Help Students to Save Homeless Pets in the US

by Petfinder Foundation
Adoptable dog Charlie meets his new family
Adoptable dog Charlie meets his new family

The Petfinder Foundation's Rescue U volunteers are back from an 11-day shelter renovation at the Humane Society of Jefferson County in Tennessee. The trip was a complete success, and one that will live on in my heart forever. We endured long, brutally hot days, but the sheer determination of our volunteers and the unwavering support of the community made this renovation extra-special. Here are a few of my favorite memories from the trip:

Heat and treats: One of the biggest questions when Rescue U is renovating a shelter is, how we are going to feed everyone? Typically, the answer is peanut butter and jelly. This was not the case in Jefferson City. By our second day there, members of the community who'd caught wind of what we were doing at the shelter started showing up with water, Gatorade, sweet tea, lunch, dinner and delicious treats for all the volunteers. It's hard to describe how nice it feels to eat a piece of homemade fudge or a slice of cheesecake after a wonderful lunch prepared by members of the community. This really gave all the volunteers a welcome sense of home while they were all so far away from theirs.

Hot roofs and warm hearts: Our most impressive accomplishment was the construction and completion of 12'x35' cat enclosure that we jokingly called the cat house. This was Rescue U's largest single project to date. Not only was it a massive undertaking, built from the ground up, but we also had to contend with temperatures of 115-plus degrees up on the roof. With sweat pouring off us, we toiled all day and into the night to finish the roof so that we'd have enough time to complete the inside.

Our volunteers gladly worked over the next few days, including Memorial Day, to finish the inside, complete with windows, doors, an air-conditioning/heating unit and some beautiful latticework to make the house look more welcoming to potential adopters. We also built an enclosed outdoor play area for the cats so they can get some sun and outdoor time.

It was all smiles when we pushed the last cat cage into the house and set it up, all of us knowing that we had just improved the lives of so many cats by providing them with an environment that was stress-free and easier to clean. It gave me a great sense of accomplishment to see the cats who had been there a while, in a virtually windowless environment, lean into the sun in their new, and hopefully temporary, home.

Doggy treats: Don't think we forgot about the dogs. The dogs at this shelter were singular in their temperament and disposition. I can honestly say I have never seen a group of shelter dogs that were so well-behaved and happy. Now they're going to be even happier. At the bottom of the hill we built two big exercise pens for them to run around and socialize in. At the top of the hill we built a meet-and-greet area where people can meet the dogs in a stress-free environment outside of the kennel, so that the dogs' true personalities can to come out and win the hearts of their new families. We also added many new kennels and concrete pads so that the dogs will not be overcrowded and can live in sanitary, happy place.

Although the record-breaking heat was, at times, defeating, the resolve of our volunteers and the community that supported us never was. I've learned that the determination of a few can change the lives of many, and this was the case in Jefferson City, TN. This renovation will be a reminder to all involved that it's possible to make a difference. All you have to do is something, because at the end of the day, the smallest contribution makes more of a difference than the largest indifference.

Volunteers pose on the roof of the new cat house
Volunteers pose on the roof of the new cat house


On May 24th, 2011 the City of Guthrie Animal Shelter was hit be an EF5 tornado that destroyed more than half of the city’s animal shelter. Unfortunately, FEMA and insurance money was not adequate to bring the shelter up to its former level of function.

With the disproportionally high number of disasters last spring and summer, The Animal Rescue Site (ARS) decided to host a “Gifts That Give More” fund raising campaign to help with disaster relief.  They raised a substantial amount of money and came to us at the Foundation to see if we could help them make the most of some of that money.  And so, The City of Guthrie, The Foundation and The Animal Rescue Site came together for this week of helping animals!

Rescue U, Foundation’s newest program, trains college students to rehabilitate animal shelters in need.  With the support of ARS, Rescue U was able to travel to Guthrie Oklahoma to help rebuild their shelter. The Rescue U volunteers from Delaware Valley College and Montgomery Community College in PA teamed up with Oklahoma State University and University of Oklahoma volunteers for one week this January to bring the shelter back to its full functionality.

In one week, these student volunteers were able to build three large exercise pens for the dogs, build three new covered meet-and-greet pens for prospective adopters to meet dogs, build roofs for over all of the outdoor dog runs, build an outdoor cat play area and give the cats better enrichment tools, repaint the building, as well as building a storage facility for the shelter.  Additionally, Rescue U was able to provide new appliances, new stainless steel cat cages and new guillotine doors for the indoor/outdoor dog kennels.  All-in-all a great week for the animals of Guthrie and the people who help them!

In addition to the funds spent on the shelter itself, through a generous donation from ARS, the City of Guthrie Animal Shelter was presented with a check for $10,000 to be spent on veterinary care and food for the animals.  What a great week for these hard-working students and Guthrie animal caregivers!


Puppies awaiting their new roof in Kentucky
Puppies awaiting their new roof in Kentucky

The Foundation was recently in Kentucky with students from Rescue U renovating the Rowan County Animal Shelter and Menifee County Animal Shelter. There was a lot of progress made on each shelter, including: a new enclosed outdoor play area for the cats, new posts and steps for the cats to perch, a fresh coat of paint over cleaned walls of the dog kennels, new, raised dog beds, a new shelter roof and so much more!

In total 65 dogs were transported out of the Kentucky shelters and to the Northeast to shelters and rescue groups where they will await their forever homes! Not only will the move improve their chances for adoption, it will provide them with a better quality of life, with less risk of illness and kennel stress, while they await adoption.

Student Volunteers building new dog beds
Student Volunteers building new dog beds
Student Volunteers building a new kennel roof
Student Volunteers building a new kennel roof
Kentucky Rescue U Trip
Kentucky Rescue U Trip


At the end of this month (May), the Foundation will partner with Animal Lifeline for the Rescue U program to educate, rehabilitate and rescue! Approximately 30 students from Delaware Valley College, Morehead State University, and the University of Kentucky will be volunteering together on various projects to improve shelter conditions at Rowan County Animal Shelter and Menifee County Animal Shelter in Eastern Kentucky. Students from Rescue U will take the first week of summer vacation to repair and install chain link fences and kennels, build roofs over kennels, install a dog bath, make dog and cat beds, clean the existing kennels, and install an outdoor cat enclosure and play area.

Students and professionals will be hosting an educational seminar for the other 15 area rescue and shelter groups, focusing on adoption. Approximately 40 dogs from the Kentucky shelters will be transported to shelters and rescues in the North East for adoption, through the program.

See a video of our January trip to South Carolina



About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Petfinder Foundation

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

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

Still want to help?

Support another project run by Petfinder Foundation that needs your help, such as:

Find a Project

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence


Woman Holding a Gift Card
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter