‘Black Thornberry’ takes aim at lack of animal rescue diversity

Black Thornberry
Nina Love traps, neuters and releases stray cats in neighborhoods across Philadelphia.
Provided

Nina Love is out to change Philadelphia’s animal welfare community.

The 30-year-old — who runs her own rescue called The Black Thornberry — said she has not met a single Black person working in the industry.

“It’s terrible,” Love told Metro, describing the field’s lack of diversity. “And I feel like a lot of people are afraid to speak about it.”

Love said she reached out to one woman involved in the community on social media for support and was told to “go back to Africa.” She thinks some rescue leaders believe Black people do not know how to properly take care of animals.

“A lot of rescues here, they don’t go to certain areas,” she said. “So me being, I guess, a Black woman, I go to other areas as well like North Philly, Southwest, Kensington. Most of those areas are where the strays are.”

Love, who lives in Warminster, will go a lot farther, if that means finding a home for a cat or dog. She’s transported animals as far as New York and Maryland.

She credits a pet rabbit that provided comfort while her parents were going through a divorce for inspiring her love of animals. Love, who grew up in Hunting Park and Northeast Philadelphia, first rescued a litter of stray kittens when she was 14 years old.

Business picked up for The Black Thornberry after Love rescued a dog during a snowstorm last year.Provided

The Black Thornberry really kicked off after Love trapped a dog caught in a snowstorm last year.

Residents reach out to her on social media, as well as through email and phone, when they spot a stray animal in need of help. For cats, she does trap-neuter-return, or TNR, and she rescues dogs roaming in wooded areas or fields.

Her 9-year-old daughter, Arianna, helps out, too — so much that she gets upset when she can’t join her mother on a rescue, Love said.

Love also delivers pet food on a monthly basis to seniors and others who are struggling financially and works with veterinarians to cover costs for needed animal procedures.

“I’m just trying to figure out how to bridge that gap and use my organization to encourage other people that look like me to go out and help in the community,” she said.

The Black Thornberry recently earned nonprofit status and has attracted volunteers. Its name comes from a late-90s, early 2000s Nickelodeon cartoon in which a girl, Eliza, develops the ability to communicate with animals.

“And as a kid, she was my hero,” Love said.

Love hopes to purchase a van so she has more space for traps and supplies.Provided

Black Thornberry’s current fundraising effort is collecting money for Love to purchase a van for the operation. The dog trap does not fit in her personal vehicle, so she rents a U-Haul. Tight space also means she usually has to run back-and-forth to pick up and drop off supplies.

So far, Love has raised nearly $20,000, which includes a $10,000 grant from Tito’s Vodka. She believes she will be able to acquire a van for around $35,000.

For more information about The Black Thornberry, visit the theblackthornberry.net. Love prefers that people requesting help with an animal contact her through the website or email at [email protected]

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