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Where would all the world’s domestic animals be without help from shelters, rescues and sanctuaries? We owe it to these organizations for having saved countless lives over the years, and finding homes for many others. If you love being around animals then you can help your local animal sanctuary in these ways, and you can also get involved with helping abused or abandoned pets in these ways. You can even plan a vacation where you can volunteer to help animals! Isn’t that cool? In honor of all those dedicated women who have dedicated their lives to animals and started shelters, rescues, or sanctuaries, we have here a list of ten. So put your paws together for these amazing ladies:

1. Lorri Houston

10 Amazing Women Behind Animal Shelters, Rescues and Sanctuaries


You might have heard of Lorri Houston as being the co-founder (the other being Gene Baur) of Farm Sanctuary in 1986, she also helped to found Animal Acres in 2005 – a 26-acre South Californian Shelter. Animal Acres provides a home for more than 100 rescued animals including goats, chickens, pigs, calves, dogs, and cats. Animal Acres was later acquired by Farm Sanctuary.  Houston has since left Farm Sanctuary, however, and currently serves as the community liaison for the Thich Naht Hahn Continuation and Legacy Foundation.

2. Grace Froelich

10 Amazing Women Behind Animal Shelters, Rescues and Sanctuaries


Animal Rescue Inc. was founded by Grace Froelich in 1976, after she made the decision to move out with her cat and find a new home or be evicted. After finding one and nicknaming it the “farm,” stray animals like dogs and cats started showing up. Grace fed them and let them stay. Hence, this is how ARI started and it has now expanded to two locations – a cattery in the Putty Hill area of Baltimore, Md., and a 33-acre farm located at the Pennsylvania/Maryland border. At any one, the shelter houses one hundred stray dogs and several hundred stray cats. The shelter adopts out their animals, has volunteer opportunities, allows for foster care, and also has a spay and neuter program.

3. Theresa Strader

10 Amazing Women Behind Animal Shelters, Rescues and Sanctuaries


National Mill Dog Rescue was established in honor to an Italian Greyhound named Lily who was rescued from an auction along with twelve other dogs by founder Theresa Strader. Before that, Lily had spent seven years of her life as a puppy mill mom. Due to her life of having no veterinary or dental care, bad quality food, inappropriate chew toys, and rabbit bottle watering, the roof of Lily’s mouth and lower jaw had rotted away. In May of 2008, Lily passed away – 15 months after she had been rescued in the hands of her dad with her family gathered around her. Since its founding in 2007, NMDR located in Colorado Springs, Colo., has rescued 8,987 puppy mill survivors and amassed over 1,300 volunteers. The organization also allows for adoption, fostering, sponsorship, and volunteering. NMDR is also looking for donations to purchase a second rescue van to help them rescue more dogs! Click here to Donate to them.

4. Kathy Centala

 10 Amazing Women Behind Animal Shelters, Rescues, and Sanctuaries


After seeing the number of unwanted cats and kittens in her neighborhood in 1988, cat-lover Kathy Centala started accepting stray cats into her home, and soon more cat lovers started to hear of her “no-kill” policy. Cats were coming in by the hundreds, and in 1992, Kathy was taking in over 500 stray cats and adopting them out. Finally, Kathy decided to start the Northwest’s first no-kill shelter and sanctuary and in rural Snohomish County. Five years later, the organization Purrfect Pals has adopted out more than 2,000 cats and kittens, and provided free spaying and neutering to 1,000 more and has more than a dozen employees and several hundred volunteers. They even have 15 offsite adoption centers across Puget Sound. The sanctuary adopts out cats and kittens, gives tours, spays and neuters cats, has a volunteer program, allows for foster care, and also has an “Angel Fund” to pay for medical care for cats whose owners are unable to afford even low-cost clinics.

5. Lesley Irwin

10 Amazing Women Behind Animal Shelters, Rescues and Sanctuaries


Animal House Shelter was founded in 2002 as a no-kill shelter for dogs and cats. They take in and care for abused, neglected, abandoned, and those scheduled for euthanasia at other shelters. According to their website, the shelter has adopted out over 23,000 pets. The inspiration behind Lesley Irwin’s idea to start the shelter was Kiley – a dog who had been dumped out of a car and dodging cars on a street. After being rescued, she mothered many orphaned puppies over the years. The shelter adopts out dogs and cats, allows for fostering, and also has a variety of resources for pet owners. They will be hosting a one mile fun run called “Dash for the Dogs” to fundraise for the medical bills of the special needs animals in the shelter. To know more, click here.

