The 2024 Open Arms Challenge has Concluded!

The Open Arms Challenge was like no other. For the month of April 2024, 243 animal shelters, foster-based organizations and public charities participated in a Challenge to create a new program or expand an existing one focused on keeping pets and people together.

The Challenge was all about opening our hearts and minds to more accessible and inclusive practices, helping to keep pets with their people and animals in their communities through Return to Home and Foster programs and so much more. Not only did we all hope to see innovative ways to increase community engagement with adoptions, foster recruitment, volunteer interest and safety net programs – there was up to $500,000 in grant prizes available!

Funding and Collaborating Partners

This Challenge is funded by Adopt a Pet, California for All Animals, Life of Riley, Maddie’s Fund® and Michelson Found Animals Foundation and in collaboration with American Pets Alive!, ASPCA, The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement, Best Friends Animal Society, BISSELL Pet Foundation, The Community Cats Podcast, Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE), Cuddly, Greater Good Charities, HeARTS Speak, Humane Society of the United States, JVR Shelter Strategies, Maddie's® Million Pet Challenge, National Animal Care and Control Association, Petco Love, Petfinder Foundation, PetSmart Charities and Shelter Animals Count.

How did it work?

An organization applied to participate in the Open Arms Challenge once the application period opened. If accepted, an organization implemented the new or expanded activity you’ve chosen for the Challenge month. The organization documented what was done, what was learned and what resulted from this Challenge. And then a participation report was submitted by May 15, 2024 to be considered to win a grant from a funding partner. Prizes were also designated by some of the collaborating partners.

Participating organizations focused on keeping pets and people together and animals in their communities were invited to apply for this Challenge to create or expand programs in any of the following areas:

  1. Processes are equitable and inclusive
  2. Customer success is ensured through customer service
  3. Marketing is inclusive of all areas of your community
  4. Organization embraces an open and welcoming culture
  5. Organization creates partnerships with other organizations
  6. Other - an open and welcoming practice you’re already doing that’s not listed above

Most importantly, the practice(s) each organization decided to undertake reflected a desire to intentionally connect with all areas of the community and a willingness to listen to what their community wants and needed.

Important Dates

  • Award winners announced: Summer 2024
  • Final Report (via Zoom Huddle) for Award Winners: August 2024


In addition to up to $500,000 in grant prizes, the below prizes were also offered:

  • The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement will award 5 participating organizations a $250 credit towards professional development or annual membership.
  • The Community Cats Podcast will award access to a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) Certification Workshop.
  • Cuddly will award $2000 in cash and a $2,000 wish list haul.
  • The Humane Society of the United States will award two registrations to the 2025 Animal Care Expo to be held in Las Vegas, NV from April 15 - 18. Registration includes a daylong learning lab as well as the regular conference. In addition, $1,500 in grant funding.
  • Maddie’s® Million Pet Challenge will award 5 Hard Copies of the Best Practice Playbook for Animal Shelters and Choice between: Scholarship worth $299 for our Open the Door to Veterinary Care online certificate program that focuses on providing solutions to cost as a barrier to care; or $250 and support for setting up a program through Uber to provide transportation for people to get their pets to the vet. They would get access to an Uber specialist and training to show them how to set up a program and $250 to get it started.
  • The National Care and Control Association will award three scholarships to Animal Control Officer training, and three Agency Memberships.

Challenge Partners

Adopt a Pet
California for All Animals
Life of Riley
Maddie's Fund
Michelson Found Animals
The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement
Best Friends Animal Society
BISSELL Pet Foundation
Community Cats Podcast
Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE)
Greater Good Charities
Humane Society of the United States
JVR Shelter Strategies
Maddie's Million Pet Challenge
National Animal Care and Control Association
Petco Love
Petfinder Foundation
Petsmart Charities
Shelter Animals Count