The animal rescue nonprofit Secondhand Hounds is getting a new name and expanding its mission beyond just helping dogs and cats.
The Minnetonka-based organization announced Friday that, starting Jan. 1, it will be known as the Bond Between — launching a new model of animal wellness by focusing on helping pet owners as well as pets in hopes of reducing the number of animals that are abandoned at shelters.
"Over time, I really realized how important it was we weren't forgetting the human equation," Executive Director Rachel Mairose said. "The organization couldn't just focus on animal wellbeing and animal rescue ... [and] we realized the mission is bigger than that."
Secondhand Hounds is broadening its social services and forming partnerships with other nonprofits, moving from a food shelf that provides pet food for low-income families to offering free spay and neuter clinics.
This year the nonprofit launched a pilot program with Women's Advocates in St. Paul, which runs a domestic abuse shelter, and the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV), which works with homeless veterans, to foster pets for free for 90 days while their owners get housing help or other assistance.
Jacob Hustedt, development director with Women's Advocates, said they first got the idea to partner with Secondhand Hounds from survivors, who said that leaving a pet behind was a barrier for some in getting help.
Since then, the two organizations have helped foster about a dozen pets before reuniting them later with their owners.
"Pets are our family," Hustedt said. "People get a lot of healing from their pets."
Mairose said her nonprofit also plans to expand the program to house pets for people undergoing treatment for addiction, so they can get in-patient treatment rather than forgoing help for fear of abandoning their pet.
"We want to do more and more programs like this," she said. "We see it as the future of animal rescue and avoiding these animals needing to be rescued in the first place."
No one, she said, wants to surrender their pet: "They just want a little assistance so they can keep that pet together with them."
Secondhand Hounds, which Mairose started as a dog rescue out of her basement in 2009, has grown to 70 employees with a $5 million annual budget. In 2021 it merged with People & Pets Together, which provides pet food and supplies to low-income families, and moved it to a bigger space in Minneapolis. The pet food shelf serves about 1,000 families a month.
That prompted Secondhand Hounds to look at providing more comprehensive services, from operating a vet clinic to expanding access for affordable veterinarian services, including free vaccinations and spay and neuter clinics. Secondhand Hounds has partnered with tribal and other organizations to offer those clinics across Minnesota.
The expanded mission created the need for a new name, Mairose said. "It's become clear we've outgrown the name," she added. "We have a big vision."
Animal rescue work will continue to be a big part of the Bond Between, as the nonprofit strives to double to 6,000 the number of dogs and cats fostered and adopted in each of the next three years.
But Mairose hopes that adding and expanding new programs will be just the beginning. She wants to expand the nonprofit to other cities and states, showcasing a model that can be replicated by other pet rescue groups in order to reduce animal overpopulation.
"We're seeing shelters that are more full than ever all over the country," she said. "It's exciting to see this new type of animal welfare group develop."