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PEOPLE | PETS | COMMUNITY

Rescue, Repair, Rebuild: Animal Sheltering, Reimagined

Bryna Donnelly is the founder and Program Director of Rescue Rebuild, a campaign that was founded in 2007 and became a part of GreaterGood.org in 2015.

“We’re like Habitat for Humanity, but only for animals; we work on domestic violence shelters, veterans housing, and animal shelters,” she explained.

Photo courtesy of Rescue Rebuild / Greater Good

Rescue Rebuild has had a strong presence nationwide in 2019. “We build once a month; in February, we worked on a domestic violence shelter; we’ve been in Puerto Rico for disaster recovery, and we’ve worked on animal shelters in Tallahassee, Florida, New Orleans, and New Jersey; we’ve also worked on a wildlife sanctuary in Saint Louis.”

Thanks to a robust volunteer list, there are five members in each crew, and they also pull in local volunteers for community building. “Afterward, the shelter is left with an invested and engaged volunteer pool; it’s a new way of engaging with their animal shelter,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Rescue Rebuild / Greater Good

“For the domestic violence builds, we have to partner with a disaster preparedness organization. We pull in our own volunteers from outside and make sure we don’t have any conflict with it.”

Rescue Rebuild’s big goals for 2020 include doubling their efforts by having half of their team work at an animal shelter while the other half simultaneously works at a homeless shelter. “The pets and the people are being served in a much more holistic way then,” she said.

Some of her favorite projects have included builds for cats. “We can get really creative and fun, making catios, enclosures, and other cool stuff for cats.”

Rescue Rebuild makes living areas heartier and more robust. “Should a stressed out animal have an accident, it’s easy to clean,” she explained. “We install dog doors and pet relief areas in many of these rebuilds. We take a space, whether we’ve commandeered an entire living unit, or pets aren’t in individual living units, but in visitation areas,” she said. “Sometimes we drop a building on the property and create a kennel for the animals. We retrofit existing properties to create a whole new animal space.”

Approximately 47% of pet-owning victims of domestic violence delay leaving their abuser because they are afraid to leave their pet behind. Currently, less than 5% of the domestic violence shelters accept pets and Rescue Rebuild aims to fix that disparity. Rescue Rebuild works alongside domestic violence shelters by building pet-friendly spaces for families in a time of crisis.

Many shelters that want to help people and their pets don’t have the right accommodations – and that’s where Rescue Rebuild steps in. “The wear and tear, having to say no, it causes compassion fatigue,” Bryna said. “It’s great to be able to tell them yes. When we really started gearing up, it was challenging to get the shelters to say ‘yes’ to the pets. They raised concerns, such as allergies. But in 2018, we really started seeing this huge paradigm shift; shelters were really starting to seek us out.

“Starting this year, we and Red Rover, one of our partners in domestic violence, offer seminar, go to metropolitan areas and hold training seminars, everything from protocols, how to apply for funding, and how to apply for cool projects,” she said.

To learn more about Rescue Rebuild, visit http://rescuerebuild.greatergood.org.