Welcome! Let's introduce ourselves and talk about our organizations-type of animals, no. of volunteers/staff, demographics in your area, when founded, stuff like that or anything else interesting about your group.
Start thinking about what your challenges are (vis-a-vis small vs. large organizations because I'm going to ask that next if someone else doesn't.
Penny Leisch, Catnip Casa Cat Refuge in Austin, Texas. Catnip Casa opened in September 2015 and has a platinum rating on GuideStar/Candid. Although small, our rating has definitely played a part in obtaining some grants and donors. We are a small, all-volunteer, foster-home-based organization. In addition, our focus is senior and special needs cats. We do not take owner surrenders or pull from city shelters. Our hands are full just managing the ones that land here from a trapper finding one in a colony and similar situations. At this point, we are full, and we still get notes every day asking for help--mostly people who want us to take their cats. Our biggest challenge this year is money.
One other thing I wanted to add to the challenges in our discussions about money. I think many of our challenges are not due to a lack of interest on the part of people who want to adopt or volunteer, and those who want to keep their animals and can't. The cost of pet food, care, vet bills, and more has skyrocketed. Check out this recent article. (there's a link here)
I'm seeing that in our stats too. Donations are down by over $9,000 this year so far, while vet costs are up by over $4,700. Even things like cat litter are up 20-30%, and food costs have exploded. While we are talking about what to do or not do to get adoptions, I think we also have to keep the cost of pet ownership in mind. It has gone up substantially at a time when many people are struggling.
If people are reluctant to adopt, we are gently asking if the cost worries them and not pushing if they need time. It doesn't do them or the animal any good if they have to bring it back or, worse, feel guilty and abandon it. I have had more than one animal come in in the past three years that has behavioral problems from being through too many homes for similar reasons.
Agreed. The cost of everything pet related has gone up. We recently started a pet food bank to try to help our rural neighbors, who are feeling the pinch, keep their pets by offering free food and supplies once a month to help them supplement the rising costs. Even though our sanctuary is farm and exotic animals we give out mostly dog food, cat food and kitty litter. We get donated food from local pet stores and have donation boxes in several locations.
Thanks for asking Carol. My name is Lisa Burns, I am the co-founder, along with my husband Dave, of Farmhouse Animal & Nature Sanctuary in Myakka City, FL. Dave and I were volunteers at a friend's sanctuary for about 8 years before becoming live in caretakers there for two years when she closed due to illness. We decided we wanted to continue what they started and became a 501c3 in 2017. We bought a property, that we had previously leased, in a very rural area and moved the animals with us. You haven't lived until you move 65 animals including kangaroos and wallaroos, horses, goats, chickens, pigs and tortoises that weigh over 100lbs. FANS operated on a very tight shoestring budget (mostly out of pocket) for the first couple of years and we have grown slowly over the years. Currently we have 139 animals at the sanctuary, 17 of which are available for adoption. We are a bit different than most on this forum as we take in farm, small domestic and exotic animals. The majority of the animals at the sanctuary will stay here for the remainder of their lives and are here due to neglect, abuse, medical needs and age. Many come from two local animal services organization as well as FWC, strays and owner surrenders. We do adopt out rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, pigs, goats, and tortoises to forever homes. Although we do not take in cats or many dogs (we have three currently) our challenges and needs are very similar to cat and dog rescues. Finding funding being the number one challenge, followed by retaining reliable volunteers. We have operated as a 100% volunteer run organization (including ourselves and our board of directors) since day one. Recently we won a grant to pay part time help a couple days a week which is amazing. Like all of you we put in a lot of long hours. Most of my time is spent directly caring for the animals as well as marketing, finding grants, creating fundraisers and accounting, while my husband takes care of the property repairs and habitat renovations, when he is not on a job. To keep us afloat and to pay our bills we also have a home services business. Our business allows me to work from home and be able to be hands on with the animal care. We love to collaborate with other nonprofits and local businesses in our area and I find that this enabled us to help more families who can no longer care for their animals.
