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How did Underdog come to exist?
Underdog was created when a group of people met doing shelter work, and recognized the need for a rescue specifically dedicated to pets that need more time, energy, and resources than most shelters have to offer. These pets usually struggle with behavioral issues that are exacerbated by a traditional shelter setting. This is stressful for the pets in that environment, as well as for the shelter staff that can’t give the pet what they need.
However, Underdog also came to be when we saw that this was a two-fold problem; people would surrender pets to shelters for behavior or life challenges, but just want what’s best for their pets, even if they truly loved and wanted that pet in their home. Our solution is to do what’s best for the people and their pets, and oftentimes that keeps pets in their homes, and helps their human’s lives improve as well.
Underdog is the last stop in a pet’s tenure in the shelter system, often as a last ditch resort before euthanasia. Underdog seeks to support our local shelters and rescues so that they don’t have to resort to this painful option.
What is Underdog’s mission?
Underdog seeks to provide relief to other rescues and animal shelters in the area by providing dedicated, resource-intensive care to animals that would otherwise be euthanized often due to behavioral difficulties, time constraints, or other limited resources. UPRR will provide behavioral rehabilitation to pets that would otherwise be euthanized; in doing so, Underdog would help shelters reduce euthanasia rates and compassion fatigue. Furthermore, we strive to provide pet resources, pet boarding, training, and more to the pets of those experiencing housing instability, financial strain, domestic violence, and more than often result in surrender to animal shelters. This will help decrease pet homelessness, shelter strain, and reunite pets with their families. And finally, we hope to form partnerships with other rescues and shelters in the area to provide a network of behavioral support.
How will you meet these goals?
Take a look at the "Our Plan" page! It details where we as an organization are trying to head.
What experience does your team have?
Underdog is a team of pet care professionals from different areas of expertise- from behavioral training, grooming, shelter care, veterinary care, and more, Underdog staffs the experts in the field. Learn more about our individual team members on our get to know us page.
What is a “pet professional”?
A pet professional is anyone who has dedicated their careers to the welfare and care-taking of animals. It’s not just vets and trainers, but also groomers, shelter workers, dog walkers, cat sitters, Trap/Neuter/Release project workers, doggie daycare owners, and so much more! Most of us have experience in multiple categories of animal care, which helps us provide a comprehensive, expert experience in caring for animals. Professional pet experience is a requirement for serving on our board to ensure the organization never loses sight of what’s important: the animals.
What is Underdog’s euthanasia philosophy?
Underdog believes that every animal has a right to live and the opportunity to learn and grow. By making them our companion animals, humans have a responsibility to give that animal tools to adapt to our world. In the event that an animal in our care is incapable of integrating with human society, we will do everything in our power to find a live outcome for that pet, be it a sanctuary, long-term foster, or whatever suits that pet’s comfort and needs. Underdog understands that there is an occasion in which we may elect to proceed with euthanasia, but these are only in the most extreme cases in which the animal is in severe physical or emotional pain.
Are you transparent about your euthanasias?
Yes. Full stop. We truly love every animal that we are lucky enough to cross paths with, and want to honor them, especially if we cannot give them a live outcome. Underdog believes the best way to overcome the hurdle of behavioral euthanasia is honesty, education, and love of the animals. To pay tribute to our pets, as well as demystify the shelter world, we will be sharing the stories of the pets to which we must say goodbye.
Is Underdog a “no-kill” shelter?
Underdog does not euthanize for space or resources. We strive for a very high live-release rate, and will be fully transparent if we do have to elect for euthanasia, which we anticipate being very seldom.
How is Underdog different from a traditional shelter? From other rescues?
Underdog offers at face value many of the same functions as a shelter- we intake pets, house and care for them, and offer adoption for many of our pets. However, because we specialize in behaviorally needy animals, we create plans for our animals that often expect them to be in our care for a long time. Our housing and care plans are designed with animal behavior in mind to minimize deterioration, give time and comfort for training and rehabilitation, and allow animals the time and space to become comfortable however they need.
