Spotlight on Animal Heroes:

NYSHA Recognizes Mary Anne Kowalski – Fierce Advocate for Animals and the Environment

Mary Anne Kowalski, fierce advocate for animals and the environment, passed away this year. Comments from those who knew her included “force of nature” and “leaves a huge void in our community.”

Mary Anne Kowalski, fierce advocate for animals and the environment
Mary Anne Kowalski – fierce advocate for animals and the environment

Mary Anne held important positions in the NYS Department of Health, and after retiring, spent several years working on animal welfare causes in the Capital Region including as VP of Mohawk Hudson Humane Society Board of Directors. She later moved from the Albany area to Seneca County. She immediately began to work with environmental groups to protect the Finger Lakes and waterways going into the Lakes from industries that would add pollution and harm to the waters and wildlife.

White deer protected on the old Seneca Army Depot. Because her voice carried authority due to her strength in collecting and analyzing scientific data and government regulatory information about environmental issues, she was very persuasive about causes she fought for. Her facts and figures were considered unassailable.

Mary Anne was the spokesperson for an alliance of 11 organizations that appealed to the Seneca Co. IDA to preserve the old Seneca Army Depot as a wildlife conservation area, promoting an eco-tourism attraction for the region and ensuring the protection of the unique herd of white deer. Although the eco-tourism site didn’t materialize, care was taken to whom the land was sold, and the white deer are now protected by the new land owner and the public currently can take tours through the Depot land to observe them.

White deer protected on the old Seneca Army Depot
White deer protected on the old Seneca Army Depot.

Mary Anne became an activist against “puppy mills” after she inadvertently bought a Miniature Schnauzer from a disreputable breeder who met her at a Thruway stop to deliver the dog — so she wouldn’t see the conditions the poor animal came from. After the dog required expensive treatment for a number of health conditions, Mary Anne began monitoring dog breeding operations in the Finger Lakes and Albany areas.

She frequently spoke at local governmental meetings as a representative of NYSHA, exposing the reality of large scale breeding operations, where the dogs are often kept in small unsanitary cages, are improperly socialized, and produce multiple litters of puppies each year. She urged towns to prevent new puppy mills from coming in and assisted law enforcement agencies with the closure of many operations. Her wide reaching educational efforts included informing Hudson Valley Community College Animal Law students about these tragically inhumane businesses.

Those who knew Mary Anne say that she would want us not to mourn, but to continue her fight to protect animals and the environment.

New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XXXVIII, Fall 2021.