Love your variety! We have a house for sale here that is selling their horses and kangaroo along with it, and it tears my nerves up, esp for the kangaroo. I hate to think of what will happen to the poor thing.
Hello! I am the current Board President for Meridian Canine Rescue in Meridian, Idaho. We pivoted our mission on focusing in owner surrender and transfer from other shelters for dogs with some type of behavioral issue. Meaning we don't have puppies or easy dogs for adoption. We focus more on education and training for the community and adopters so we reduce more dogs entering to shelters. Therefore we dont have that many adoptions per year. We also have a small prison program and we are a fear free shelter where our 7 seven dogs don't live in kennels but in tiny houses simulating a room.
our struggle is money and getting donors and sponsorships as we can bring dogs to events and our dogs are long term residents with all the crisis of low adoptions. Other rescues bring puppies and fluffy dogs from the south so out dogs are at the bottom of the list…
Hi, I am Karen Hunter. I am a board member and foster for our rescue Wells Valley Cat Rescue. We are a small 501c3 all volunteer and foster based rescue in CT focusing on pregnant cats , moms and babies and kittens. We just celebrated our 10 year anniversary. Last year we adopted out about 250 cats and kittens. We take in local strays and work with a number of private rescuers in the area who mainly trap but are not able to do adoptions. We do adoptions at one of our partner pet stores every weekend. We also pull from some out of state shelters and rescues that have less adopters available in their areas. This year we have seen a much sicker population of kittens and even mamas. Our primary hurdle is raising money. We do fundraising and grant applications and have received revenue from both but we still lose money on almost every adoption due to medical bills. We have some wonderful vets that we work with and we do receive discounts but it seems all the costs associated with rescue have gone up significantly in the past couple years.
I'm Allison with k9.5 Rescue in Simpsonville, SC (Greenville area), and I have to say it's so nice to see others here who work with similar cases. We're a volunteer, foster home based canine rescue and sanctuary whose focus is Great Pyrenees, other giant breeds, seniors and special needs dogs. I've been doing this for 23yrs, but officially 19yrs (meaning we got our 501c3 4yrs after starting). Our biggest challenge is the bias toward those we rescue ("too old, too big, too much work"), finding fosters since they're a bit of work and stay long term, and, of course, finances. We don't have fast adoptions b/c of a lot of medical, age, challenge, etc., and the past 2yrs have been just like everyone else...slow to nothing. But, the dogs are happy and we push to show the public how awesome these "types" are, despite seeming overwhelming or whatnot. I just love them, and as you all know, they have big, bright, loving hearts that easily win you over. I've considered going straight sanctuary but that's still up in the air. So great to chat w/you guys and learn about you and your incredible work!
Hey all, I am Holly McManus w/Salty Dogs Senior Animal Rescue. We are foster based out of Pawleys Isle, SC but have fosters as far north as Little River and south in Charleston. We pull dogs 6 and over from shelters and accept owner surrenders through application process. Having said that, we are small and sadly turn away 80% of the dogs we are asked to take due to lack of fosters. A lot of our fosters become "foster fail" and stop fostering or start and feel it is not what they really wanted to do. We provide fosters w/all the things needed for the dog including vet visits, medicine and grooming. We have transport to help when needed and temporary fosters for when the foster needs to go out-of-town. We also have a foster liaison for constant communication w/them. Our 501(c)3 began in May of '22 and took off quickly. That was exciting but also overwhelming and disheartening to leave so many seniors w/out help. Salty Dogs promotes estate planning for your dog in all our events as so many are abandoned when their caregiver dies or is unable to care for them any longer.
Hi friends. I'm a founding member and board member of a cat rescue, Orange Street Cats. We are named for the street of our first rescue - a hoarding situation with more than 88 cats and 2 rotties. We've been together 12 years now. We tend to focus on challenging cats and kittens - those without a human advocate, seniors, FeLV positive, those needing extensive and expensive medical/surgical care - although we do also take in the occasional "regular" cat! We have about 160 cats in care right now.
