Shonda Judy, 60, did not grow up with many animals and never particularly had a passion for them. But 10 years ago, she visited the Cynthiana animal shelter for the first time and felt deep concern for conditions she describes as bleak.
"It's just so sad there," she says, adding that Kentucky ranks 50th in the country for its animal welfare laws and regulations.
On that first day, Shonda, a local photographer, snapped a picture of a dog in the shelter with her cell phone and posted it to Facebook with a brief story she created about the dog’s personality. Three hours later, that dog was adopted.
“Dogs that I take pictures of and post don’t get adopted because they look at it and think ‘Oh I need a husky!” she says. "They adopt the animal because they see a post and a picture of a dog named Jimmy who has a red pickup truck and they think ‘Oh my grandpa’s name was Jimmy and he drove a red pickup truck too! That dog needs me and I need that dog!’ They can feel that connection with the animals and put a personality to the name."
Shonda started a photography business in Cynthiana after retiring from the local school system 12 years ago. Her first gig involved taking portraits of a close friend's granddaughter on a farm.
While running her own business, Shonda volunteers her time photographing animals at the local shelter to increase adoption rates.
“My passion is photography. I’m a photographer. I just happen to use this gift to take pictures of animals,” Shonda says.
She also started her own nonprofit, Hope Fur Homes, which focuses on rescuing and fostering animals, and collecting supplies to help the animals throughout their time in the shelter.
“It’s not rocket science," she says. "You either get more people to work, or even get volunteers, to at least make these animals’ lives a bit better while they’re stuck in the shelter. You can also always educate the public and encourage people to adopt, adopt, adopt."
Eventually, she would like to raise enough money to build a new wing of the shelter for the elderly animals. "I want our shelter to be ranked No. 1 in the state of Kentucky."