This Challenge is 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.

At its core, the Return to Home Challenge is simple. Find a pet? Get it home. That home might be a cozy apartment, a house with a big yard or, if you’re a community cat, an abandoned lot.

For the month of October, 17 national organizations are inviting animal shelters and rescue organizations who handle lost/stray/at-large dogs and cats to elevate Return to Home (RTH) by creating a culture of return to home within their organization and community. In just 31 days, your organization can create or expand inclusive and diverse new programs or practices to make it easier for your community to help a lost pet or find a pet they have lost, and ultimately keep families together. Simple practices like microchipping, making information about lost pets easily accessible on your website and letting the community know what they should do if they find a cat can go a long way in keeping pets out of the shelter and getting them back into their homes.

Along with saving time, resources and shelter space to help those pets who really need it, you’ll have a chance at the $300,000 in grant prizes, thanks to Maddie’s Fund, Michelson Found Animals Foundation and Petco Love.

As with the previous Challenges, there will be plenty of help along the way. Resources from town halls, standard operating protocols, partnering with local businesses, creating flyers, photography tips and website best practices will be available. Additionally, four Zoom Huddles will be held with a diverse line-up of RTH experts. These Zoom events will bring you together with your peers who are successfully implementing RTH practices to share how they do it.

Note: This year we've expanded Return to Home to include the Return to Field/Shelter-neuter release (RTF/SNR) category in addition to the Return to Owner category on the Basic Data Matrix. Traditional trap-neuter-return, while invaluable to your community, is not included in this Challenge.

So, what do you say? Are you in? We hope so!

Registration for the Challenge has Closed

Challenge Details

The goal of the Return to Home Challenge:

  1. All animals in the community have identification
  2. Return to Home policies and lost/found techniques are marketed to the community
  3. Organization embraces a culture of Return to Home
  4. Organization works with community to help facilitate Return to Homes
  5. Technology is used to help reunite pets and owners
  6. Regulations and laws encourage Return to Home
  7. Organization strives to keep pets and people together by returning pets in the field rather than at the shelter

Key Dates

  • Registration Period: July 25 – August 1, 2022
    Apply through our Grants Portal until 5pm PT on August 1, 2022.
  • Prep Period/Zoom Huddles: September 1 – 30, 2022
    This is your chance to prepare for your new RTH practices. With Zoom Huddles every Wednesday in September with peers who will share the "how to's" of their successful programs.
  • Challenge Period: October 1 – 31, 2022
    During this time, you will pilot your new RTH practices.
  • Participation Reports Due: November 14, 2022 by 5pm PT
    Sample Participation Report
  • Final Report (Zoom Huddle): Early to mid-April 2023
    Sample Final Report

To be considered to PARTICIPATE in this Challenge, your organization must:

  • Be a U.S.-based government animal shelter or 501c3 shelter or rescue organization who handle lost / stray / at-large dogs and cat.
  • Be an active participant in Shelter Animals Count, if applicable to your organization. (If you are awarded a grant prize from this Challenge, you agree to join the Maddie’s Fund Coalition in Shelter Animals Count.)
  • Be current on all grant reporting for any prior Maddie's Fund grants.
  • Register for the Challenge by submitting a complete application through the Maddie's Fund Grants Portal. You'll be notified by August 19, 2022 if you meet the eligibility requirements to participate in the Challenge.
  • Recommended but not required: participation in Maddie’s® Pet Forum, Maddie’s® University, Petco Love Lost and Best Friends Pet Lifesaving Dashboard.

To be considered for an AWARD from this Challenge, your organization must:

  • Meet the requirements above.
  • Submit the Participation Report (due Monday, November 14, 2022 by 5pm PT). Find a sample of this report here. Please note, this sample is provided for reference only and questions are subject to change.
  • In order to qualify for a grant from Petco Love, organizations must submit their 2021 Annual Data Report, with all required attachments (signed W-9 form, etc.) to Petco Love's Partner Portal. If you have any questions, please email

Additionally, if you are selected as an award winner from this Challenge, there’s a final report via Zoom to be scheduled for April 2023. Find a sample of this report here. Please note, this sample is provided for reference only and questions are subject to change.


Prizes will be determined based on the participation reports that we receive.

Maddie’s Fund, Michelson Found Animal Foundation and Petco Love

  • $300,000 in grant prizes. Each participating organization will be eligible for up to $10,000 in grants.

The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement

  • 5 organizations will be chosen to receive a $250 professional development, Association membership or conference credit.

Community Cats Podcast

  • 10 "2023 Community Cats” passes


  • CUDDLY will award two organizations an in-kind grant of animal products, with a $2500 value total (each). Items include pet food and treats, crates, toys, leashes, collars, and enrichment items. Organizations must have an active wishlist hosted with CUDDLY, which promotes sustainability for community and shelter based programs, including pet food pantries, foster, nursery, and more, as well as individual animal fundraising. If you are not yet a CUDDLY partner but want to be eligible for this prize, register as a partner here.


  • Each applicant is eligible to receive up to 500 free microchips for any clinic they would like to run for the challenge. The only requirement is that they commit to registering all the chips with the Fi Nano registry and the event is also open to dogs (a free-for-life registry for any type of microchip). Just email to get set up!
  • Each grant winner will receive 2 for-life-collars. Fi will also outfit the staff with collars (or volunteers who have contributed 100+ hours) and offer 100 free microchips (subscription not included, though they have a trial option).

National Animal Care and Control Association

  • Scholarship to ACOI or II
  • Article in NACA Today Magazine
  • Registration sponsorship for one attendee at a regional industry conference in 2022 (up to $500)


Browse our growing Return to Home resources from Challenge Partners, organized by category.


Every Wednesday during the month of September, we will host a 60-minute Zoom Huddle at 12pm PT/3pm ET. Each Zoom Huddle will consist of 20-minute presentations from peers involved in Return to Home programs at their animal shelter or rescue organization. This will be followed by 30-minute Q&A. Topics will coincide with the Return to Home practices.

Register for the Huddles


Join the Return to Home Challenge group on Maddie's® Pet Forum!

Get Social!

Please feel free to share the Return to Home Challenge through your organization's communication channels. To save, right-click the image and 'save image as' to your computer. Follow and use #ReturnToHomeChallenge with your posts so we can see and share your amazing work!

Challenge Partners