Judgment-Free Zones - Building Relationships to Keep Dogs in Homes

July 2016 by Maureen Keenan and Kelsey Westbrook

Audience: Executive Leadership

Video Length: 50 minutes

Saving Sunny, Inc. in Louisville, Kentucky is a unique agency that provides support to under-served communities in the form of resources needed for families to keep their pets in their homes and avoid surrender to local shelters. Its origins stem from a remarkable story of its co-founders who teamed up to create a more compassionate community for all dogs and their owners - and boost lifesaving numbers. See how they did it, and how their model can be duplicated anywhere. This presentation by Maureen Keenan and Kelsey Westbrook, co-founders of Saving Sunny, Inc., was recorded at the 2016 Best Friends National Conference.

About Maureen Keenan

In 2009, Maureen Keenan, a lawyer, called to offer help to a young woman who had just rescued a pit bull who was thrown from a bridge into the Ohio River. That young woman, Kelsey Westbrook, was being threatened with eviction from her apartment because she brought home a pit bull. The result of that meeting was the birth of Saving Sunny, a dog rescue group created to honor the spirit, charisma and story of that spectacular red-nosed pit bull, Sunny. Since then, Maureen has handled all of the legal, financial and business components of the organization, as well as playing the role of chief behaviorist and co-strategist with Kelsey.

Most recently, Maureen’s (and Saving Sunny’s) focus has expanded to providing support to under-served communities in the form of resources needed for families to keep their pets in their homes and avoid surrender to local shelters. To that end, Maureen handles community outreach, dog behavior counseling and efforts to secure veterinary services for target community members.

About Kelsey Westbrook

In July 2009, Kelsey Westbrook rescued a little red pit bull terrier who was thrown off an 80- foot bridge into the rushing waters of the Ohio River before the eyes of hundreds of restaurant patrons and park-goers in Louisville, Kentucky. Little did she know that saving this beautiful and exuberant pup, who she named Sunny, would spark a fire within her to begin advocating for the welfare and equal treatment of blockheaded dogs who embody the spirit and charisma of their true form, like Sunny herself. 

In January 2010, Kelsey and Maureen Keenan, a lawyer, co-founded Saving Sunny, Inc., in Louisville to establish a program aiding law enforcement officers and the municipality in dealing with animal victims of criminal abuse and neglect, and those simply maligned because of their outward appearance. Their goal was to change the climate for pit bull terrier dogs and, in turn, create a more compassionate community for all dogs and their owners. Since then, Kelsey has handled the public education, communication, marketing and public relations components of Saving Sunny, Inc., as well as being a grant writer and co-strategist with Maureen. 

Since 2014, Saving Sunny's focus has evolved into advocating for animals to stay in their first homes by assisting pet owners in low-income, underserved communities with basic resources needed to care for and keep their pets. Since May 2014, Kelsey has overseen Saving Sunny's Community Dog Resource Center (CDRC) in the impoverished neighborhood of Portland in Louisville, Kentucky. The CDRC's purpose is to keep loving families from having to surrender their pets to the shelter by providing free and low-cost food, medication, spay/neuter services, fencing, behavior support and more. Kelsey's "judgment-free zone" module has enabled Saving Sunny to form lasting relationships with target community members in a neighborhood once neglected by city outreach.


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