Not all of our pets will be adopted; should we decide an animal would have a better quality of life in a nontraditional pet setting, we may seek other opportunities for them such as sanctuary or as working pets.We differ from other rescues in that we don’t intake animals with the sole purpose of adoption or animal control. Some pets are in temporary housing to be returned to their owners, some will stay with us for life, etc. Also, the pets we do intake are chosen specifically for their rehabilitation; we often select pets slated for euthanasia due to solvable behavior issues, or their attention intensive needs.
What does it take to be a board member?
Unlike many other boards, Underdog does not require a capital or fundraising contribution. We do ask that you have 6 months minimum of professional animal care experience or be vouched for by 2 existing board members. This just ensures that we stay animal and mission-focused.
Do Underdog pets have a deadline? How long does a pet stay in your care?
Underdog has no deadlines. The pet has as long as it needs to learn and grow. We do not euthanize for space or resources.
Where are your pets living? What kind of housing do they have?
For now, Underdog is exclusively foster-based. The goal in the future is to create a facility that encourages socialization, relaxation, and compartmentalization. We are working to design a facility completely based on pet behavior and sociology. After years of working in multiple facilities, we know what works best to keep pets mentally healthy, as well as limit disease transmission and promote safety. See our future plans page for more information.
What does Underdog think about BLM?
Underdog wholeheartedly supports the BIPOC community and is fiercely dedicated to supporting Black Lives Matter, providing opportunities and resources to BIPOC, and is committed to addressing our own privileges and tearing down barriers in our industry.
What organizations are you partnered with?
Underdog works with:
Bone-a-Fide Dog Ranch
Supersonic Dog Training
Dog Gone Seattle
Are there any restrictions on the types of pets that Underdog will be helping?
We try to avoid blanket bans or restrictions and will evaluate every pet and owner on a case-by-case basis. We are focusing our efforts on higher-risk animals from other shelters and rescues for the moment. We are a rescue for exclusively cats and dogs.
Does your company have certified trainers?
Yes, our behavioral department is led by an extremely experienced and certified trainer, AKC evaluator, rehabilitation specialists, group play rehabilitation specialists, and more.
How often will they receive training if they are not boarded at your facility?
At Underdog, training is synonymous with learning; training doesn’t stop or start when a trainer walks in the door. The pets will receive training through structure, boundaries, positive reinforcement, and more basically all day, every day. This is the only way to truly set them up for success.On campus, each pet will be assigned a case-worker that works with them every day. In foster, our foster parents will be that advocate who performs training on a daily basis in a home setting.Our certified trainers will create custom plans for each pet's needs, teach that to their case workers, and empower the pets to grow and change daily.
Will your boarding be any different than the kennels at animal shelters? If so, how?
While our physical facility doesn’t exist yet, we are hoping to build a facility based on animal behavior in a way that prevents stress and deterioration. Sound controlled spaces, communal “pack” sleeping for socially healthy dogs, cat-patios, and more will help our pets stay mentally and physically healthy. We have long term comfort in mind, and not just temporary housing.
Will you also be helping pets with severe health issues?
While we will do everything in our power to take care of a pet’s health in our care. Underdog’s focus is on behavioral health and is not the best fit for animals with large medical needs. If we have a pet with more severe health issues, we will work to transfer them to a specialized partner who may be able to provide more intense care.
How can I donate?
We can't tell you how much we appreciate your support. Please use our "Fundraising" page to make a donation- all money is going directly to caring for our pets, as well as our early non-profit expenses (filing fees with state and federal agencies mostly)
What would my money go towards if I were to donate?
As it stands now, Underdog runs completely on volunteer time, meaning no salaries. 100% of donations would go directly to saving a pet from an overfull shelter, keeping a dog with its owner experiencing domestic violence, or providing a safe space to a fearful cat.
Our costs will be predominantly care-related (food, beds, cleaning supplies, foster transport.) We are attempting to secure a physical location to save more lives, so rent may factor in the near future.
