Rescue Bank: 10 Years of Helping Rescued PetsMatthew Russell
It’s important, life-saving work, and it’s far from over, but Rescue Bank’s efforts have led to an impressive decade of inspiring animal rescue stories.
Rescue Bank is a signature program of GreaterGood.org, and provides grants to the animal rescue community in the form of donated pet food, delivered through a network of regional affiliates. Pet food grants allow rescue organizations to transfer part of their food budget to much-needed services such as spay/neuter, vet services, facility maintenance or improvement, and adoption events.
According to a press release, Elizabeth Asher and partner John Kane founded Rescue Bank in 2006 after their experience responding to Hurricane Katrina. They saw that smaller, community-based animal rescues and shelter staff were doing most of the front-line work, but simply weren’t visible to donors. Adopting the food bank model, they started sourcing bulk donations for distribution to smaller groups along the Gulf Coast. Quickly expanding to a national network with GreaterGood’s support, Rescue Bank now delivers between eight and ten million pounds of donated food per year to animal rescues across America.
Over ten years, that’s a lot of food! Read more about Rescue Bank’s decade of incredible animal rescues below.
Mooch’s Mastiff Rescue was contacted by Texas City’s Humane Society to pick up a 1-year-old Neapolitan Mastiff, “Mighty Blue,” who was an owner release in a cruelty case in January, 2006.
After he was neutered and had a few weeks to decompress, he was quickly adopted by a local family. Donations from Rescue Bank made it possible to pull more animals from shelters into new homes, and helped free up funding for other purposes. Each pound of food Rescue Bank delivers helps ensure that more animals are staying healthy while they move into their forever homes.
CiCi, a 10-month-old Sharpei-Labrador mix, was rescued by Friends of the Galveston County Animal Shelter before she would have been euthanized. Santa Fe resident Deborah Rashell said CiCi suffered severe injuries to her front legs after her previous owners accidentally ran over her.
Foster parent Rashell took CiCi to two different veterinarians, who both confirmed CiCi would never walk again. But CiCi still managed to get around by dragging herself. The constant friction led to sores and infections, however, so she had to wear wraps around her legs, and socks on her front paws.
When Rescue Bank’s John Kane learned of CiCi’s story, he made a phone call and received a donated child’s walker from Nancy Rice, owner of The Wheelchair Store, Inc. in Houston, Texas. Jerry Finch, President of Habitat with Horses, spent several hours with harnesses and towels at hand to creatively fashion a sling that comfortably fits CiCi into the walker. The makeshift motility device helped CiCi get around painlessly until Rescue Bank donations were also able to cover a $500 front-end cart custom built by Eddie’s Wheels for Pets, a Massachusetts company.
Making landfall in Galveston on Sept. 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike caused extensive wind and flood damage from the Florida Panhandle to the Texas-Mexico border. More than 1 million people evacuated the upper Texas coastal region, impacting several hundred thousand pets. With little more than one day’s notice, Rescue Bank arranged the shipment of 19 truckloads (about 2.5 million meals) donated by the Nutro plant in California and set up a temporary warehouse to manage the product. Rescue Bank recipient groups provided volunteer labor and a local firm donated a forklift and material handling equipment.
Applying lessons learned from its Katrina response, Rescue Bank operated the warehouse for nearly two months, 16-20 hours per day, receiving shipments and distributing much-needed food to local rescue groups and families. This was the organization’s first large-scale experience with managing logistics, maintaining inventory, and documenting deliveries, setting in motion the work that would lead to becoming a high-volume regional –- then national –- distribution non-profit.
Rescue Bank was a top funder of Houston’s Happy Cat Adoptions in 2009, helping them obtain the large enclosures needed to house rescued adult cats who have lost social skills and require time and work before they can be successful in a foster home with other cats. Some of their cats had never lived with other cats before. Some had been rescued with transmissible diseases like FIV and leukemia.
The cages have been used by each primary foster family to alleviate stress while they recuperate. They’re large enough for cats to run, jump, and play, and provide a welcoming environment for potential adopters.
The success of this project led to many happy stories, and one in particular of a short-haired black cat named “Paulie.” Declawed and battle-scarred, he was found on the streets of Houston. After being left at a shelter, Paulie was immediately scheduled for euthanasia when Happy Cat Adoptions rescued him. Elderly, black, male, adult, and positive for FIV, Paulie stood little chance of a new home. To gain publicity for his adoption, an “I love Paulie!” campaign was started. Rather than asking for money or for another foster, HCA simply asked people to add the tagline, “I love Paulie!” (with a link to his webpage) to all their personal emails. Paulie had over 100 “hits” to his webpage by the end of the third day, and the publicity reached his owners, who came to claim him.
In 2010, Abby was found on the streets of Houston, 25lbs underweight with ulcers in her eyes, ear infections, hookworms, heart worm, and an open wound on her front paw. Veterinary technicians at Beechnut Animal Hospital helped nurse Abby back to health with the assistance of Rescue Bank donations. Rescue Bank took care of Abby’s medical bills while she waited for adoption into a healthy new home.
