Help Students to Save Homeless Pets in the US

by Petfinder Foundation
A volunteer getting to know some new friends
A volunteer getting to know some new friends

In May, Rescue U volunteers from Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia headed to Grafton, W.V., to renovate a cat shelter called P.U.R.R. (People United for Rescue and Rehabilitation) West Virginia. Projects included painting, organizing and hanging fiberglass, as well as some fairly heavy construction work.

The team replaced the shelter's entryway with a new porch after the existing porch, which had been held up with wood that rotted over the years due to water damage, collapsed. Volunteers also created a new storage room and built a new loading entrance to it. A section of the brick wall had to be demolished in order to install a new door.

To create the storage room, the team removed 7,500 pounds of scrap metal from an old schoolroom and built a ramp leading up to the entrance (the scrap metal was recycled and the proceeds went to the shelter!). Volunteers demolished its bathrooms to create a cat intake area, removed the railings from the sidewalk outside the new room and expanded the sidewalk to allow shelter staff to move supplies in via pallet jack.

An old artists' studio was cleared of debris, its walls scraped, repaired (P.U.R.R. owner Sarel Venter strapped on stilts to plaster hard-to-reach spots) and painted a "purplicious" color to create a new cat colony room.

The major renovations to the shelter have made life easier for the shelter staff and volunteers, and most importantly, more comfortable for all the adoptable cats. As P.U.R.R. wrote on its Facebook page: "Pawesome job at P.U.R.R., Rescue U volunteers!!"

The artists
The artists' studio that became a cat colony
A volunteer with her favorite kitty
A volunteer with her favorite kitty


Repairing a perimeter fence
Repairing a perimeter fence

The Petfinder Foundation’s Rescue U was in Tavares, FL, at Lake County Animal Services from March 9-15 performing some much-needed renovations. Volunteers from Pennsylvania, Kentucky, New Jersey and Florida rolled up their sleeves.

Previously there were only two small outdoor play areas for the dogs at the shelter, which severely limited the amount of play and exercise time each dog is able to get. Rescue U built a brand new 50’x70’ outdoor exercise pen. This means a significant increase in the amount of time each dog gets outside, making the dogs happier, healthier and more adoptable.

Rescue U also made general fencing repairs throughout the shelter. Several of the cat and dog kennels were in need of repair, and the industrial perimeter fence needed to be replaced in some areas. Our Rescue U volunteers fixed this for Lake County Animal Services to make sure their kennels are safe and their perimeter is secure.

The cats at the shelter got a special focus on this trip. Not only were their kennels repaired where needed, but the cat room got a fresh coat of paint, and a mural to brighten up the mood of the room for potential adopters!

The Petfinder Foundation also built two outdoor cat play areas. These areas will vastly improve the quality of life of the cats at the shelter, allowing them a safe, stress-free place to stretch and play outside. This will reduce upper respiratory infections and other communicable disease and make the cats at the shelter much more adoptable.

Next up: Rescue U heads to P.U.R.R. West Virginia in Grafton from May 21 to June 1. The work will involve a lot of cleaning, paint prep-work, painting, hanging Fiberglass wall covering and reorganizing.

Thank you for your donations, which make this important work possible!

Volunteers hard at work
Volunteers hard at work
A volunteer and a CWR resident
A volunteer and a CWR resident

Rescue U spent Dec. 31-Jan.13 renovating Carolina Waterfowl Rescue in Indian Trail, N.C. Previously, we’d focused on shelters that care for dogs and cats. On this last build, we worked to improve the lives of ducks, pigeons, swans and other adoptable birds.

When CWR was hit by a tornado in spring 2012, wind destroyed many of the structures that housed the adoptable and wild birds the rescue cares for. Kennels, cages and full sheds were blown across the property; feeding areas and barns lost their roofs; and several birds were injured. Rescue director Jennifer Gordon remembers the day the storms hit: “I was outside scrambling to get supplies in the shed, and the roof was lifted off, just like you see in tornado movies.”

Local volunteers made initial repairs (CWR is an all-volunteer organization), but the rescue still needed help. So Rescue U volunteers from Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arizona, Washington and North Carolina took time off work or gave up their school vacations to renovate the facility.

Our projects included a new barn to store supplies and serve as a bird habitat, privacy fencing around the goat enclosure (CWR is also home to rescued goats!), more than 1,500 feet of chain-link fencing surrounding the property to keep out foxes, raccoons and other predators, repair on the existing fencing and gates, and several habitat and feeding structures around the property, including one on an island that can be reached only by kayak.

