Tracey French founded her nonprofit organization, Animal Rescue Aid, in 2008, driven by a love for animals and a desire to help those in need. A year later, she read a story about a girl in Mesa, Arizona, who was trying to raise $30,000 to purchase about 300 pet beds for her local animal shelter.
“I did the math, and I couldn’t believe it,” Tracey recalls. “Were these elevated pet beds really $100 each? Apparently, they were!”
That price is much more than many shelters can afford. Certain that she had found her calling, Tracey began researching dog beds to find a more cost-efficient one that shelters could afford.
Over the next four years, Tracey became somewhat of an expert on pet beds. In the beginning, she imported and provided them to shelters and rescues across the country through her Animal Rescue Aid National Pet Bed Donation Program. Unfortunately, the first pet beds she imported were not of very good quality. This setback led to Tracy making design changes and quality improvements to the product, leading to two patents on the official Animal Rescue Aid pet beds. They were proven to be shelter-tough, but more important, they were made available to shelters and rescue groups at cost, with the organization also paying for shipping. This meant more shelters and rescues having access to durable, affordable pet beds.
Many people assume the pet beds are a luxury, something added for comfort rather than a real need, but Tracey and shelter workers know better.
“What most people don’t realize is the real reason these beds are so critical to pups in shelters is that they save lives,” Tracey says. “These pet beds not only give a shelter dog immediate comfort; it helps to relieve the stress and anxiety they feel in the chaotic, noisy environment of a shelter.”
With the elevated pet beds, the dogs have a place to rest comfortably, which makes them calmer and more approachable, increasing their chances of being adopted. As an added enrichment tool, Animal Rescue Aid has partnered with KONG, sending a KONG toy with every pet bed shipped out.
Animal Rescue Aid also has launched the National Pet Crate Donation Program, in which shelters can purchase quality crates themselves or have supporters donate them. Animal Rescue Aid also offers low-cost microchips and heartworm tests, both key things that help increase adoption rates and save lives. In the future, it hopes to add more products and services that support the needs of shelters and rescue groups.
“As I see opportunities present themselves, where shelters have a need and Animal Rescue Aid can fill that need, I will absolutely try to help,” says Tracey. “If shelters and rescue groups have products they use on a routine basis that are expensive or difficult to obtain, and they would like for us to try and source for them at a reduced cost, they should absolutely contact us, and we will do everything we can to help.”
At the end of last year, Animal Rescue Aid also started the Forgotten Shelters Program, a fundraising platform for shelters around the country that otherwise wouldn’t have support networks, organizing fundraisers on their behalf. Many of these shelters are rural, forgotten places, which may be as simple as a shanty with a few cages with no budget and little-to-no community support. By starting fundraising campaigns for these shelters, Animal Rescue Aid is helping bring much-needed assistance to these shelters, as well as publicity to encourage community involvement.
With all of the work Animal Rescue Aid does for shelters and rescues, people are often surprised there is just one person behind the scenes — Tracey. Until her retirement in April 2015, Tracey had also been working a full-time job. She now focuses all of her time on the organization, her husband, and their rescue pets — two cats, Milo and Garfield, and one dog, Sammy.
Tracey finds her work with Animal Rescue Aid very rewarding, especially when shelters report that their dogs are less stressed and happier after getting their pet beds and KONG toys, which creates a much quieter and more inviting environment for the dogs and potential adopters.
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About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it’s in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby (cat) and Axle (dog). I’m a former quiet nerd who’s turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.