When Bessie Isabelle was rescued by a Houston area rescue group, she weighed 23.6 lbs., less than half of what a healthy pit bull should weigh. She was so weak, she had to be carried. And because Bessie’s system was not accustomed to food, she had to be fed only the tiniest amounts of raw meat six to seven times a day.
Rescue Bank was able to provide the meat donations from its salvage program at the Houston Food Bank. Less than a week later, Bessie weighed 34.4 lbs. She regained some of her strength and was finally able to walk on her own.
One month later, she weighed 44 lbs. and was healthy enough to go to a forever home.
Superstorm Sandy, which made landfall in New Jersey, caused more than $75 billion in damages as it marched up the East Coast in October of 2012. Roughly 30 million pets were impacted by this storm, with shelters and rescues throughout the region filled to overflowing.
Rescue Bank delivered 14 trucks to the area, supplying food to both national and local organizations responding to the disaster. One Nutro shipment, to Pennsville, NJ, was coordinated through a regional AKC representative and distributed by K-9 Police Association offices in Gloucester and Salem counties. Two truckloads of Pedigree were dispatched to the National Guard air base in West Virginia, then distributed to snow-bound communities by half-tracks and helicopters.
Working with Atlantic City Humane, Rescue Bank delivered a trailer of Royal Canin food that was parked there for two weeks to support area families. Several more loads sent to a warehouse that Rescue Bank rented in Paterson, NJ were distributed to devastated communities such as Rockaway and Brighton Beach.
Drusilla the cat was rescued by Kitty City Feral Sanctuary, an organization that helps the “unadoptable” cats and kittens in the Houston area. Before her rescue, Drusilla was stricken with serious eye problems.
“The Squeezle’s vet bills were easily in the thousands of dollars, and we have a shelter full of feral and special-needs cats that also need looking after,” said Kitty City Feral Sanctuary’s Sheri Sanders. “Nestlé Purina food from Rescue Bank freed up funds that would have gone to feed everyone, and enabled us to give her and all the other rescued kitties the veterinary care they needed.”
Benevolent Action Rescue Committee (BARC) volunteers Angie and Becky Hawk found Zoey and her sister as very tiny, starving puppies under a pile of rubble by a railroad in Fontana, Calif. in 2014. With difficulty and risk, they rescued the puppies and cared for them with Rescue Bank’s assistance until they were well and could be adopted. By providing Purina pet food donations, Rescue Bank helped BARC stretch its resources to take in more dogs to the rescue and provide them the vet care that they needed.
Before the Hendrix College Cat Colony’s partnership with Rescue Bank, most of its funding went to paying for food to take care of the semi-feral cat colony at Hendrix Campus. Feeding twenty or so cats every night was not an inexpensive task.
With the support of Rescue Bank, Hendrix College was able to direct its funds to spaying and neutering, allowing them to more quickly stabilize the colony and better care for its cats. The organization has since spayed almost the entire colony. By not having to dedicate a lot of time and energy to ensuring the cats had a continued food supply, Hendrix College Cat Colony had the resources to raise awareness and support for the cats. They now have their own exhibit in the school library and an Instagram page with almost 900 followers, from which supporters can get updates on the colony every few days.
Tessa and Dale came to Lone Star Pyrs and Paws in August 2016 from a high kill shelter. Tessa had just given birth, and although she was less than two years old, the vet thought this was her second litter. When they were picked up from the shelter, the dogs each weighed less than 60 pounds, despite being fully grown. They were so thin and emaciated the rescuers had to wait several months before getting them spayed and neutered. With the help of Rescue Bank’s food donations, the dogs regained their full strength. Dale grew to about 90 pounds and Tessa to 80-85 pounds.
The dogs were closely bonded. Dale would panic and cry whenever Tessa was out his sight. Wherever Tessa was, Dale was close by. Lone Star Pyrs and Paws did all they could to adopt the pair together. After several months they were contacted by Charlotte Fisher who saw them on the website, visited them, fell in love, and made them a part of her family. Fisher also has two elderly poodles who were rescued from a puppy mill, where they spent the first four years of their lives in a kennel.
Food is one of the most vital needs that shelters and rescues have. No matter how dedicated the volunteers, no matter how great the veterinary care, food remains the most important item. It is also the most expensive and difficult to acquire. Most shelters depend on the generosity of their communities, but often that isn’t enough to meet their needs.
For 10 years, GreaterGood.org’s Rescue Bank program has worked tirelessly to fill that need — and they aren’t slowing! Unfortunately, the number of homeless pets who need food isn’t slowing either. We need your help to continue to deliver high-quality, name brand food to rescue groups all over the country. Help us do even more by giving torward our goal to provide 1 million meals in celebration of Rescue Bank’s 10th birthday.