Thinking outside the cage

Dogtime salutes Pittsburgh’s Animal Friends

How did your organization get started?

Sixty-six years ago, at the height of World War II, a small group of Pittsburgh citizens came together in an effort to find homes for soldiers’ pets when they left to serve in the war. After the war, still faced with the need for ongoing compassionate control of the pet overpopulation and placement problem, the group opened a shelter and incorporated. They took a name that clearly articulated their mission: to serve as friends to unwanted animals.

An Animal Friends success story

Over time, Animal Friends evolved to meet increased demand for our services. All the while, our reverence for the animal-human bond remained at the core of Animal Friends’ mission. Today, Animal Friends is uniquely prepared to serve as a leader in compassionate, pet-focused programming. From creative kenneling to for the comfort of our animals to innovative community outreach and education programs, Animal Friends is proud to embrace the community with open arms and creative, pet-centered solutions for a kinder future for our region.

What is your mission?

To ensure the well being of companion animals, while ending overpopulation, abuse and unwarranted euthanasia.

How do most of your animals find their way to you?

Dogs, cats, and rabbits come to Animal Friends through humane rescue, owner surrenders, or because they are stray. We also receive pets from smaller shelters or animal control agencies. In keeping with our no-kill mission, Animal Friends does not euthanize animals in order to provide kennel space.

What happens to the animals once they are in your care?

All of our animals are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, and medically and behaviorally evaluated. We work hard to rehabilitate animals that need additional medical care or behavior training. Our animals enjoy shelter enrichment programs like Open Paw, and special-needs or long-term residents can benefit from periods in a loving foster home.

Tell us about a particularly compelling animal or inspiring rescue.

In October 2008, Animal Friends’ Humane Officers–following a tip about a neglected dog–discovered dozens upon dozens of dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, goats, and ducks living in filth and chaos in a tiny suburban house. As officers swept through the premises, they found more and more animals, shut into closets, packed into pens, and sitting in their own waste.

They quickly got to work, removing the animals and taking them to safety. An early count totaled over 100 animals pulled from the tiny house. But, as one rabbit delivered six babies on her way to Animal Friends and many more arrived pregnant, the number of rescued animals climbed even higher.

Back at Animal Friends, staff and volunteers worked to find temporary housing for the 115 animals. Our humane officers got on the phone, searching for sanctuaries that would agree to board our farm animals. Veterinarians stayed into the early morning hours, tending to the wounds, urine burns, and painfully overgrown nails of 67 rescued rabbits. Our volunteer foster families made quick arrangements, making room in their homes for as many animals as they could. Spay and neuter surgeries were scheduled throughout the weekend.

And of course, the expenses of such a rescue were staggering. In the end, the medical and boarding costs associated with this rescue would cost Animal Friends an estimated $39,100 on top of our daily demands. Still, when animals need help immediately, Animal Friends will be there.

Once at Animal Friends, the animals were guaranteed top-quality veterinary treatment, safe shelter, and absolutely no threat of unnecessary euthanasia. To learn more about Animal Friends, visit