Grant helps save more dogs in Chicago shelters

Two people sitting on a blue couch petting a large white dog
One Tail at a Time puts Rachael Ray Save Them All Grant to good use to support dogs from Chicago animal shelter.
By Bárbara Soares

Rani Rose, a bright-eyed, caramel-coated dog, had a rough start to life. She came to Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC) as a stray struggling with heartworm disease, and she needed help and time to heal. But the shelter was already operating at maximum capacity, and Rani Rose’s future looked uncertain.

One Tail at a Time (OTAT), a Best Friends Network Partner in the Chicago area, works with CACC by placing dogs in its foster program. To help bolster this lifesaving support, Best Friends provided OTAT with a Rachael Ray Save Them All Grant this year.

Thanks to this support, Rani Rose got a ride out of the shelter and straight into a foster home, where she was able to relax as she received treatment for heartworm disease.

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Best Friends’ goal is for all shelters across the country to reach no-kill by 2025. Giving out grants to our partners is one way we are supporting shelters in reaching that goal. For Stacy Rogers, Best Friends Midwest regional director, OTAT was an ideal candidate for a Rachael Ray Save Them All Grant. “One Tail at a Time has a large presence in Chicago and has been especially dedicated to helping CACC, which has the largest intake in the city,” Stacy says.

With the funding support, OTAT now has the means to save an additional 200 dogs at CACC, many of them with medical issues like Rani Rose.

“We provide the extra medical care that they can't necessarily get in the city shelter,” says OTAT Executive Director Heather Owen. “We want to make sure we can grab those dogs — and specifically the sick ones.”

Community support vital to saving pets’ lives

But Heather would simply not be able to do all this work without the help of the community, in particular the foster volunteers she works with. “Our foster parents love helping local dogs, so we have a lot of great community support,” Heather says.

With the grant funds, Heather can provide much-needed training to potential foster caregivers, who learn to deal with common dog medical and behavioral issues. “We have trainers that can address that and support our foster community,” Heather says. “It's just been really nice that Best Friends has allowed us to serve the most vulnerable population in our city.”

Thinking outside the box

Since receiving the grant, OTAT has been able to take nearly 50 dogs from CACC into its foster program. But there’s still more work to be done to support the underfunded and under-resourced city shelter, where the adoption rate is struggling to keep up with the number of animals coming in.

The solution, according to Heather, is to think outside the box. “I love developing new ideas and working with Best Friends to get exciting things funded so that we can try them,” she says. One such idea was to waive adoption fees for all dogs adopted from the city shelter, which OTAT has successfully implemented thanks to support from the grant. Another idea was the Adopt a Chicago Dog campaign, a website listing all large-breed dogs available for adoption in the city.

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Additionally, Heather works to fight prejudice against large dogs by educating the public. She makes sure people understand these dogs make excellent pets and can adapt to life even in a small apartment in the big city. All they need is an opportunity to let their energy out — and, of course, lots of love (and treats).

It all started with a lifesaving grant from the Rachael Ray Foundation and a Best Friends Network Partner committed to doing the right thing for the animals in its community — a powerful combination. Rani Rose not only got a second chance in a foster home but also the greatest gift of all: a loving family to call her own. She has been adopted.

For Heather, it’s important not to lose sight of why she and the rest of the OTAT team have been putting in the work for over 15 years: “To make sure any treatable dog gets out of the shelter alive. That’s our No. 1 goal.”

The work continues, but as Rani Rose can attest, we’re making progress together.

Let's make every shelter and every community no-kill by 2025

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill by 2025. No-kill means saving every dog and cat in a shelter who can be saved, accounting for community safety and good quality of life for pets. 

Shelter staff can’t do it alone. Saving animals in shelters is everyone’s responsibility, and it takes support and participation from the community. No-kill is possible when we work together thoughtfully, honestly, and collaboratively.

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