The goal down the road when we expand is to hire staff, so in the future, some of our income will go to salaries. But our bylaws are specifically written to protect the animals and ensure a vast majority of the money goes to our pets’ needs. As a 501c3, Underdog is committed to transparency and will post our budgets on our website.
Are all of your pets up for adoption?
A majority of our pets will be up for adoption once they pass our rehabilitation standards for reintegration into the community (safety, comfort, confidence). What few of our pets do not meet these standards will find long-term solutions, such as a sanctuary. Underdog also confidentially houses and supports pets with the intention of being returned to their owners in the event of an emergency.
What happens if you don’t think a pet should be adopted out?
We do what is best for that pet. If an extremely energetic dog would prefer a job, we may find a placement for him as a working dog. If we have an extremely shy and undersocialized cat, she may prefer to live in a barn hunting mice and loving her humans from afar. If a dog gets along great with other dogs but is unfit to live with people, they may be a fit for a dog sanctuary. If the pet falls in love with just one of us and wants to stay with us forever, that’d be okay too. Animals are as individual as humans, and we judge on a case-by-case basis.
What is a “behaviorally needy” animal?
We use this to refer to any animal that needs more support than your typical pet.
How do you know a dog is safe to put back into the community?
Underdog has developed an evaluation rubric that allows us to take an objective, fact-based evidence about a dog and allow us to make case-by-case decisions on the animal’s trainability, safety, and comfort. Underdog avoids human bias of things like “that dog is scary”, and instead focuses on the context surrounding any behavioral history that pet may have. Using science-backed methods of rehabilitation and individually crafted plans, Underdog will work to give confidence, support, and guidance to both animals and their owners, even after adoption. And if we take an animal into our care that we later deem is unsuitable to return to the community, we will seek alternatives such as sanctuary when appropriate.
What steps will be taken to ensure that the pets go through minimal rehoming? What is the process that people must go through to be deemed a suitable and permanent home?
Underdog is committed to setting up both animals and their owners for success. We will create standards for each individual pet based on their needs. For example, a shy, nervous dog that exhibits anxious behaviors and some separation anxiety finds their forever owner. That dog’s new owner will meet in our facility or foster home however many times we decide is necessary to get a clear picture of their interactions. Then, should we continue to adoption, we will set up home consultations to ensure that our support does not end when that dog walks out our doors. Underdog is committed to lifelong success, and can even provide support in terms of connecting with trainers, resources, or even coming back for classes or refreshers.
And, of course, an Underdog is an Underdog for life. We will always take a pet back if necessary, with no judgment, or work to find ways to keep that pet in their homes when appropriate.
Are all of your pets fixed/microchipped/vaccinated?
Underdog follows traditional shelter protocol, meaning all of our pets are fixed, up to date on vaccines, physical examinations, and have a microchip.
How much does it cost to adopt an Underdog pet?
Adoption fees are on a case-by-case basis, depending on the needs of the animal. Our adoption fees include an owner class with a trainer to help your pet get established in your home, and may increase depending on the supplies we need to send home with the pet. Our base fee is low and covers costs of living like food and medications. Donations beyond the cost of adoption are always appreciated.
I want to surrender my pet to Underdog. Will you take my pet?
Feel free to reach out to us and we will see if your circumstances require you to surrender your pet, or if we can refer you to another organization that may be better suited for your pet. Unfortunately, we cannot accept dogs at this time as we are at capacity.
I’m having a personal crisis and need help keeping my pet. Can Underdog help?
We’d love to help you keep your pet. Please reach out to us and we will do everything we can in our power to keep you and your pet together.
I need anonymous support due to an emergency. Can Underdog help?
There are several ways you can contact us anonymously. You can have your caseworker contact us, have a friend contact us, or send us an email requesting our “Underdog Package”. Our workers will try to find a way to coordinate with you in a way to protect you and your pet.
What constitutes emergency support?
Underdog offers support to people experiencing homelessness, domestic violence, medical or physical ability difficulty, hospitalization, and more. Contact us to see if we are the right fit for your emergency situation.
