By Ruby Tevis
Portraits by Melissa Fuller
Emily Dulin has always been an animal lover, and helping others is in her blood. She’s the daughter of a Venezuelan ambassador and has spent much of her professional career working in social services and animal welfare. In 2015, Emily took on the role of chief executive officer of Brooke USA Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the welfare of working horses, donkeys and mules, and helping the people that depend on them for survival worldwide.
Emily was born in the United Kingdom but moved with her family to South America when she was 4 years old. “Because my father was an ambassador, we grew up in the capitol cities,” Emily said, “though I visited many areas of Venezuela growing up. I saw firsthand the needs of those rural communities, and it made me empathetic—it certainly left an impression on me.”
At 18, Emily moved to the United States to attend the University of Miami. “I then worked in marketing for a big national advertising agency for many years and was very successful,” she said, “but one day, I realized that I wanted to do something that was greater than I was—and I wanted my son to see me do it.”
After leaving corporate advertising, Emily worked in human social services before becoming the executive director for the Humane Society of Greater Miami where she served for six years and gained experience in animal welfare. “When I got the opportunity to come to Brooke USA, the organization had been created, but it wasn’t really established yet. I simply knew I needed to work there,” she said. “My experience had a synergy with Brooke’s work, and it combined my passion for helping animals and helping people. My role was to catapult Brooke USA into the forefront so that anybody in the United States could learn about our mission.”
While there are many charities focused on human welfare and animal welfare, Emily believes Brooke’s mission to help both humans and equines is what makes the organization unique.
“Consider a woman in Ethiopia who has a donkey, and every day she walks five miles to collect water from the river. She can carry one container of water herself, but the donkey can carry four. That water is used to cook, bathe and irrigate crops. Now, imagine if she had no donkey. She has to make choices between cooking, bathing and growing food,” Emily said. “In many places, horses, donkeys and mules are the only way for children to get to and from school. Without their animals, they could lose their access to education. The function of their animal is pivotal to their own livelihood.”
Key global issues like the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and flooding in Pakistan have come to the forefront under Emily’s leadership, and while each issue presents new challenges, there are also new opportunities to grow and adapt. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Brooke USA set up a recovery fund, and began helping other charities by providing grants to organizations who had seen decreased fundraising dollars but an increased community need.
In addition to her duties stateside, Emily has traveled to several countries including India and Guatemala to see the impacts of Brooke in action. “We are making a difference,” she said. “We will evaluate an animal at the start of a new program, and then just one, two and then five years later, we see marked improvements in terms of how they are handled, husbandry practices, what they eat and even how crops are being grown just to feed their animals—how feed is stored—and more. To see that end result firsthand is what I find most satisfying.”
Currently a $1.5 million organization, Emily plans to grow Brooke USA to a $3 million organization within five years. Part of that goal includes expanding reach right here in the United States. “I would like to see us activate various markets here, one of them being Texas,” Emily said. With a strong foundation in the polo, hunter-jumper, eventing and dressage communities, Emily is looking for ambassadors in ranching and Western disciplines to grow Brooke USA’s awareness and support.
“They can tell our story like nobody else can, and our Olympians and ambassadors have helped us reach so many supporters in the sport and the community,” Emily said. “Over the last eight years, I’ve had the privilege to meet some of the most amazing horses and equestrians who’ve helped Brooke USA.”
Emily stresses that any donor is an advocate, and a donation of any amount will help grow the organization’s impact. “The biggest joy I have is people asking me about what we do. I want to keep communication open to everyone; it will only help us reach our goals,” Emily said. “I’m 60, and my short-term plan is to retire in the next 10 years, and from there I hope to see Brooke USA continue this growth. Then, hopefully, I’ll be around to see it become a $5 million organization in that time!”
In Miami, Emily lives with her husband, Douglas, son Mathew, her cat, bird, lizards, fish and frogs. She spends her time outside of Brooke USA helping others in different ways. “I’m on the board of American Horse Publications, and volunteer for the Women’s Breast and Heart Initiative—they go door to door in low-income areas to help women schedule mammograms,” Emily said.
Looking back, Emily ties her helping nature to her parents. While her father was an ambassador, her mother, a politician’s wife, was always at the forefront of volunteering. “Every Sunday, we took food to those who didn’t have enough to eat. I grew up in that kind of environment; it’s always been part of my life, and that’s why I wanted my son to see it, too,” she said.
“Animals play such a unique role in all of our lives. Whether it’s petting your dog in the morning or depending on your donkey for water, it can be difficult to communicate this importance to others, but horse people seem to understand,” Emily said. “We’ve reached so many people, and I couldn’t have done it without our former chair, Katherine Kaneb, and Kendall Bierer, our donor relations officer, who keep me on my toes and ensure that I’m always learning something new so that we’re always a step ahead.”
Throughout her life and career, Emily has learned one important lesson: “Follow your passion,” she said. “Whatever you are seeking, if you follow your passion, it will come to you. It will arrive.”
For more information, visit www.brookeusa.org
Photos by Melissa Fuller, msfullerphotography.com
Thank you to Brooke and Cody Holcomb of Wyco Ranch in Ft. Pierce, Florida, for the use of your farm, donkeys and horses for the Sidelines photo shoot.