Saving 4-Legged Lives Every Day. How Waggle is Reducing “Economic Euthanasia”
by Rona Mann
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When he was just a little boy, Steve Mornelli’s first pet was his cat, “Sam,” and like all little boys who are fortunate to have cats and dogs to share their world, he loved him unconditionally. Now that Steven Mornelli is a big boy, he’s still in love, (“madly and passionately,” he admits), this time with a Yorkie/Cocker mix he rescued and named “Gracie.”
If your life is similarly enriched by having an animal or two or three as part of your family and you enjoy the experience of sharing your world with them, then you know exactly where Mornelli is coming from. But an integral part of having any pet is that sometimes they get sick, very sick, and needed veterinary care can be exorbitant, often times an impossibility for the average pet owner. So what can you do?
The startling fact is that more than 500,000 pets are euthanized every year in the United States, not because their conditions aren’t treatable, but simply because their owners cannot afford to pay for their veterinary care. These dogs and cats are much loved and wanted, and therefore it becomes a gut-wrenching decision when the cost of an MRI or surgery is more than the owners can afford. Those who work in animal healthcare refer to having to make this agonizing decision as “economic euthanasia,” and it represents a decision that continues to tear people apart.
Enter the grown-up Steven Mornelli who put his education, his work experience, and his proclivity for research and data to the metal and conceived Waggle, an organization dedicated to making a dent in the very large problem of the economic euthanasia of pets. Mornelli was born and raised and shared his life with animals in a tiny bucolic hamlet in upstate New York. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in finance, he spent much of his working life building a career in engineering, macro-economic research, and data science. He worked for a time on Wall Street using his knowledge of mathematical analysis to understand investments until came the crash of 2008 which necessitated his relocation to London. Unfortunately, he stayed across the pond only a short while until the Sovereign Debt Crisis similarly swallowed up his job once again. Mornelli next returned to New York and data science before permanently moving to Connecticut (“Essex is now my hometown, and I absolutely love it and everything about it”). For a time he used his extensive engineering background to work on satellites and submarines at General Dynamics, but a couple of years ago he “wanted more relevance” from what he was doing with his life.
Mornelli is one to thoroughly study all sides of any situation or issue before he makes a move, so when he found an organization called Watsi, a non-profit global platform that builds technology to finance universal healthcare by crowdfunding necessary surgeries worldwide for those who cannot afford it, he delved into its research. Mornelli was completely taken by the Watsi concept and thought, “Why can’t we do the same thing for pets who are suffering, who need surgeries and expensive solutions to make them whole again?” Recognizing that Watsi has been so successful in accomplishing this in the arena of human healthcare, he immersed himself in homework and lots of it. Steven Mornelli soon came to the conclusion, “We can do this!”
And they did! Less than two years ago, Waggle was born. What exactly is it in one succinct definition? Mornelli easily replies, “In less than 10 words: ‘Waggle is committed to ending economic euthanasia.’” That frightening term is not a slick marketing slogan conceived by a New York adman, but it represents a very real problem that faces the veterinary profession every day. Now, a workable alternative and a significant part of that solution is Waggle.
At its most basic, Waggle is crowdfunding, that concept whereby small amounts of donations (as little as $10) are collected from a large group of people; however, unlike the more well-known crowdfunding platforms on the internet that collect your money, but you’re never quite sure where all or part of it is going, Waggle directs 100% of all funds raised to the veterinary hospitals that are doing the procedures. In this way, Waggle is the first of its kind on the internet, the only pet-dedicated funding platform that actively partners with veterinary clinics throughout the United States and Canada. It is 100% safe because the pet owner never receives any of the monies raised, which eliminates doubts about fake fundraising campaigns and remains a safe way of helping families make their pets well again, returning them to their homes for many more years of love and affection.
Mornelli’s research has proven that crowdfunding is the ideal channel to connect pets in need with people everywhere who love animals. It doesn’t have to be your own dog or cat who needs the help. When you go on waggle.org you’ll see the photos and read the stories of which animals are currently in crisis and could use your help right now, and you’ll be certain that all donations go directly to the provider or veterinary hospital assuring complete transparency, something no other crowdfunding platform can guarantee.
It is because Waggle works directly with more than 1000 veterinary hospitals providing safe solutions that they have been able to attract large corporate partners, and for those smaller organizations like service clubs and non-profits Waggle can show them a way to get matching funds from these partners and sponsors. Additionally, animal welfare organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada are now well-familiar with Waggle.“We give them an extra boost,” says Mornelli. “Lions Clubs, Rotary clubs, Elks, religious organizations, service clubs, animal welfare groups, talk to us. We can help you put your money to work!”
During our recent and ongoing Coronavirus crisis, businesses closed. People lost their jobs, couldn’t pay their rent, drained their bank accounts. So when a pet fell ill during this time, there was often no extra money to help…but there was a way, and that way was Waggle. Mornelli found ways over and over to crowdfund expensive vet bills and give pet owners some peace of mind and a solution to help their beloved animals, however, he is quick to add, “We are just part of the solution, not the whole solution.”
Yes, it has been less than two years since Waggle was born, but even in that short time, it has attracted some pretty heavyweight partners. Well-respected foundations such as The Greater Good, a 20-year old organization that’s given more than $60. million to charity came aboard from the first, as did Lil Bub and others. Now Waggle is garnering star power as evidenced by a partnership with the Mayim Bialik Fund, the actress most remembered for starring on the TV shows, Blossom and The Big Bang Theory.
Animals once thought to be a tragic lost cause due to a lack of personal funds are now returning to their homes and families where they once again are barking and purring in contented delight, making quick movements from side to side.
In short, they (wag.gle).
Find out more and how you and/or your organization can help by visiting: www.wagglefoundation.org