Pet Rescue Groups


Did you know that over 120,000 Madison households have at least a dog or cat? A majority of those pets have come through a rescue or humane society, and many are not Wisconsin natives. In this season of giving and sharing, I’d like to highlight some of the local pet rescue groups in the area that depend on your support.

There are many different rescue groups in the area. While their hearts may be in the right place, not all rescue groups do a good job caring for and placing animals in homes. If you are looking at rescue groups, RedRover, a group that helps people and their pets in crisis situations, has guidelines to consider.

• The rescue organization should be a registered 501(c)(3) charity. This means all donated money goes to providing care to the animals and not into the organizers’ pockets.

• A good rescue group has a board of directors and numerous volunteers. They should have adoption events or other ways of showing adoptable pets to the public.

• You should be able to get answers to questions quickly and be able to talk with someone on the phone.

• The organization should be able to provide answers about how they operate, the number of animals they have, where the animals came from, how many annual adoptions they complete, how many foster homes they have, their annual budget, and their spay/neuter policy.

• If they have a physical location, it should be clean and organized, and the animals should be healthy. Some groups only operate through foster homes. There shouldn’t be a large number of animals compared to the number of foster homes.

• The rescue should be licensed through the DATCP as a Dog Seller.

I see quite a few rescue dogs in my practice and, while mostly healthy, they can be nervous or anxious. When I was looking for a possible playmate for my dog, Scout, I went through Key to Happiness Rescue. Some of their Texas rescue dogs were adopted by my clients, and I was impressed by their good health and temperament. This group holds adoption fairs, and one of the foster moms brought several of her foster dogs to a dog wash fundraiser at Four Lakes Veterinary Clinic and ended up finding new homes for them.

What impressed me the most was that I had to fill out an adoption application and have a home visit before they would consider placing a dog with me. Apparently even veterinarians have to be approved. The group rescues dogs from high-kill shelters in Texas and Louisiana, and would even look for a specific type of dog to suit my family. They foster the dogs in their home state and provide training and medical care for a minimum of two weeks before transporting them to foster homes in Wisconsin to await adoption.

I also like seeing dogs adopted through Lola’s Lucky Day. Lola’s was started by Wisconsin native Larissa Gavin, who saw many stray dogs while working in Houston, Texas. Many Wisconsin shelters often don’t have enough dogs for adoption. Our southern neighbors have more than they need and a high rate of euthanasia. Lola’s also rescues dogs from shelters, provides needed medical care, and transports them to Wisconsin in air-conditioned vans.

There’s an adoption application to screen new owners. According to a recent Houston Chronicle article, “Lola’s Lucky Day’s core team of about 25 volunteers sends around 100 dogs to Wisconsin each month.” Larissa says transporting a dog costs approximately $350 plus medical expenses. The work is solely funded by individual and organization donations.

Underdog Pet Rescue is another foster-based rescue that places cats, dogs, and a few other small furry pets. According to the founder and executive director, Lauren Wojtasiak, Underdog takes in animals from high-kill shelters in the south, from Wisconsin shelters where there are medical situations causing the animals to be there too long, and even from some areas in Puerto Rico and China. These rescues are placed with a foster family, who takes care of their medical needs and makes sure they are spayed or neutered prior to adoption. They only take in as many animals as they have foster families. I have found that pets coming out of a foster family situation tend to be better matched for the adopting family. It’s helpful to be able to ask questions about the pet’s behaviors prior to and after adopting. They’re always looking for foster families; you can fill out an application on their website or look at other ways to donate.

If you’re looking for a cat, Angel’s Wish is a good place to start. According to their website, in 2016, they took in 658 cats and 5 dogs from nearly 20 different Wisconsin counties and a few from other states, and 627 cats and 4 dogs were adopted. The remaining rescues are in foster homes, waiting for you to adopt them, and some cats are fostered in a veterinary clinic. Four Lakes Veterinary Clinic has a cat in a multilevel cage in the cat waiting area, and Sauk Point Veterinary Clinic has a little room in the front with a glass door to allow passersby to see in.

Angel’s Wish also has a Verona adoption center, so you can see a lot of different cats and go home with the best one (or two) for your family. They’re always in need of cat litter, cat toys, catnip, and cat carriers. A more detailed wish list can be found on their website.

Madison Cat Project is another good place to find a cat. If you have a barn and are looking for a mouser, they adopt semiferal cats too. They’re spayed or neutered, as well as vaccinated, so no worries about overpopulating your barn. They appreciate monetary donations.

So if you’re a pet lover and want to make a difference with dogs and cats in our community, please think about our local rescue groups. While giving a pet as a Christmas present is not a good idea, may you find a way to connect with them through foster programs, food and litter donations, or monetary contributions.

Photograph by Brenda Eckhardt

Lori Scarlett, DVM, is the owner and veterinarian at Four Lakes Veterinary Clinic. For more information, visit .

Angel’s Wish

Key to Happiness Rescue

Lola’s Lucky Day

Madison Cat Project

Red Rover

Underdog Pet Rescue