“Our mission is—oops, bear with me, I have to let a dog in,” Jill Angelo says of one of her 13 canine charges. “Some of these are my regular pack, and others are fosters. I take the dogs that have been starved or injured, those that require more care than a shelter can give,” she says. “That way, the shelter cage can stay open for the next animal that needs it.”
If there’s anything that the southeast suburbs of Chicago are in dire need of, it’s empty shelter cages.
Realizing a Calling
Jill worked at a large open-intake shelter for four years. “I saw the level of volume, abandonment, abuse, PTSD in the people I worked with, shoestring budgets and supplies—just the general difficulty shelters experience at maximum capacity,” she remembers.
While working at the shelter, Jill would look for the dogs that required the most care and “pull” them—what rescue organizations call taking an animal from a shelter for foster or adoption. “A lot of rescue groups don’t always have funding to be able to pull the dogs that require the most care, so I started fostering,” she says. “I’d get the special needs dog the care it needed, get it better, and get it adopted,” she says. “I felt it was my calling.” The result of hearing that call is The Moon Dog Farm, Jill’s rescue organization.
Of course, Jill and Moon Dog’s co-founder, her husband Scott Birnbaum, ran the risk of having the same problems other small rescue groups with low funding have—until PetSmart Charities stepped in.
“I’d started to partner with other rescues and foster for them,” Jill recalls. “And because I’d worked at the shelter, I was asked by one of PetSmart’s managers if I would consider being part of their Charities group. I was so into my routine, I never thought of taking my little charity and becoming part of PetSmart!”
Moon Dog Farm Receives a PetSmart Charities Grant
“My adoption captain, Christy Kelly, met Jill and her group and fell in love,” says Bill Hockman, PetSmart District Leader for the Chicago area. “This is one of those groups that started out very small and wanted to grow to save more lives, but they hadn’t been in financial position to do so. We wanted to help them help others.”
Bill and his store leaders also took note of Jill’s proactive attitude toward rescue. She worked with the area’s court systems, so that when animal hoarding situations are discovered, The Moon Dog Farm is called to help with the rescues to avoid shelter overflow. “Moon Dog has also expanded to more stores for adoption events,” Bill says. “They’re saving so many animals’ lives.”
Saving Even More Lives
The Moon Dog Farm is no longer focused only on dogs. Jill and her team have expanded to rescue critters, too. “A lot of guinea pigs and rabbits at the shelter were being overlooked,” she says. “I have dogs here for three months before they’re adopted; that gives me a lot of time to find homes for guinea pigs and rabbits.”
So far, Jill has pulled over 125 guinea pigs from shelters and humane societies, and from May to October in 2018, The Moon Dog Farm celebrated 100 animal adoptions. “The PetSmart Charities grant is the reason I’ve been able to take in as many animals as I have,” Jill says. “That money pays for vet care and supplies for us and our fosters. I’m so grateful that PetSmart was willing to take a chance with a small new rescue group.”
“It’s amazing to think that a small group can have so much impact,” says Bill. “They’re saving so many animals’ lives, and it’s great to help them be able to grow and save more.”