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New Canaanite receives national award from Humane Society

Published 12:09 pm, Friday, December 21, 2012

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  • NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 18:  Honoree Cathy Kangas speaks on stage during The Humane Society of the United States' To the Rescue! New York Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on December 18, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for HSUS) Photo: Neilson Barnard, Getty Images For HSUS / 2012 Getty Images
    NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 18: Honoree Cathy Kangas speaks on stage during The Humane Society of the United States' To the Rescue! New York Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on December 18, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for HSUS) Photo: Neilson Barnard, Getty Images For HSUS

 

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New Canaanite Cathy Kangas received the Compassion in Action award from the Humane Society of the United States on Tuesday, Dec. 18, for her support of animal welfare for the past 20 years.

In her work, Kangas has directly helped or supported organizations to reduce the clubbing of baby seals in Canada, pair veterans with dogs they met in Afghanistan, rescue chimpanzees from government and biomedical research labs, and provide a sanctuary for horses that would have gone to slaughter.

In 2006, Kangas offered the Canadian government $16 million to stop the baby seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Newfoundland. A March 21, 2006, letter addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper laid out the deal. The Canadian government had said the $16 seal industry was vitally important to its fisherman. The government didn't take the deal.

Through the press, working with European Union diplomats to outlaw baby seal pelts, and boycotting around the world, Kangas said, the number of seals killed has gone from 335,000 to about 15,000 last year.

"Many years ago we actually got together with a group of philanthropists and said, `Let's call their bluff.' [Harper] said it would cost 16 million Canadian [dollars] to end the hunt. We wrote to him with the offer, they basically ignored us, we gave them a couple of weeks, and then we went to the press, and the press picked it up. It's really got nothing to do with this income. It's all a farce, and we've been able to really attack it vigorously since then," she said last week.

Kangas, who was born in the United Kingdom, moved to the United States in 1983 when she worked for Revlon. She founded the PRAI Beauty Group, an international skincare company, in 1999, and serves as the CEO.

A columnist for the New Canaan News, she has been a member on the HSUS' board of directors since this summer. Through her initiative "Beauty with a Cause," PRAI donates a portion of all its proceeds to local and smaller animal welfare organizations, including Wildlife in Crisis in Weston.

Kangas said she likes crossing her passions for business and animals.

"I've always loved animals," she said. "I have to say I think it's much more of a thrill than doing well in business. I say the better I do in business, the more I can do for animals, who even though they are loved, don't tend to make it on people's charity lists."

She began helping animals early on.

"I used to help out when I was about 10 at a little riding barn in the U.K. I got that awareness that I didn't like things that were cruel. I remember in the U.K., fox hunting was an issue," she said.

Kangas has worked with Save the Chimps, a nonprofit organization that provides a sanctuary for chimpanzees that have been used in research, since 2005. It was started in 1997 by Dr. Carole Moon, who sued the U.S. Air Force to bid on hundreds of chimps that were veterans or their descendants of the earliest space missions. They settled out of court and she won 21 chimps. In 2002, the organization bought a bankrupt research lab in New Mexico, acquiring its 266 chimpanzees. All the chimps now live on 150 acres in Fort Pierce, Fla.

Triana Romero, communications director for Save the Chimps, said Kangas has been a strong supporter and was a friend of Moon, who died in 2009.

"She's a great advocate for the sanctuary, and when she visits Florida she tries to introduce new supporters to the organization," Romero said. "She's very warm, very compassionate, very enthusiastic about helping."

Kangas also supports SquirrelWood Equine Sanctuary, a nonprofit horse farm located in Montgomery, N.Y., which houses horses saved from slaughter.

There is a market for horse meat in Europe and Japan, and many old or injured horses are sold for slaughter, to have their meat shipped overseas, according to Executive Director Beth Hyman. At SquirrelWood, they buy those horses, rehabilitate them and put them up for adoption. If they're not sold, they remain in the sanctuary. Hyman said Kangas has been a supporter for more than six years.

"She's been extremely supportive of our organization. She's extremely passionate about the animals and making sure that they're cared for and their rights are heard," Hyman said. "We have a responsibility to take care of them and speak for them, as they cannot."

Kangas said her involvement with animal protection started with dogs. She and her husband, Ed Kangas, former global CEO of Deloitte, have four adopted rescue dogs. She shared a yearly tradition in which the two of them partake.

"Every Christmas my husband and I love loading up our car full of dog food and make a run to a couple of local shelters. That's how I first got very engaged with animals in general."

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4413; @Woods_NCNews