How exactly is the Un-Shelter different from the many other area and regional animal rescues/shelters? Excellent question:
· We commit to a small, manageable number of adoptable animals. Period. (Welfare lingo = limited intake) We believe in highly-enriched environments, from home-like kennel spaces to outdoor play.
· Our adoption process is different: the emphasis will always be on “best fit, including energy levels and personality. The process begins with a conversation, leads to several animal introductions, counseling at time of adoption (“how-tos” are important!), and ongoing help where needed.
· Community is our passion! We want our space to be the hub of the wheel offering humane education, pet-related activities for children and families, social activities for pet caretakers, opportunities to connect pet-related service providers to animal guardians, and as a gathering and event space to serve a variety of community needs. We don’t want you to leave our family!
· In our world, ‘community’ also extends to other similar minds, so we provide active support to other shelters and rescues in the region. Our goal is to be a leader in proactive evidence-based education and best practices for staff and volunteers at other area and state-wide shelters and rescues, both on our property and on the road.
The Un-Shelter Values
Compassion. It goes without saying that the Un-Shelter serves as a compassionate steward to companion animals. But, compassion is critical in human relationships as well. The Un-Shelter is dedicated to compassionate relationships with staff, volunteers, potential adopters, members of the community needing support for their pets, other shelters and rescues, and educational and professional partners. We are committed to the adage that the heart of a person can be judged by how they treat animals but also in how we treat each other. Our commitment to compassion allows the Un-Shelter to serve as a place of infinite hope—for animals to find their best fitting forever homes, for people in our community to access resources needed to maintain and enhance their bond with their pets, for providing possibilities for keeping pets with their families, and for the health and wellbeing of companion animals in our service area and beyond.
Community. It takes a village to ensure that companion animals are safe and thrive. The Un-Shelter serves homeless animals and pet owners in its immediate area but community extends well beyond our borders and requires partnerships with other shelters and rescues in the region and state, animal medical and service providers, and key stakeholders. It will be a positive and uplifting place for the animals during their stay, for families seeking companions and desiring to enhance their bond with their pets, and for the community to come together to engage in activities and education that serve to strengthen the human-animal bond in our community.
Education. The knowledge base behind animal sheltering and pet ownership is constantly changing. Evidence-based best practices must drive the care of animals in shelters, adoption processes, and support services for pets in the community. The Un-Shelter will serve as an innovative learning laboratory for all practices related to animal sheltering, adoption, and community service. In partnership with university programs and professional animal welfare organizations it will pilot the best new ideas in sheltering and will serve as a teaching/learning laboratory for other shelters around the state and country. Serving as a learning laboratory includes a commitment to transparency in both operations—shelter data, adoption processes, animal outcomes, personnel policies—and activities allowing the community to see inside everyday efforts to support pet care and quality of life in our community. The Un-Shelter also serves as a base to meet the needs of pet owners for training, behavioral support, and for activities that enhance the mental and physical well-being of animals and strengthen the human-animal bond.
MEET THE TEAM
Laura Reese is President of the Board of the Un-Shelter. She began volunteering at the local animal shelter with her then 13-year old daughter. She was moved by the plight homeless animals in Detroit and decided to bring her academic skills to questions of animal welfare. What are the causes of animal cruelty and how do we best combat it? What animal sheltering practices are most important in leading to higher live release rates? What local animal control ordinances are most effective in keeping people and animals in our communities safe? She has looked at these and similar policy questions with the goal of improving practice in animal sheltering and community animal welfare. Laura is grateful to the animal welfare community in Detroit for teaching her so much about sheltering and rescue in ways that simply can’t be achieved by reading books and analyzing data. She has continued to volunteer with Detroit Animal Care and Control, Bark Nation, Dog Aide and C.H.A.I.N.E.D.
For Laura, the dream of the Un-Shelter is rooted in the heroic efforts to provide sheltering to homeless animals in Detroit and communities like it, in municipal shelters that are overcapacity and under resourced. The Un-Shelter’s mission is to act as a partner to other shelters in need: transferring animals and finding them homes; providing training and support to sheltering professionals; sending teams of volunteers to assist with programs. The dream of the Un-Shelter is to serve as a community resource for people and their pets, acting with transparency, and treating both humans and animals compassionately. The dream of the Un-Shelter is to be a place where innovation and learning is constant; where we never say, “well we’ve always done it this way.”
