In August of 2009, Rachel Mairose, huge and pregnant with hormones gone wild, founded Secondhand Hounds (SHH): a non-profit that scoops up cats and dogs that are on the “chopping block” at kill shelters around the United States.  A grassroots organization, SHH provides rescue animals with foster families, veterinary care, behavioral therapy, and daily necessities—while tirelessly beating the pavement to find them forever homes. “We don’t put a time limit on it [adoption],” Mairose said.  The proof: Snow White, a Pit bull whose ears were half-hacked off, entered the program in October of 2012 and is still waiting, almost four years later, to be adopted.

white pitbull

Snow White | Photo courtesy of Secondhand Hounds

Rescuing thousands of animals

Last year, the Minnesota-based organization rescued 2,400 animals, roughly 2,000 from out-of-state shelters and 400 from Minnesota.  Scouring Craigslist for $10 crates, raking in donation from events—the most popular being their 5K9 drawing in 3,000 runners—and receiving broken bags of food from stores like Target and Lakewind Co-Op, SHH only has to “buy food a few times per year,” which has allowed them to completely foot half a million dollars worth of medical bills, from clip and chip programs to tumor removals.

“We work with about four behaviorists in training facilities [who]…perform temperament testing,” Mairose said. SSH works with the University of Minnesota to repair heart murmurs. “That’s one of the things that no one really wants to touch, [but] it takes puppies [and kittens] from dying to having normal life expectancies.”

Providing comfort for terminal animals

The nonprofit also has a  great partnership with Mission Animal Hospital. “They’re the first non-profit veterinary office in the Midwest. [Luckily,] we share a building with them. They euthanize really sick animals [that are in our Hospice Program] in fosters’ homes, so the cat’s or dog’s last experience isn’t in a vet office where they’re scared, but in a home they’ve come to love.”

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Bernadette | Photo courtesy of Secondhand Hounds

SHH launched its Foster Program in the Spring of 2015 after taking in a 17-year-old Min Pin that “looked like the crypt keeper”.  Weighing around three pounds, Elvyn had scoliosis.  His bottom jaw had completely disintegrated into a flap of skin.  He also had skin and eyes issues and his nails were curling into his feet. “There was no way this dog could have walked five blocks in a year,” Mairose said. The vet gave him only two weeks to live.  After being placed with a foster family, though, Elvyn found the will to live again, thriving for seven months.  “It showed us what love can do for these dogs,” she said. “[Our] fosters are angelic. They’re willing to deal with the pee and the poop and the [never-ending] vet visits.” Approximately 40% of dogs and cats in SHH’s Hospice Foster Program become senior adoptable.

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Roo Roo | Photo courtesy of Secondhand Hounds

Nursing animals back to health

SHH’s Fighter Fund picks up the “hopeless” animal rescue cases, the ones that no other rescue can or will take on.  Mairose started the program in honor of Bernadette the English Bulldog who had Cerebellar Hypoplasia: a condition that causes jerking movements and uncontrollable tremors making walking difficult. Because of over-breeding, Bernadette’s trachea wasn’t growing with her body, so she suffocated. “It was really angering to see that this was happening to this little girl who had so much fight in her,” she said. “The Vets said, ‘There’s nothing we can do.’  It really showed me that I was willing to fight as hard as the animals.”

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Bernadette | Photo courtesy of Secondhand Hounds

The Fighter Fund went on to help animals like Isabelle, a seven-month-old kitten shoved into a dryer and discovered with third-degree burns, and Gaia, a Pit Bull that lost half of its face after being thrown from a moving car.

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Quasi the Great | Photo courtesy of Secondhand Hounds

The Fighter Fund’s mini-celebs are Quasi The Great, one of only 13 dogs living with Short Spine Syndrome, Roo Roo, a two-legged Terrier Mix, and Bella, a kitten with a botfly in her head. “It’s been so wonderful to say ‘Yes’ to practically every case because of donations,” Mairose said. “When people donate to a rescue at large, I don’t think they want their money going towards exhaustive resources. Three grand could really save several dogs…at spay and neuter. [However,] with the Fighter Fund…they can say, ‘This is my passion.’”

Bella before and after rescue animal

Bella, before and after | Photo courtesy of Secondhand Hounds

Helping animals and people, too

With an application and $10 “donation”, SHH also takes surrenders. Case in point: “The other day, a homeless woman came crying to us because her Pit Bull’s back legs gave out,” Mairose said.  She owed the vet a large sum of money, so he refused to look at her dog.  Desperate and unable to handle “being with him while he left this Earth”, she signed over her dog to SHH.  The organization rushed him to an animal hospital where vets told them that he had inoperable cancer. Heartbroken, the staff took him back to SHH.  They took turns laying with him on the floor until he crossed the “Rainbow Bridge” with dignity.  “That’s why we were put here.  Not only to help the animals but to help the people,” Mairose said.  “Seeing a woman that’s that desperate, upset, and out of options…to give her options. It’s super hard, but it’s worth it every time.”