6. Jennifer Smith

10 Amazing Women Behind Animal Shelters, Rescues and Sanctuaries


Jennifer Smith started Noah’s Arks Rescue about eight years ago after seeing so many abused animals that were not being taken care of and put to sleep without a thought. So she decided to make it her life’s work and mission to ensure that these animals got the very best medical care as well as unconditional love. The rescues allows for rescue adoptions, and abused animals can be sponsored. These sponsored animals can later be available for adoption after being nursed back to health. They have a rainbow bridge page with images of dogs that were helped who crossed over after suffering from irreversible health problems.

7. Toby Wisneski

10 Amazing Women Behind Animal Shelters, Rescues and Sanctuaries


Leave No Paws Behind Inc. is a foster–based rescue specializing in seniors, terminal and end of life animals and pets with special needs. After starting LNPB with the vision that no one would have to leave their companion behind due to a lack of basic needs, she started to realize the increasing discard of old and senior dogs. She thought perhaps that this was due to their owner’s inability to afford their increasing cost of health and had no where else to turn watching their pet suffer. That is when one special dog walked in – Colby. He had been well – taken care of by his owners but he was in pain. Before crossing the rainbow bridge, he searched the room he was in for a familiar face. His eyes found founder Toby Wisneski’s and as she stroked his fur, he looked at her as if to say “thank you.” In memory of Colby, the “Colby Rainbow Bridge Memorial Fund” was started to ensure that no human would have to leave their pet to pass away alone. The shelter allows for adoptions, fostering, and volunteering. They are also in need of funds, so if you would like to Donate to them, please click here.

8. Kathy Stevens

10 Amazing Women Behind Animal Shelters, Rescues and Sanctuaries


Founded in 2001 by Kathy Stevens after months of travelling, researching, and internships at other farm sanctuaries, Catskill Animal Sanctuary is located on a 110-acre haven for horses and farm animals saved from lives of cruelty and neglect. They are also primarily solar-powered! CAS provides innovative programs that educate the public on the plight of farm animals in the agricultural industry and the institutionalized cruelty on them as well as people and the planet. They also offer weekend and special group tours, vegan cooking classes, speaking engagements, summer day camp for kids, and a variety of compassionate programs through the year. Since 2001, CAS located in Hudson Valley, N.Y., has rescued over 2,000 animals and worked with law enforcement to bring animal abusers to justice. Founder Kathy also speaks at community organizations, schools, and conferences throughout the year and also wrote two books of stories about the animals that lived at the farm. They have sponsorships for their animals, volunteer opportunities, internships, and even allow for adoptions.

9. Jenny Brown

10 Amazing Women Behind Animal Shelters, Rescues and Sanctuaries


Jenny Brown, along with husband Doug Abel, founded the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in 2004 after filming undercover at stockyards in Texas. Their shelter is currently home to over 300 rescued farmed animals who have escaped from slaughterhouses, were seized from abuse and neglect cases or were rescued from factory farms. The popular sanctuary is visited by thousands each summer for educational tours that raise awareness about the plight of farmed animals and the environmental and health impacts of consuming animal products while promoting a vegan lifestyle. Jenny also travels as a speaker at schools, conferences and community events throughout the year. The sanctuary allows for visits, sponsorship and adoption of their animals, volunteering and internships. They also have a vegan Bed and Breakfast and are as green as can be!

10. Ellie Laks

10 Amazing Women Behind Animal Shelters, Rescues and Sanctuaries


The Gentle Barn was founded by Ellie Laks in 1999 in Tarzana and was her dream since she was seven years old. The Gentle Barn initially started out on a half-acre property in San Fernando Valley, Calif., and then moved to six-acres in Santa Clarita, Calif., with their current population of over one hundred and seventy. Since starting, the Gentle Barn has hosted over 40,000 people. Children who are at-risk and with special needs are invited to be accommodated at the Gentle Barn, and they also allow for sponsoring a group of school children to interact with the animals and educate them to expand their empathy to all living beings.