Sharon Fletcher, Director of Marketing & Communications

Pleasanton, CA, May 04, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) - Sixteen national animal welfare organizations came together for the Open Arms Challenge to encourage animal shelters and rescue organizations to pilot new approaches that increase inclusivity for new adopters and volunteers, and provide a welcoming environment for all community members.

From November 22, 2021, to January 3, 2022, nearly 200 participating organizations across 42 states (plus DC!) embraced inclusive policies, including but not limited to translating materials into multiple languages; reducing lengthy adoption applications; creating new partnerships with organizations outside of animal welfare; and removing barriers to adoption, foster and volunteering. These amazing efforts resulted in the adoption of 47,341 dogs and cats and support for 33,565 volunteers and 25,296 foster caregivers during the Challenge period!

"The love of a pet should not be a privilege. As an industry, we need to stop looking for reasons to say ‘no’ and start saying ‘YES!’,” said Mary Ippoliti-Smith, Executive Leadership Team member, Maddie’s Fund®. "By opening up our arms and removing barriers, pet lovers no longer have to go elsewhere to acquire a pet. It’s amazing what can happen when we believe people when they say their home is ready for a dog or cat instead of combing through it, looking for hazards. We celebrate each and every one of the participating organizations who did just that!”

The changes made to programs and processes varied from organization to organization. For some, it was as straightforward as providing literature in multiple languages or returning voicemails in a timely manner. Others started having open and honest conversations with adopters instead of requiring lengthy, written adoption applications, undertook bias training, or focused on neighborhoods where adoption events were not previously held.

"Our foster and volunteer networks are slowly starting to be more representative of the diversity in our community and we are excited for the opportunities that presents,” said Tamara Lackey Executive Director of Beautiful Together Animal Sanctuary and a winner for Robust Programs. "We also expanded our adoption event locations and marketing to reach a broader and more diverse audience, which has increased our adoption base to include more people of color, which is one of our major goals."

"Michelson Found Animals Foundation is proud to support the 194 participating organizations that implemented programs and processes that are inclusive and equitable for everyone,” said Brett Yates, CEO of Michelson Found Animals Foundation and a funding partner of the Challenge. "We believe that this program is very unique, and we are confident that substantive changes will result which will help many people and their pets to lead enriching lives together. Congratulations to our winners!”

Below are just a few of the winners, view the full list to see if your local organization made it!

Best Overall Effort: $10,000

  • Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center, MD Pinellas County Animal Services, FL

Robust Programs: $5,000

  • Animal Friends of the Valleys, CA
  • Animal Harbor, TN
  • Beautiful Together, NC
  • Brooklyn Bridge Animal Welfare Coalition, Inc, NY
  • Broward County Animal Care, FL
  • Saint Louis County Animal Care and Control, MO
  • Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Hancock County, ME
  • Souris Valley Animal Shelter, ND
  • SPCA of Brevard, FL
  • Washington County Humane Society, WI

Most Effective Use of Open and Welcoming Menu Items: $3,000

  • Animal Care of Davis County, UT
  • Baywater Animal Rescue, MD
  • Hands and Feet Pet Advocates, TN
  • Hope Animal Rescue, NC
  • Lifeline Animal Project, GA
  • Salem Friends of Felines, OR
  • Shelter from the Storm, WI
  • Stray Paws Animal Haven, CA

The Open Arms Challenge was funded by Maddie’s Fund®, Michelson Found Animals Foundation, and in collaboration with, Adoptimize, American Pets Alive!, ASPCA, The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement, BISSELL Pet Foundation, Best Friends Animal Society, Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE), HeARTS Speak, Humane Society of the United States, National Animal Care and Control Association, Petco Love, Petfinder Foundation, and PetSmart Charities.

About the Challenge Funding Partners:

About Michelson Found Animals Foundation

Michelson Found Animals Foundation, a division of Michelson Philanthropies, is a leading animal welfare nonprofit that believes people and pets are better together. Generously funded by Dr. Gary Michelson and Alya Michelson, Found Animals operates a range of catalytic grants, impact investments, operating programs, and education an advocacy initiatives that share a common goal: to champion pets at every point they intersect with our society. Found Animals has helped more than 7 million pets since it was founded in 2005. Learn more at and

About Maddie's Fund

Maddie's Fund® is a family foundation established in 1994 by Dave and Cheryl Duffield and is the fulfillment of a promise to their inspirational dog, Maddie. She provided them much joy from 1987 – 1997 and continues to inspire them today.

The Foundation has awarded over $275.7 million in grants toward increased community lifesaving, pioneering shelter medicine education and establishing foster care as a standard across the U.S.

Maddie's Fund proudly offers the industry a national voice, important funding opportunities for bold ideas, learning resources and access to collaborate and share innovative solutions. The Foundation invests its resources in a commitment to keeping pets and people together, creating a safety net of care for animals in need and operating within a culture of inclusiveness and humility. #ThanksToMaddie.