A single act can have the ability to spark a whole new career path. That’s the case for Elizabeth Shafiroff (’13), a freelance photojournalist who in 2017 changed course to found Global Strays, an animal welfare nonprofit.
Animals hadn’t always been top of mind for Shafiroff. She studied psychology at Baruch—inspired to attend by her alumnus father, a financial advisor—and photography at the International Center of Photography. She was shooting professionally for outlets including Reuters and the Wall Street Journal, when along came Rusty, a shiba inu pup she rescued from a kill shelter, who set in motion her interest in a much bigger picture.
A native New Yorker, Shafiroff began volunteering at New York City Animal Care & Control in Harlem walking shelter dogs. “Ninety percent of them were pit bulls,” Shafiroff says. “Few were getting adopted, and the shelter didn’t have space for more. When I realized these adoptable animals were being euthanized, I immediately felt drawn to the cause. And I started fostering pit bulls.”
Later, during travels to South and Central America, she witnessed the overpopulation of stray dogs and cats needing care, prompting Shafiroff to meet with animal rescuers and veterinarians there to learn more. “These rescuers had so few resources, and there was so little local attention to animal welfare initiatives, that I was inspired to start Global Strays.”
The nonprofit—partnering with organizations in Nicaragua, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Liberia, Africa—helps struggling animal shelters stay afloat, as well as helping families in underserved communities receive veterinary care and low- or no-cost spay and neuter programs for their pets. It also collaborates on veterinary care for working horses and educational programs promoting the “One Health Model,” an interdisciplinary concept that says optimal health outcomes for everyone can only be achieved when we consider the health of animals, the human community, and our shared environment as a whole.
Shafiroff says that pursuing work with a spirit of compassion was instilled in her from a young age by her philanthropist parents, Jean and Martin Shafiroff (’63). “They also encouraged me to do what spoke to me,” she adds. “My special connection with animals opened up my eyes.”