Sharon Fletcher, Director of Marketing & Communications

In October of 2022, over 10,000 lost pets were reunited with their families thanks to the Return to Home Challenge. 17 national organizations came together to promote the Challenge that encouraged animal shelters and foster-based organizations to create a culture of return to home within their organization and community. A total of 140 organizations across the United States participated.

$300,000 in grant prizes were awarded to winners. Maddie’s Fund®, Michelson Found Animals Foundation and Petco Love awarded prizes for Best Overall Effort, Robust Programs, Best Use of Practices, plus 10 Random Winners.

"We know the best place for a pet is with their people,” said Mary Ippoliti-Smith, Executive Leadership Team at Maddie’s Fund. "Anyone can have a pet go missing, and simple practices like microchipping, making information about lost pets easily accessible on websites and letting the community know what they can do if they find a pet, can go a long way in keeping pets out of the shelter and getting them back to their home and loved ones. It’s a win-win for all involved.”

In just 31 days, participating organizations created or expanded inclusive programs and practices to make it easier for communities to help a lost pet or find a pet they have lost, and ultimately keep families together.

"Assuring that we can get lost pets quickly reunited with their human parents is essential to the health and efficiency of the entire animal welfare system,” said Brett Yates, Chief Executive Officer of Michelson Found Animals Foundation. "When lost pets sit in shelters, they get scared and start to behave differently than they would at home. They take up kennel space from other animals that do not have a home to return to, which endangers all of the pets involved. And just as important, the family is out of sync with one of the family members being lost. We are proud to participate in this great challenge to improve the programming locally and nationally to assure that pets get reunited with their families as immediately as possible."

"We know that one in three pets goes missing in their lifetime, an estimated 10 million pets each year, and we’re not ok with that,” said Chelsea Staley, Director of Lifesaving at Petco Love. "That gives us 10 million reasons why we created Petco Love Lost, because we believe nothing is more important than keeping people and pets together for a lifetime of love. We're thrilled to be part of the Return to Home Challenge to help keep pets where they belong - in their homes.”

The award for Best Overall Effort went to Peoria County Animal Protection Services, Peoria, IL for $15,000. The winners of the Robust Programs category are below, receiving $10,000 each:

  • Heartland Humane Society, Yankton, SD
  • Kansas City Pet Project, Kansas City, MO
  • South Suburban Humane Society, Matteson, IL

View the entire list of winners to see if your local organization won!

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

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.