Diane Treadwell interacts with fawns in Kentucky.
Photo by International Fund for Animal Welfare

Diane Treadwell of Marblehead has a carry-on bag that sits at her front door. The contents include only essentials, along with LUNA bars, nuts, a hammock, and a small sleeping bag. Depending on where she is deployed, she has another, larger bag, packed with tools that include a knife and a Leatherman. Animal welfare is for Diane both a passion and a purpose.

Diane Treadwell holds a koala in Australia.
Photo by International Fund for Animal Welfare

Animal rescue was always on Diane’s mind, even as a child, but a stint at Dr. Rockwell’s Atlantic Veterinary Hospital in Marblehead served as her first foray into this world. After coursework and intensive training, her next roles included Animal Control officer (in both Marblehead and Swampscott), wildlife rehabilitator, aquarium responder, and volunteer with the State of Massachusetts Animal Response Team (SMART).

“I delved in as deep as I could,” Diane said of her organic approach. The more needs she saw, the more training she sought, and the clearer it became. “I knew I was following the path I was supposed to be on,” she recalled.

Her first deployment with SMART was to assist in a puppy-mill bust in Hot Springs, Ark. It was there that she met the director of disaster response for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), a connection that would change the course of her life. Within a year, she was hired by IFAW as an independent contractor specializing in disaster response.

“This opened up a world for me, and there was no turning back,” Diane recalled.

Life as an independent contractor proved to be unpredictable. At any given time, Diane and her disaster-response team might receive notification of a potential deployment. A standby notification follows, and then an official request: “Are you able to deploy tomorrow?”

Diane Treadwell carries a dog in California.
Photo by International Fund for Animal Welfare

Over the past 12 years, Diane has been deployed to Australia due to wildfires; Poland for the Russo-Ukrainian War; Nepal for an earthquake; India to train local responders on disaster preparedness; Lebanon to assist animals caught in the conflict; Oklahoma for tornadoes; Northern California for fires; Dominica, the Bahamas, and New Orleans for hurricanes; Kentucky and Texas for flooding; and Florida for a cruelty case.

“I had no idea what I was getting into,” Diane said, wistfully looking back at the last decade.

The mission was almost never what was intended.

There was no way of knowing, for instance, that being deployed to Poland in the midst of the Russo-Ukrainian war would mean helping people who were coming across the border with their pets.

Or in Nepal, that the original mission of rescuing dogs in Katmandu, would evolve into rescuing cows, the animal most revered by the Nepalese.

Or in Dominica, that the rescuing of critically-endangered sisserou parrots would become a mission to bring food to the local people who lost everything.

“You have to give yourself time to process what you’ve seen, because it can be scary and horrific,” Diane said.

Nevertheless, she said the gratification of making a difference through disaster response is what feeds her soul. And knowing that she left a place better than when she arrived is all she needs.

Originally published on in the Marblehead Weekly News, republished with permission.

HOW THEY MET: When passion fuels destiny
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