The barn, in particular, is a godsend. Many of the cage-free waterfowl prefer to roost inside when it is cold or rainy. Rescue U volunteers built several of the raised beds they normally build for dogs to keep the birds off the ground, since birds lose a lot of body heat through their feet. Most importantly, the barn provides protection for all the birds in the case of another terrible storm. “We get a lot of storms here,” Gordon says. “It will be nice to know we have a safe place to protect our birds when another one hits.”

Raising the roof on the new barn
Raising the roof on the new barn
A volunteer bonds with one of CWR
A volunteer bonds with one of CWR's resident ducks


The agility platform we built at Metro Nashville
The agility platform we built at Metro Nashville

Rescue U just got back from the Nashville, TN, area, where we worked with Mars Petcare's volunteer program to help employees improve the living conditions for animals in five local animal shelters.

In the Mars Volunteer Program, employees are given time off to perform community service. Mars (which makes Pedigree brand pet food) has done animal projects in the past, but wanted to take them to a whole new level, and brought us in this year to design and run the program's animal shelter activities. The five shelters we would help: Williamson County Animal Control & Adoption Center, Maury County Animal Services Facility, Sumner County Sheriff's Office Animal Control Div., Humane Society of Sumner County and Metro Nashville Animal Control Services.

We worked with each shelter to determine what its greatest needs were, and then designed the projects to be completed in a single day. While that may sound easy, most shelter staffers are so busy handling the day-to-day upkeep of their animals, they don’t even realize what their greatest problem areas are. They may realize that their cats suffer from upper respiratory issues, but not understand the connection between physical and mental health. Or they might know the dogs are stressed and slightly kennel crazy even though they spend time outdoors, but they don’t realize that most of that outdoor time isn’t productive exercise time since the dogs are hunkered down in the one corner of their play yard that provides afternoon shade.


Above: Mars volunteers install sunshades over the dog runs at Williamson County Animal Control. The shades will allow the dogs to enjoy the yard year-round.

Though these projects were completed in a single week, running Rescue U projects is like running a cooking show. Isn’t it always cool how the onions and peppers are already cut up and put in cute glass dishes? Well that's what Rescue U does. We prep the projects so the volunteers can show up on a Monday morning ready to pour concrete into the graded, graveled and formed concrete pad that was awaiting them. No magic here — just us, working all day Saturday and Sunday getting it ready. The easier we can make it seem for the volunteers, the more fun they will have and the more likely they will be to want to do it again!

The projects the Mars volunteers completed included creating a cat stimulation garden to enrich the lives of the cats in one shelter; putting up shade screens to protect dogs from the blazing Nashville sun; constructing a storage building for food; installing exercise pens; painting; adding shelving; installing wall fans; replacing some doors and repairing others; and adding agility equipment, benches and landscaping to make the shelters more appealing to potential adopters. We had a blast on this project!


Installing AstroTurf
Installing AstroTurf

The Humane Society of West Michigan has wonderful, long, spacious dog runs. However, the runs were filled with pea gravel that was burning the dogs’ paw pads when it got hot outside. Our Rescue U volunteers fixed that.

We took out five tons of gravel and leveled out the runs to get them ready to lay down AstroTurf. Thanks to the generous support of the Animal Rescue Site, we were able to purchase recycled turf from Duke University to install in these runs (it had been used in Duke’s football stadium!).

Installing it was no easy task. The turf was rolled into 75-90 ft. rolls that weighed approximately 600 lbs. each, meaning we rolled out about 3,000 lbs. of turf in one afternoon. Once it was rolled out we had to fold it and drag it into the pens. It took six of us just to move it and place it. The edges all had to be pounded into the gravel and the seams epoxied with a nasty, sticky green goop.

All in all, redoing the dog runs was three days of hard work, but the mission was accomplished! We also put thresholds in the doorways and re-installed the fence surrounding the runs.

We completed many other projects at the Humane Society of West Michigan. Now our student volunteers, who came from Grand Valley State University, Central Michigan University, Michigan State University, Grand Rapids Community College and Kettering University in Flint, are getting ready to go back to school, and we’re grateful to them for giving up a week of their summer vacations to work morning to night to make the shelter a better place for all the wonderful pets there.

The new agility course
The new agility course
New perches in the cat colony
New perches in the cat colony



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Organization Information

Petfinder Foundation

Location: Tucson, AZ - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Emily Fromm
Chief Development Officer
Tucson, AZ United States

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