July 10, 2024

VCA Charities Expands Support to Animal Shelters via Ready for Rescue Grant Program Focused on Adoption Readiness

VCA Charities, the charitable arm of VCA Animal Hospitals, has announced the expansion of its Ready for Rescue grant program as animal shelters across the US continue to experience an overflow of dogs and cats. With a focus on helping shelters ready animals for adoption, VCA Charities has relaunched its website to make it easier for shelters to access resources, grant funding and in-kind donations, including a Dog Day Out Starter Guide for smaller shelters looking to implement its new field trip training program. Additionally, shelters will have access to request enrichment support through Second Chance KONG, VCA Charities’ fundraising and grant making initiative, with support from KONG, focused on increasing play and enrichment for shelter dogs.

“When we launched VCA Charities with the mission of helping pets find and remain in loving homes, our Ready for Rescue grant program was a critical part of our strategy and our vision,” said Kimberly West, president and chair of VCA Charities board of directors and vice president of Corporate Affairs for VCA Animal Hospitals. ”What started as a traditional grant program for shelter partners has grown into deeply meaningful training and support programs that are not only increasing adoptions but also decreasing kennel stress, boredom and behavioral issues and simultaneously increasing connections between the local communities and the shelters.”

Dog Day Out
In October 2023, VCA Charities launched a pilot Dog Day Out field trip training program consisting of 10 shelters with a collective intake of 200,000 pets annually. VCA Charities just completed its second Dog Day Out training class which included leaders from 12 of the biggest shelters in the United States with a collective annual intake of 150,000 pets, including Animal Care Centers of NYC, Atlanta Humane Society, Austin Pets Alive!, Brandywine Valley SPCA (West Chester, PA) and its partner shelter Humane Society of Harrisburg (Harrisburg, PA), Dallas Animal Services, Humane Rescue Alliance (Washington, D.C.), LifeLine Animal Project (Atlanta, GA), Louisiana SPCA (New Orleans, LA), Minneapolis Animal Care and Control and Riverside County Animal Services (Jurupa Valley, CA).

The classes were taught by animal welfare expert Kristen Hassen, founder of Outcomes Consulting, along with subject matter experts from Virginia Tech University, Maui Humane Society and KC Pet Project. The curriculum focused on creating and growing a Dog Day Out program and expanding much-needed enrichment activities for dogs that may be experiencing kennel stress, as well as adding support and temporary relief for animal care teams and existing volunteers. The program brings attention to loving, family dogs that have been overlooked simply because of the sheer number of pets currently in shelters.

Dog Day Out programs and overnight fostering are effective ways to get dogs adopted quickly and increase their quality of life. Research by Dr. Lisa Gunter, Assistant Professor of Animal Welfare and Behavior at Virginia Tech University, documented short-term outings and temporary foster stays made it five to 14 times more likely that participating dogs would be adopted. To supplement in-person training, a VCA Charities Dog Day Out Starter Guide was just released in collaboration with Outcomes Consulting, providing best practices and guidance for smaller shelters looking to start or grow a field trip-based enrichment program.

Second Chance KONG
In May 2023, VCA Charities and KONG® partnered on Second Chance KONG, a VCA Charities fundraising and grant making initiative focused on increasing enrichment for shelter dogs. ‘Second Chance KONGs’ are repurposed KONG “seconds”—slightly imperfect KONGs that can’t be sold because of small imperfections but have the same durability of any KONG you’d find in a store, reducing waste and increasing resources for shelters.

In just a bit more than a year, more than 50,000 KONGs have been donated to shelter partners across the United States. With the launch of its new website, VCA Charities is now offering an open application for qualifying shelters to request a Second Chance KONG toy for shelter dog populations. Shelters interested in applying can learn more at VCA Charities.

“KONG exists because we know dogs need to need to play—they need enrichment, stimulation and ways to keep busy while patiently waiting for adoption,” said Brian Decker, vice president of brand and creative at KONG. “Our support of VCA Charities and its vast network of shelter partners means even more shelter dogs will have a second chance at finding a loving home—not to mention care and toys while they wait for one!”

Helping pets find and remain in loving homes is at the heart of VCA Charities’ mission. Since 2021, VCA Charities has donated more than $3.8 million in grants and provided nearly 2.2 million meals to hungry pets in partnership with Hill’s Pet Nutrition. Whether it’s responding to disasters, transporting pets from at-capacity shelters to ones with a waitlist of adopters or funding emergency veterinary care for pets belonging to low-income pet owners, VCA Charities works to support the joy of pet ownership in communities across the country.

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