A ‘PUPdate’ With John Sessa
Bringing communities together through compassion education!
-By Hayley Clover
When we first met up with philanthropist John Sessa, executive director of Vanderpump Dogs, he was just starting his journey with West Hollywood’s hip new adoption shelter. His focus was set on creating a fun and welcoming environment that removed some of the stigma that comes with adopting a pet. Almost 10 months later, the pink, sparkly dog haven is flourishing, having helped hundreds of dogs find their “furever” home.
For Sessa, the shelter needed to be more than just a place for adoption. It needed to give back. That’s why with dog adoptions running so smoothly, Sessa has new goals for 2018, starting with teaching what he calls, “Compassion Education.” The New Year will also bring many new programs to Vanderpump Dogs, including a youth after school program, which has already kicked off with six teenagers ranging from 12 to 15 years of age; a mentorship/ internship program for those in the juvenile delinquent system; and a “Seniors for Seniors” program that will help place senior dogs with those living in nursing homes.
“We have World Dog Day and other events that are community driven,” says Sessa, “but now [with the start of these programs] we are seeing the effects on each individual…we are getting letters from parents who are saying that we have changed their child’s life.”
Sessa is not only helping to change lives through the shelter, he is continuing his work to end the Yulin Dog Festival in Yulin, Guangxi, China. As we mentioned in our last issue, Road to Yulin, the documentary Sessa created with friend and business partner Lisa Vanderpump—a cast member on The Housewives of Beverly Hills—premiered at the LA Awareness Film Festival in October 2017, and won the Audience Choice award for best Short Documentary. “[The shelter] was a huge setting for the new season of the Housewives. Last season, we only had about six minutes of air time with Lisa, so I can’t even imagine the social impact we will have with five or so full episodes this season!”
Sessa spent Christmas 2017 in Haiti to help misplaced dogs get needed vaccinations. It was his second trip to Haiti this year, and his second step toward his and the Vanderpump Foundation’s 2018 goal of helping dogs beyond West Hollywood (even China) as they spread their philanthropy and advocacy worldwide.