I need help with my pet’s behavior. Can you help me?
Please reach out to our email support and we’ll see if Underdog is the right group for you. We may refer you to a trainer or provide resources for self-learning at home. We reserve Underdog training services to those in danger of shelter surrender.
I want to volunteer. How can I help?
Thank you so much for your interest and energy! Underdog is in need of foster parents. If you are interested in applying, please fill out our application (coming soon) or use the Contact Us form and we’ll be in touch! You can also reach out for fundraising ideas or other small projects we can brainstorm together based on your experience!
Right now, we’re limiting our volunteer opportunities with the pets to fostering. If you’re a pet industry professional wanting to volunteer services, feel free to reach out to us, we’d love to connect! If you have nonprofit experience and want to volunteer experience, please reach out! We’re still a new organization in development and have opportunities to get involved in our creation!
What is compassion fatigue?
Compassion fatigue refers to emotional exhaustion that occurs from the sheer virtue of empathetic work. In animal care work, the energy required to care for a life that can’t advocate for itself requires a lot of mental strength. Oftentimes, when an animal has a sad outcome, it weighs on the people who love them. Eventually, that toll adds up and results in the mental health affliction called compassion fatigue.
Compassion fatigue is extremely common in the shelter and veterinary careers, and as a result, often has extreme mental health ramifications for the people who work in these industries. Underdog is striving to help change the way this work is done to create an environment in which we openly and honestly talk about care, grief, and the work that helps us save lives.
What is a “traditional shelter setting”?
A quick history lesson: animal shelters originally emerged as an animal control function to help curtail the spread of disease, public health, and safety risks, and to help control animal populations. Some early shelters also encompassed livestock and herd dynamics. This is why many shelters operate with government funding, as it provides this public service. Over time, this evolved into more modern shelters you see today that brand themselves as ‘pet match-making’ services, placing adoptable animals in homes as pets, while often having to euthanize for space to continue to fulfill the original animal control function.
Underdog is the next iteration; we do NOT fulfill an animal control service, and instead hope to serve the shelters themselves, as well as owners by preventing surrender in the first place.
By taking animals that would often be euthanized as part of this animal control operation, it allows the shelters to keep working as intended, minimize unnecessary euthanasia, as well as reduce burdens on the shelter workers.
Physically, a traditional shelter usually provides some form of housing, typically kennels or “runs” for dogs, and “cubbies” for cats. Some more modern shelters with more funding than municipal shelters have updated versions that look like “real-life rooms”, but more or less serve the same housing function, partnered with a foster-based side for shelter breaks for the pets.
What is a “no-kill” shelter?
A “no-kill” shelter is a term used to refer to shelters that achieve a 90% live release rate. That means they can euthanize 10% of their animals and still be deemed a no-kill shelter. Most of these euthanasias fall under medical categories or behavioral. It is a term used to differentiate from shelters with a higher rate of euthanasia that typically have to euthanize due to space constraints, high rates of disease transmission (such as parvo), or lack of resources. There is no such thing as a truly 100% no-kill shelter.
Should I boycott “high-kill” shelters?
No! While “voting with your wallet” is an important practice, shelters with higher euthanasia rates are NOT for profit and need your income to provide resources to the pets in their care. The people who work at those shelters love the pets in their care just as much as “no-kill” shelters. Underdog is proud to work with high-volume shelters and hopes to relieve some of that burden.
What do you mean by resources? By resource-intensive animals?
A resource is anything that an animal may need. There are obvious ones like food, shelter, leashes, litter boxes. But the less obvious resources are things that are immaterial: trainers. Time. Sometimes that resource is a skill or proficiency.
A resource-intensive animal is an animal that typically needs more help, and therefore, more resources. More staff time to take care of their particular needs. More time spent training. More time at the shelter, so more food. More medical care. Vaccines. Monthly flea treatments. And so on.
Even a completely healthy animal can be resource-intensive if it needs more behavioral help. That’s time and money spent keeping that pet alive.