In addition to her daughters, Laura is mom to Rhymni a sweet and fearful Staffy mix and two cats, Gracie a 17-year old diva, and Winston, a visually (and maybe mentally) impaired cuddle bug. They are all rescues, Gracie off the streets and the other two from a shelter. After fostering for 15 years, she is very proud that Winston is the only foster failure.
Board Vice President
With 20+ years of hands-on dog experience, Hannah most enjoys being outside with dogs playing, exploring, or playing hide and seek. A professional trainer since 2006, Hannah has worked with almost every flavor of canine, from highly fear-based or reactive, through teeny weeny puppies. Currently, Hannah is most frequently caught up in the whirlwind of Confident Puppies, Nosework, and Search & Rescue (Dougal, her youngest is an Airscent Wilderness Canine in training). When she's not outside with dogs, Hannah is reading dog-related material (sad yet true), writing (about dogs), pushing herself out of her comfort zones (thanks, Search team!), or figuring out ways to raise money and awareness for her pet causes.
Creating an animal-centric safe haven where training, adoptions, community-building, small-scale sheltering, and so much more can all happen under one roof is a long-term dream coming true! There's nothing Hannah loves more than helping set realistic expectations for families with dogs new to them and helping them figure out a plan. Hannah is beyond excited to create permanent fenced-in off-leash spaces for play and training so she doesn't really have to ever go inside.
Hannah is currently owned by Dominic, a recovering fearful 9 year old American Bulldog mix, Livvie, a bold, always hungry Black & Tan Coonhound with velvety ears (ladies don't tell their age!), and Dougal, a 3 year old Shepherd/Bully-type mix who is equal parts wonderful and sassy teenager.
Karen was born into a family of animal advocates; animal welfare is in her DNA. She brings 30+ years of shelter experience to the Un-Shelter as a: Donor, Volunteer, Foster, Adopter, Staff Member, Nonprofit Founder, Municipal Shelter Manager and Private Shelter Animal Welfare Director. She comes with an unparalleled work ethic, passion, creativity and commitment to making a difference on behalf of the animals she serves.
“ I am joining the Un-Shelter team because I want to be part of something extraordinary! Our industry is in dire need of a paradigm shift. Sheltering began sadly killing a majority of its population. Sheltering now moves animals out at warp speed in an effort to reach industry induced percentages. Both models are fear-based and ultimately do a disservice. Creating & cultivating authentic, “valued relationships” is crucial for the positive future of our industry.
I am hopeful that the Un-Shelter, with its heart centered “collaborative” mission will be just what this state needs to unify our agencies, our communities, and ultimately impact the positive future of our adopted pets. The Un-shelter believes that shelter pets are not “damaged goods“ but rather casualties of a fractured society and every displaced animal in the state of Michigan is our responsibility.
Vince has always been an animal lover who at a young age was diagnosed with allergies to yes you guessed it animals. He was heartbroken as a young child who didn’t quite understand why his family had to re-home their dog Nero. His parents realized how this diagnosis impacted him, and he started on the journey of receiving weekly allergy shots. By the time Vince was in his teens he convinced his parents to get a dog.
Originally from Ohio, Vince moved to Michigan with his dog Bacardi in 2003. However it wasn’t until 2010 when Vince began fostering dogs with his now wife Laura DeGenaro. Fostering led to volunteering with FIDO, HSHV, C.H.A.I.N.E.D., LDDR and DOG AIDE.
During his experiences with different organizations he has gained many friends who have shared their knowledge and experiences, which has enabled Vince to find his passion in animal welfare. As a known “foster failure” who has adopted 4 of 10 foster dogs, Vince believes that fosters are an integral part of any organization. Structure and the incorporation of new thoughts and ideas are what Vince brings to The Un-Shelter.
Along with his wife Laura, Vince has 2 rescue dogs, Roofer a 162 lb Neapolitan Mastiff and Amanda a pint sized “Detroit special”. They live on the lake in Pinckney.
