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Bringing People and Pets Together

Animal Rescue Has Saved Over 28,000 Cats and Dogs Since 2009

Article by Sarah Knieff

Photography by Lucy Hawthorne

Originally published in Edina Lifestyle

Secondhand Hounds, a nonprofit animal rescue in Minnesota, has saved over 28,000 lives since opening in 2009. That’s 28,000 dogs and cats who were given a second chance at life due to the kindness of volunteers who treat animals like family.

“Our pets do so much for us,” Rachel Mairose, founder and executive director, says. “They love us without barriers and judgment. There are so many pets living in great homes, but those that aren’t are often forgotten. That’s why I created Secondhand Hounds – to help those animals who have had a rough life, but still deserve respect and a loving, safe environment.”

While the organization today has 30 full-time employees and many volunteers, it had much more humble beginnings.

“I was pregnant when I started SHH, so I joke that the hormones made me do it,” Rachel says. “But in all honesty, I have always had a passion for animals. I grew up with foster pets and started fostering myself in college while studying conservation biology.”

For her, fostering was a fulfilling hobby, but nothing more.

“I didn’t see it as a business model until a while later when I realized that, unlike some rescuers, I loved connecting with people just as much as I loved rescuing animals,” she explains. “I thought there had to be a better way to make this a career path for people and save more of our furry friends.”

So as Rachel says, she decided to take a leap of faith and opened Secondhand Hounds as a small-scale rescue organization. However, what started as a few foster pups is now a giant operation.

“My goal was originally to have thirty dogs in the program at any one time, but we grew extremely fast,” she says. “We now have about 300 to 400 animals in our care currently and rescue around 2,500 to 3,000 annually.”

SHH opened with the core mission of rescuing dogs from all over the Midwest to find them a life filled with love.

“We took a lot of animals from kill shelters, local animal control, surrenders and so on,” Rachel says. “As the years went on, we were able to expand operations to include helping cats, diversified rescue programs and eventually we even opened our very own veterinary center.”

The vet center is a public, full-service clinic where all the profit goes back into the rescue process.

“Our center opened in 2020 and it has become another source of income, allowing us to grow the rescue and change more lives,” Rachel says. “Every penny of profit goes back to the animals, so if people in the public can’t foster or donate, it’s a great way for them to still help.”

The vet center is attached to SHH’s main office in Minnetonka, so now instead of taking new rescues somewhere else to get a health screening, it’s all under one roof.

“Once an animal is with us, they are looked at by our vets, microchipped, and then given to a foster family who will care for them until they are ready to be adopted,” Rachel says. “They don’t stay with us in a brick-and-mortar environment for long periods and since we have one main building, it’s super easy for foster parents.”

The foster process is also completely free to the fostering parents. Collars, food, litter boxes, food dishes, beds and all other necessities are provided upon pickup.

“We want to encourage as many people to become fosters as much as we can,” Rachel says. “It’s such a rewarding experience and I still have foster pups of my own on a regular basis.”

In addition to fostering, Secondhand offers many different programs such as Forever Loved Hospice, Neonatal, and a pet food shelf for those struggling with financial insecurity.

“Our hospice program is for terminally ill dogs and cats in shelters,” Rachel explains. “I simply refuse to believe senior and terminally ill animals need to live their final days in sterile, often understaffed shelters. We have foster families that open their hearts and homes to help these babies pass feeling loved. It’s an incredible program and I cherish it.”

She continues, “On the complete opposite side of life, our Neonatal Program is for puppies and kittens born with health issues or disabilities. Even with these issues, we have found that babies can thrive and make amazing pets with specialized around-the-clock care at the beginning of their lives. We understand that 24/7 care for weeks at a time isn’t a possibility for most, but fortunately, we have committed foster homes that are not only experienced but able to provide hands-on care for these little ones before being adopted.”

For those needing help feeding their pets due to economic hardship, Secondhand Hounds’ has an animal food shelf in Minneapolis that offers free chow and supplies for cats and dogs. This is located at 2501 Minnehaha Ave for metro residents only.

SHH inherited the pet food shelf from People & Pets Together in 2021 with a focus on increasing the amount of food and supplies being distributed. Thanks to a partnership with Chuck & Don's, the food shelf is now housed at Secondhand Hounds' Minneapolis location, the Chuck & Don's Pet Wellness Center. 

Last year, they were able to distribute over 250,000 pounds of dog and cat food to those in need. 

"No family should have to give up their beloved pet because they are having a hard time,” Rachel says. “Animals do so much for our emotional, mental, and physical well-being. If we can find a way to support that bond, we will do it."

Between fostering, the vet center and all the different programs, one may think Rachel couldn’t make Secondhand Hounds any better. Let’s not forget that 28,000 animals have been saved to date and that number is only climbing. But Rachel says this is only the beginning.

“We are just now starting partnerships with a human domestic abuse shelter and an organization that assists unhoused veterans. We heard that oftentimes people won’t get help for themselves if they have to give up or leave their pets behind. This respite fostering program means that when people need space to heal, we will take in their pet for a pre-designated amount of time,” she says. 

Rachel continues, “My big master plan for the next few years is to buy acreage to be able to rescue even more animals and increase respite care services for anyone who needs help temporarily - active military, those struggling with addiction or mental health crises, and seniors with health issues, just to name a few. Maybe we will even rescue a donkey or two. Everything we do is about bringing animals and people together and celebrating that unique, beautiful bond. Pets can help heal most, if not all, wounds. This new space would be about rescuing animals for sure, but also rescuing people.”

To learn more about Secondhand Hound and all their offerings, visit secondhandhounds.org.

Main office: 5959 Baker Road, Suite 390 | 952-322-7643

  • Dr. Tanya Schulte - Lead Veterinarian
  • Kind volunteer and a new member of Secondhand Hounds.
  • Dr. Tanya Schulte - Lead Veterinarian
  • Rachel Mairose.
  • Volunteer Judy loves snuggling with the rescue dogs.
  • Volunteer Judy loves snuggling with the rescue dogs.
  • Rachel Mairose and her rescue pups.