Partnership Power: How Shelters Can Work Together

dogrescueBy Tatiana Garrett

Every animal welfare organization exists to prevent suffering and save lives—we’re all in this together. With thousands of animal shelters and rescue groups across the country, and no umbrella organization to coordinate efforts, it can be daunting to coordinate the efforts of so many people. The good news is that it is being done. Animal shelters partner to share resources, offer adoptions in locations that used to be supplied by puppy mills, and create formal coalitions. I am based in Chicago so this article contains local examples, but I hope every shelter across the country considers employing more of these types of partnerships in an effort to save more lives.

Resource Sharing:

In the animal world, “resource” is a broad term. A dog with resource guarding issues will get upset when someone else comes too close to something he sees as valuable (it can be food, toys, treats, a house, or even a guardian). Animal shelters share resources to optimize their impact where it is needed most.

When the Humane Society Calumet Area (HSCA) experienced a fire in their laundry room on July 2nd, they lost some valuable resources. Thankfully, all 300 animals were safely evacuated, but the shelter found themselves in desperate need of bleach, towels, blankets, pet beds, toys, and litter pans. The fire received media attention and there was an outpouring of support.

Stephanie Peterson of the HSCA found inspiration in the experience, “Local rescues and shelters have offered their assistance and we are reminded that all animal welfare agencies, big or small, are working toward the same goal of saving homeless, abused, or neglected animals from cruel fates. We are fortunate to work with several local shelters and animal controls transporting animals, assisting with spay/neuter needs, and sharing food and supplies.  By working together, shelters and rescues can accomplish extraordinary things.”  Read the full story here.

Peterson mentions that the HSCA regularly works with other shelters. Partnerships like this can happen on an impromptu basis. A shelter with an empty cage can take in a dog from a shelter with a limited stay policy, thereby giving the animal another chance to find a forever home. Shelters that don’t have a clinic open to the general public can partner with shelters that do in their efforts to curb overpopulation. Any agencies that receive donations that they cannot use can share them with other shelters, rescue groups, or foster homes that can use the items.

Offsite Adoptions:

Twenty years ago, anyone working in animal welfare would implore people to never buy a cat or dog from a pet shop because the purchase would have surely been contributing to a puppy mill. Now, it is quite common for shelters to partner with pet stores and boarding facilities to offer offsite adoptions. The store receives animals that are vetted by the shelter and they get to feel good about being part of an adoption process without worrying about public backlash that would come from supplying animals from a mill. The shelters benefit by having more space for animals in need of homes.

The Anti-Cruelty Society offers offsite adoptions in select PetSmart locations, Paradise for Paws–Midway, and Lambs Farm.


In a large metropolitan area like Chicago, formal coalitions provide shelters and rescue groups an opportunity to come to the table on a regular basis to discuss needs and trends in the community and to enable the groups to partner on meaningful endeavors. The Chicago Animal Shelter Alliance (CASA) has fifteen members representing large shelters, the city’s animal control, and foster-based rescue groups. Local coalitions allow members to partner on events (such as the recent Windy City Feline Frenzy), stay aware of resources available through other organizations, and allow policy sharing so all can work towards best possible practices.

Animal welfare organizations are nonprofit businesses that often times find themselves competing for the same limited funding and other resources. Some allow variances in procedures to become barricades between organizations. Overall, the trend of increasing partnerships like the ones mentioned here and coming together to save more animals provides a tremendous amount of hope for the future of animal welfare.

Tatiana Garrett grew up with Borzoi, a rescued Standard Poodle, cats, hamsters, parrots, rabbits, guinea pigs, and an iguana… just to name a few pets. She began her professional career with animals in 1995 at Brookfield Zoo. She has studied wild dolphins in Australia and rescued wildlife in Florida, but people are truly at the heart of her work. If it walks, hops, or slithers, Tatiana cares about it. She currently oversees the Humane Education programs at The Anti-Cruelty Society and hosts “Chicago Tails“ on Watch312.com.

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