Board Member, Gratitude Program Manager
Jan VanSchoick is retired from a 37-year career at St. Joseph Mercy Health System. She is active in the community as a volunteer for several non-profit organizations that serve Washtenaw County. Jan is currently the President and Owner of two Metal Finishing companies in Livonia, MI, and Toledo, Ohio.
As a parent volunteer Jan was instrumental in the local Boy and Girl Scout organizations for over 15 years as well as the Ann Arbor PTO. Jan’s vast experience in bringing people together to make the community a better place is what she is known for.
Jan has six beautiful grandchildren (and two grand dogs) and is actively involved in their activities. She also is the proud mom of a beloved rescue named “Castle.” Castle is one of a kind and for people who own “small dogs with large attitudes” you will all understand.
Jan brings so much to the Board and ensures that every donor and supporter of the Un-Shelter knows how grateful the organization is for every bit of support.
Board Member and Volunteer Coordinator
Cari has a long history of caring for her fellow human and nonhuman animals. She is a nurse in the University of Mchigan Health System and a volunteer for Dog Aide helping to provide food to needy people and their pets in Detroit.
For The Un-Shelter Cari makes sure that volunteers are made to feel welcome, are kept informed of news and opportunities to help out, and keeps her fellow board members feeling cared for and provided with wonderful cakes. Shelters run on food and love.
Colleen comes to the board with over 35 years of dog training experience. In addition, she has served as a foster home for multiple dogs over the past 25 years. She has worked in both hospital and university administrative and management and is currently the Director of the School of Health Sciences at Eastern Michigan University.
When not at her day job she can be found working with her husband on their 20-acre rescue farm named Coda’s Haven. Rescue animals include sheep, goats, llamas, donkeys, horses, dogs and cats. Her performance dogs (Border collies) and companions (Brussels Griffons) travel across the Midwest with her competing in sheepdog trials.
Dogs have been a favorite thing in Laura’s life and a passion since she was a child. Growing up her family always had at least one rescue dog in their home. This passion for pups and feeling the need to help them increased when Laura moved from Ohio to Michigan. Over the years Laura has volunteered with several organizations that included walking shelter dogs and doing outreach to families and dogs in Detroit. She and her husband, Vince, started fostering for an organization out of Ann Arbor in 2011. They eventually fostered for a few other organizations and over the years “foster failed” with four of those dogs and adopted them into their home. One of their current pups, Amanda, is a Detroit special who started as a foster. Their other dog, Roofer, a Neopolitan Mastiff, was adopted from the Humane Society. They were not looking for a pup at the time but it was love at first sight with Roofer and her husband.
Fostering is something Laura wanted to be more involved with. However, their furry pack doesn’t always allow them to bring dogs into their home as fosters. This led Laura wanting to get involved with fostering on a different level. Fostering is important because it not only allows an animal’s life to be saved, it also, gives the animal time to learn how to live in a loving home and receive some training. Most importantly, it gives The Un-Shelter time to evaluate the animal and find the best fitting forever home. Laura hopes to continue to grow The Un-Shelter’s foster program as it is an integral part to the overall organization.
Hi I’m Julia! I’ve owned and loved animals all my life, but what really drew my passion for animal welfare has been my fostering experiences. I always wished more could be done to help the shelter dogs of Detroit until I realized… I could be that somebody! Over the last year I have fostered over 15 dogs and a litter of puppies. I have worked with Detroit Animal Care and Control, Rebel Dogs Detroit, and Canine Companions Rescue Center. Each and every dog that has passed through our house has taught me something new. I can not imagine life without a foster dog! I am a full-time teacher but any free time I have is spent with animals. I am hoping to use my foster experiences and passion to help the Un-Shelter save lives by matching potential adopters with their forever friends. I want to continue to speak for those who have no voice, and I truly feel this was what I was put on this Earth to do! I have 4 rescue animals of my own: Chance a goofy pitbull, Darth Vader a sweetheart lab/rottweiler, Kylo a sassy princess cat, and Skywalker the cuddle king kitty! (You can probably tell I love Star Wars!) I can’t wait for the new experiences that The Un-Shelter brings for me and the dogs of Detroit!