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Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation

Finding a forever home.

Who wouldn’t want homeless pets to find loving forever homes? The Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation makes it their business to do just that! Giant Food has supported this nonprofit organization through its Community Bag Program.

Tell us about Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation.

The Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded by Pamela McAlwee. It began as a small rescue with a handful of dogs on a ranch in Summerduck, Virginia, and has since flourished into a successful 250+ animal rescue foundation.

Our mission is simple: we help homeless pets find their way to loving homes through rescue and adoption. If we had it our way, the world would be free of homeless animals. The reality is we still have a tremendous number of problems throughout our country regarding animal welfare. We have been rescuing and adopting dogs and cats since 2001, accomplishing over 20 years of lifesaving work with around 45,000 adopted animals up to this point.

We have built a strong partnership network both locally and nationally and are proud of the impact that we make not only in the overall world of animal welfare but specifically here in the community in Northern Virginia. We strive to open our doors as needed to make a positive difference in the lives of these dogs and cats who, through no fault of their own, find themselves without a home or family.

What services do you provide to your community?

We look to find companion pets to put in people’s homes. Lifesaving and finding all pets a good home is the goal. We have a responsibility to work in a very safe, transparent and honest way.

Supplying the community with the joy and love of animal companionship is so important to the Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation. We take great pride in providing lifesaving care and matching all our rescue animals with their forever home. Recently, we have all experienced tremendous challenges and changes, not only with Covid but also with the economy and its influence. Often, we use the phrase “who rescued who,” and we truly have seen the critical difference pets make for families.

We take great pride in providing lifesaving care and matching all our rescue animals with their forever home.

What sets your organization apart from others in your community?

Two components distinguish our rescue organization from other shelters: our care center and our volunteer base. We have a brick-and-mortar rescue care center in Falls Church, Virginia, enabling us to house 125+ animals on-site. In 2017, the U.S. experienced significant natural disasters. In response, Pam decided we needed to increase our capacity to aid pets. She found a previously operated animal boarding facility in Falls Church and rented it, allowing us to take in many more dogs and cats during the numerous hurricanes that year. A physical location meant we could mobilize very quickly, say yes to more on short notice and respond to urgent requests. In 2018, due to gracious donations and fundraising, we were able to purchase that facility and turn it into the rescue care center where we reside today.

Another extraordinary aspect of our organization is the volunteer experience that we provide. Most of those involved in the organization are volunteers, including our leadership. In addition to walking dogs and caring for cats, all our primary functions, such as managing marketing, fundraising, writing pet bios and fostering, managing medical care and website management, are led by volunteers. There truly is something for everyone, whether in-person or remote, to be a part of our lifesaving mission.

Tell us a story that illustrates the good work of your organization.

This past summer, we worked with the Humane Society of the United States and its Envigo beagle rescue effort. They needed to quickly remove 4,000 beagles from a mass breeding facility and find them all shelter. We gladly took in 64 of those beagles. Most of them were adult females who had been overbred, undernourished, under-socialized and had never put their feet on grass. These dogs were living on concrete floors in metal cages.

With these beagles, we worked diligently to meet their medical and behavioral care needs before carefully assessing applicants for the perfect match. It was important they went to homes that were ready to provide full financial, medical and emotional support. We are so very proud of the forever homes we have helped make possible for all the beagles we took into our care. It’s been an incredible experience to watch their transition and to see the amazing lives they will all have now.

Another recent success story is our partnership with the BISSELL Pet Foundation to save 37 dogs from Hurricane Ian. Before the storm, other rescue groups evacuated all the animals from Florida shelters. The BISSELL Pet Foundation then asked if we would take some of these rescued animals. By six o’clock that morning, there were over 40 dogs loaded into a large truck coming from Birmingham, Alabama, where the pre-hurricane animals were staged. At around eight o’clock that night, our team of volunteers welcomed those dogs to the rescue care center. It’s an exciting process to be part of. No one likes to see a natural disaster happen, yet they are unavoidable. In a time of need, I like to say we make lemonade out of lemons. We receive these animals from areas where the adoption rates and the population are low. It’s wonderful to get these pets to our area where the population and adoption are greater. Many have already found their forever homes!

What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?

We’re most proud of the relationship we have cultivated with the community. It’s one thing to have a mission and passion, but there is something to be said about the outreach that is reciprocated; it has been amazing. Whether it’s a fundraising effort or an adoption event, we’ve received such a welcome from the community, and we’re honored that we’ve been able to create those relationships. I feel that we’re very trusted by local leadership and the community.

Another accomplishment is the number of volunteers we’ve been able to open our doors to. We have 30 to 50 volunteers that cycle through the building on any day. They come in to walk dogs, take dogs out on day field trips, care for cats, work our greeter counter and assist with other chores throughout the building. It’s an honor to engage with the people of the community. To successfully operate and have people come in and be part of our mission is incredible. Opening the rescue care center was truly a game-changer for us. The added care, socialization and enrichment we can now provide our dogs and cats as they await adoption has resulted in our ability to make better matches.

We are still growing and changing to maximize the impact we know we can have on rescuing and saving homeless dogs and cats. With the invaluable community partnerships we are building and the volunteers’ dedication to our mission, we are confident that together we are on the right path to expanding an even greater lifesaving impact.

The added care, socialization and enrichment we can now provide our dogs and cats as they await adoption has resulted in our ability to make better matches.

What do you want people to know about Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation?

We have always prided ourselves on being a very people-friendly and barrier-free rescue. We look for ways to make sure that pets get into homes so they have a chance to be part of that family. We are one of the only organizations that I know of offering a two-week trial period for adopters. When a dog or cat is adopted, we strongly feel that time is needed to ensure it’s a good match. The two-week period gives the “space” required to evaluate the match. If an adoption is not a good fit, without judgment, we’ll bring that pet back into our care and then work with the adopter to find a better fit. We strive to be transparent and friendly in our pursuit of finding pets a forever home.

Also, our partnerships within Virginia are extremely important to us. In our immediate area, we’re fortunate to have less concern with the crisis of overcrowded shelters. However, we take in many of our pets from small rural shelters in Virginia. We help with transportation logistics;  bringing animals sometimes eight hours across the state can be difficult, but receiving those pets is wonderful.

How are you using the funds you’ve received from the Giant Food Community Bag Program?

This program is an excellent opportunity to raise funds. Our organization prides itself on putting every penny towards the animals and what is needed to better their care. Donations go to paying for medical care, day-to-day food and other types of sustainment items. We are very grateful for this opportunity to partner with Giant Food.

We also appreciate the awareness and outreach that results from being a part of this program. Customers can see the Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation name on the sign in the Giant Food store and begin to learn more about our organization. That kind of exposure is just as valuable as monetary funds.

Is there any additional information you’d like to add?

During Covid Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation never closed its doors. We continued saving, transporting, adopting, and fostering animals throughout the pandemic. It was a blessing for so many dogs and cats that we could keep our doors open. We did everything possible to make the adoption process safe. The need was high, and the care given speaks to our leadership and volunteers during this challenging time. We are proud of the work we do for pets in need!

Dawn Wallace is Executive Director of the Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation. She started volunteering with the organization in 2017 and assumed her current position in May 2020.