I'm Tammy, the founder and Director of a small, manly dogs rescue, but if we can we help owner Surrenders of cats and dogs in NJ. We started March 2021 and we mostly save dogs of all ages from the streets and when possible from euthanize list of rural south Texas.
Since covid we can't get good fosters if any at all. Adoption is also very slow. Lately we decided to bring only dogs that have been adopted and have a home to go to.
Our foster in Texas was a wildlife sanctuary. From fostering for us 2 dogs it grow so much, and now there are about 50 puppies and older dogs waiting to be adopted.
In two and a half years we adopted out almost 500 dogs. But as I mentioned, it's really hard the last year. I was hoping that now, when vacation season is over we will see some changes , still hoping.
Except of fosters, we also need more volunteers and I'm Looking for ways to raise enthusiasm of current volunteers.
I'm hoping, since we are small organizations ,and probably having some issues in common ,that we can Contribute new ideas and ways to solve them .
I'm Bettina, and my street kitten rescue is based in Portugal. I am in charge of health and TNR, and also the president.
The Kitten Connection started informally in 2019; then the founder decided to start a more formal rescue in 2021 and brought five women together. So we're a very small team, and admin is definitely a challenge. Last year we ran as an informal org to test the waters. We became a registered association (charity/non-profit) in February this year. Possibly we moved to form the charity a bit too quickly, as that has been an absolute nightmare of Portuguese bureaucratic processes, much of which remains unresolved!
The kittens are in our homes, plus fosters. But one challenge is that fosters aren't great at getting adoptions or giving us the info needed to promote their kittens, so that's one thing we'll be addressing this winter. We also have an issue that people are often away on holiday for a great deal of the summer so when we most need fosters we don't have them.
We rescued 154 kittens and cats last year and will probably end up about the same this year as we need to close intake after this month. We take in neonatal kittens (the only organisation that does this locally), so some key fundraising this year/last was for incubators.
TNRs are a newer part of the programme and annoyingly I'm well under target (money an issue!). Also, all trappers now need a government licence, so that is another roadblock. Luckily, we are well supported by local vet clinics for cheap sterilisation and advice.
We don't have access to a lot of grants here, and registering as a charity hasn't unlocked access to those that are available. It's very difficult to do applications and it seems that it's not a good use of time to spend a couple of days on an application that might yield 500€. Although we are trying to find native Portuguese speakers to speed that up - my Portuguese is not up to this!
Hi! I'm a volunteer at a shelter in rural Montana. We are the only shelter in our large county, but despite the size of the county, the population probably isn't over 15,000. We're a no-kill shelter and usually take in at least 1000 dogs and cats per year. Over a year ago, the shelter decided to focus even more on our dogs, a decision I haven't agreed on since I work mainly with the cats. We take in abandoned dogs and cats from our county, as well as the neighboring one, but we also do several transports each year to save dogs in other areas, mainly in Texas and California. Our shelter is usually full but we have a very small number of staff, and only this summer have we been able to increase the number of volunteers to only me to roughly 6 or 7. I don't know the financial situation but it seems we are always struggling.
I have been doing the majority of the fundraising and it's very difficult to come up with ideas that are successful. If anyone has ideas of how to do an online raffle or silent auction, I'd love to hear them. I need a method that people will feel safe with payment. Our area also is mostly lower income and asking for donations can be uncomfortable.
I look forward to participating in this group!
Wow. I am impressed with everyone! Hello, I'm a little different as I own and operate a small boarding facility in East Texas. I can't remember the last time I didn't have at least 1 foster or sanctuary dog along with everything else. I've helped out various rescues over the years, and take in /adopt out the strays that come my way. I currently have 3 heavy duty fosters and 1 still in sanctuary.
I believe my experiences can definitely help with certain aspects of dog keeping, sheltering, behavior and training, and I'm looking forward to learning so much about how the rest of you operate.
My county has no shelter, and the city doesn't take them. There are so many problems, but long story short, down the road I see my place spearheading that change by being the first.
