care of 2,000 animals on the reservation by providing food, medicine and pet supplies, totaling almost $2 million in aid.

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Gabriel Pietrorazio is a correspondent who reports on tribal natural resources for KJZZ.