This badass Philadelphia woman turned her passion for puppies into a second job in her free time. While running her own successful public relations consultancy, Leigh Fazzina co-founded with a friend from Chicago the Anguilla Freedom Flyer Dog Rescue, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that is saving and rescuing homeless puppies from Anguilla, a tiny island in the Eastern Caribbean.
Leigh hasn’t always been a dog lover though. When she was in the sixth grade she experienced a tragic accident that killed her dog. Not wanting to relive the pain when we spoke, Leigh simply described the experience as “sad, horrible and almost unbelievable.” Her family was so traumatized that even though they had grown apart from dogs but growing up Leigh had two boxers and a mutt and —they never got another dog after the accident. In fact, Leigh said she simply grew apart from dogs
Fast forward to thirty years later (that’s 133 in dog years), Leigh has not only rediscovered her love for dogs, she’s found a way to save them.
Leigh and her partner , Dave, are frequent vacationers to Anguilla , a small island tucked away in the Eastern Caribbean. The island has been ranked number one World’s Best All Around Beaches by Travel Magazine and is considered to be one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets. However, for dogs on the island this paradise is horrific. Known as “coconut retrievers” and “potcakes,” named after the burnt leftovers stuck to the inside of cooking pots and fed to them by locals, these pups are often living in the bush, hungry for food and just trying to survive.
Puppies in Anguilla can’t be adopted and rescued into U.S. homes unless an individual traveling from Anguilla to the U.S. or Canada offers to physically transport the puppy when they depart Anguilla in a soft crate carrier which sits under their seat on the airplane. That’s where Leigh (of Philadelphia) and her friend, Renee Rempert (of Chicago and Anguilla) come in with their new nonprofit, the Anguilla Freedom Flyer Dog Rescue, where the dedicate their free time to help rescue puppies.
Many women have causes close to their heart where they find ways to help. For Leigh, her strongest calling is for dogs, especially the homeless puppies living in Anguilla where there is a real need to save and rescue them. “For the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of rescuing puppies in Anguilla with some of the most incredibly passionate dog-loving rescue people. And in June 2019, I co-founded the Anguilla Freedom Flyer Dog Rescue, an all-volunteer nonprofit that is rescuing puppies and flying them to the U.S. to forever homes.”
When we spoke, Leigh was in Anguilla for “Freedom Flight” Day, the day in which they fly puppies to freedom and to their forever homes in the U.S. The day includes a 6-mile boat ride to Saint Martin from Anguilla, then a 4-hour plane ride to Philadelphia, where Leigh lives and then a car ride to where the pups will be fostered. Leigh uses her public relations skills to spread the word that the puppies are available for adoption. Then she matches friends and U.S. dog rescues with the pups needing adoption. Since she started in June 2019, Leigh has helped successfully rescue 185 puppies.
When she’s not saving puppies’ lives, she’s thinking three steps ahead for her healthcare and life science clients to ensure their communications success. She founded Fazzina & Co. Communications Consulting in 2009 to help mid- to small-sized companies with their public relations and social media communications. Her work has reached millions of people in the U.S. and abroad and has been recognized for excellence in the field with nearly a dozen industry awards.
“Healthcare public relations is what I’m most passionate about professionally and what I’ve been doing for 25 years,” explains Leigh. “I can’t think of doing anything else professionally. But check back with me in 10 years though because my future plans definitely consist of dogs, the beach, and a tiny island every day.”
When I asked Leigh my favorite question about living a badassery life, she responded with a definite yes!
“I’m living a badassery life because I don’t take ‘NO’ for an answer. I take on things that seem impossible and I work really hard to make things happen. Rescuing a group of dogs from an island in the manner in which we do is tough work. It takes commitment, diligence, organization, and a huge heart. I don’t sugar coat anything. I tell it like it is. Saving a puppy and giving them an opportunity to have a life is what my dog rescue work is all about and it’s what makes my heart sing.”
Leigh is dependent on donations for the Anguilla Freedom Flyer Dog Rescue from puppy and dog lovers around the world to help her fulfill her mission to save all Anguilla puppies needing rescue. It costs nearly $200 per puppy to get them vetted, vaccinated, transported and adopted. If you are interested in donating, or adopting a puppy, or can help Leigh connect with a dog rescue in your city, contact Leigh via email or by messaging her directly on their Facebook Group and Instagram. You can also contribute directly to the organization: GoFundMe.