I'm glad to be here. Diane
Hi I am Sara Singleton and have been in animal welfare for 18 years and have volunteered at several rescues over the years. Right now I am with Companion Cats in Battle Creek, MI and also Eaton County Humane Society in Olivet, MI (Primarily a spay/neuter clinic). Both smaller organizations in southwest Michigan. At the beginning of 2023 Companion Cats wanted to concentrate on adults cats so at ECHS we created a new program called Kitten Konnection. We concentrate on pregnant cats, nursing moms, and kittens. Companion Cats and Kitten Konnection have a relationship where our mom cats can to into their program when they are done nursing and we are here in case they have situations where kittens need foster homes. Companion Cats is a brick and mortar shelter with a couple of fosters for adults. Kitten Konnection is all foster based where the kittens can grow up in homes and out of the shelter environment. CC did 482 adoptions last year and 116 so far this year. (The drop is because of kittens moving to KK). So far this year KK has adopted out 233 kittens this year. We started the year with a lot of foster homes and now we have so many taking a break or not wanting to do it any more. Finding foster homes is our biggest challenge.
I've been in rescue since 2012 and have fostered and/or volunteered for just about every cat rescue and shelter in the St. Louis area. I am a capstone project away from a Master of Science in Shelter Medicine from UFL, and I hold a Certificate in Animal Shelter Management from the University of the Pacific and a Certificate in Canine and Feline Nutrition from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. I mainly foster adult cats (often medical or special needs), and I only adopt special needs cats. My main areas of knowledge/interest are feline nutrition, FIV/FeLV testing and management, CKD, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, FLUTD, shelter housing, vaccination protocols, social media, and website design and management.
Having worked with so many groups, I've seen a lot of things that work well and a lot of things that don't, so my goal has always been to open my own rescue or shelter when I retire (in 2029). Funding and resources are, of course, always a big issue; it seems only the large organizations get the partnerships and funding, and some groups only take in animals that will get them media attention. Other issues I've seen include vets who aren't well versed in shelter medicine (the approach for shelter pets and for personal pets is very different; it's a boarded specialty), a general lack of knowledge of vets in certain areas (such as FeLV/FIV, diabetes, and pediatric spay/neuter), and personality clashes, disagreements, and gossip amongst volunteers and board members that actually force a lot of good people out of rescue altogether. Finding a competent vet with an understanding of shelter medicine and a partnering offsite adoption center (they are all taken) will be the biggest challenges for me; I'm considering a cat cafe model, which has been highly successful in my area, but I know nothing about business and don't even drink coffee.
Hello! My name is Shannon Steemke; I'm the founder and president of Cooper's Chance Animal Rescue. We are a small, foster-based dog rescue located in Queen Creek, AZ. We started in 2006 and mainly focused on working with rural shelters with low adoptions/high euthanasia. We concentrate on large dogs, seniors, pregnant/nursing, and hospice; we rescue/rehome 300 - 400 dogs annually. We serve Arizona and New Mexico and are thankful for our 50+ volunteers. The biggest hurdle we face is funding - the cost of care and supplies are out of control, but donations are down, grants for our size of rescues are tough to find, and competition is steep. We are trying to find innovative ways to generate revenue beyond adoption fees. I'm looking forward to connecting with like-minded rescuers!
Hi everyone! My name is Maribel Cosme-Vitagliani and I am the Director of Community Outreach and Events for Zion's Mission Animal Rescue, based in Queens, New York. We started officially in 2019 with our two co-founders after they spent 5 years working on a rescue of two beautiful pitbulls who were being extremely abused. Zion and Nya are our inspiration to rescue, but sadly we lost Zion in 2021 after a long fight with cancer. (Nya is currently thriving on her chemo treatment and lives in our sanctuary home!)
We are a foster based rescue that depends highly on the donations of our community, and while I personally am new to the rescue, and rescuing in general, my passion is to share the work of Zion's Mission and bring awareness to our cause to increase donors, volunteers, and more. While we focus on dogs, we do not shy away from helping cats if there is no one else who would step in. We have an affinity for pitbulls due to the large mistreatment they receive and work hard to fight against the misconceptions that the bully bread faces day to day. On top of adoptions and our foster program, we help pay for medical bills for pet owners in need, take on hospice cases so senior dogs can live in comfort during their last moments instead of a shelter, and dabble in education programs for kids. We do fundraising on social media mostly, but with my new role, I am expanding our fundraising to physical events to engage our community and show off our dogs in person.
If you are in the NYC/NJ area, we would love to connect and network!
For our struggles, we are in the same boat as many other small rescues with not having enough funds. New York City is expensive, and so are our medical needs. We also can't seem to find more foster heroes locally, which if I may say frankly, sucks. The amount of fosters we have directly impacts the amount of animals we can rescue, and we constantly have to turn away animals that are brought to our attention simply because we don't have the space or resources. If anyone has any recommendations or can share how they grew their foster program, please share!
Gwen - PANT, a very small TNR and foster based cat rescue non-profit based in the Mid-Hudson Valley (NY). I wear many hats - trapper, certificate coordinator (to assist other trappers around the county with the financial costs of spay/neuters), adoption coordinator, cat transporter, fund raiser, etc. I'm the primary go-to person for when inquires come in asking for assistance, and I get frustrated when I don't have the answers or resources to help someone. This year has been particularly challenging for a number of reasons. For some reason, our fosters have been sicker this year than in the past, so our supplies and medical costs have gone sky high. While we partner with local vets, it's been particularly challenging getting spay/neuter appointments for both our fosters and our TNR cats since COVID. That has been a big bottleneck this year in particular. Like most of you, besides additional funding, we need more dedicated volunteers if we are to maintain or increase our impact on our communities. I really appreciate this opportunity to learn new ideas to tackle these challenges.
------------------------------Gwen Harding-PeetsVolunteer-- TNR trainer and trapper, certificate and adoption coordinator, board memberPANTDutchess County NY------------------------------
------------------------------Carol B.Foster Volunteer/Grants CoordinatorMichigan------------------------------
Our rescue separated from a larger well-established dog/cat operation. We had fundamental differences I in the way to rescue differentiated between dogs and cats in emphasis, and the Board had no cat representatives. The entire cat team left and started our own rescue in March 2023. We've been doing this a long time (combined over 70 year's experience) but it has a slow start.
Although we are set up to handle both cats and dogs, for now we are cat only. We pull from local shelters and our focus is U/U kitties. We've pulled right at 200 so far, and have adopted out 140. With the old rescue, we handled 350-450 cats/year. We are no where close to that. Adoptions are so slow!!! We have 25 kittens in foster who arrived as underage (bottle and transition babies) and are over 5 months old. Some of our original kittens are still with us! We aren't sure if the issue is name recognition or just slow adoptions throughout the area. Im looking forward to this forum. We are small, foster-based and all-volunteer. We all know groups like ours have needs different than shelters.
I'm looking forward to interacting with all of you! Jamie
I think everyone is experiencing adoption slowdowns this year. We're kitten only, approx 150 a year, with a lot of neonatals. We are in year 5 and in Portugal, we have a definite period where there are no adoptions at all over the summer holidays, and then it suddenly picks up again in September when schools are back.
Were there periods of slowdown that you also saw in the previous org? I really recommend some data tracking, and a change of marketing strategy.
Last year, I implemented some simple tracking using Excel to capture in/out dates and birth dates. I then introduced Pawlytics which can export data too. That has given us a data-driven picture of volumes we are likely to have to hold over the summer. Unfortunately, that's when our fosters tend to be away for weeks on end, so those two factors are a significant limiting factor on the number who can be in our system before July/August.
If you use Facebook a lot to market, then individual stories can really work, but if those are not working for you, you can try switching to ' we have [number] of babies desperate for homes' type messaging. It's worth experimenting with paid social for very targeted local reach too.
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