Detroit’s no-kill dog shelter gifted new headquarters

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city’s first and only no-kill animal shelter is being gifted a second location on the city’s west side, enabling it to house and adopt out more dogs.

Detroit Dog Rescue got the keys this week to a former animal care center in the Five Points neighborhood after learning a few weeks ago that it was being donated to the nonprofit.

Detroit Dog Rescue Executive Director Kristina Rinaldi announces the former Westcott Veterinary Care Center on Detroit’s west side has been donated to the dog rescue.

“It’s that moment when you are opening a Christmas gift and you are just in shock,” Detroit Dog Rescue Executive Director Kristina Rinaldi said during a Thursday news conference inside the building on Grand River Avenue.

“It’s not every day you get a call that somebody wants to gift you a building, but to have this gift for the dogs of Detroit is just amazing. I was in disbelief that somebody didn’t want anything back. They just wanted to gift us a building. What this can do for the community is immeasurable.”

The group, Rinaldi said, plans to use the site as its new headquarters and to facilitate training, care and adoption services.

The 10,000 square foot former Westcott Veterinary Care Center was built in the 1960s and includes about 10 treatment rooms, an operating room, medical facility and has plenty of space for kennels, she said.

The building has been empty since July when the veterinary practice downsized.

Rinaldi said she received a phone call from Janice Collins, a veterinarian with Westcott telling her the practice wanted to gift the building to the rescue.

“She said ‘I see the work that you do ... and think you could use this building to the best of its abilities and that you can make it great,’” Rinaldi told reporters.

Collins was unable to attend the Thursday news conference because she was tending to animal surgeries. She could not be immediately reached by phone for comment.

Detroit Dog Rescue initially formed in 2011 as a foster-based operation and secured licensing in 2015 to operate as Detroit’s first no-kill animal shelter.

The group opened its existing 2,500-square-foot shelter on Harper in May 2014 and has been able to accommodate about 25 dogs at a time there. The rescue currently finds homes for its dogs through adoption events. It has not facilitated adoption services out of its east-side shelter.

Rinaldi said the new spot should be able to house about 50 more of its dogs and will enable the group to offer public adoption services on site for the first time.

The new building, she said, will also provide the rescue with office space, indoor dog training facilities, animal housing and care services.

The rescue has about 50 foster partners, 80 volunteers and a staff of eight people. It’s primarily funded by public support and donations.

The cost and timeline for upgrading the new site aren’t yet known, but Rinaldi said the group is seeking volunteers and proposals as it works on a development plan.

In the future, the group’s existing east side facility could become a low-cost veterinary clinic for Detroit residents.

Since its inception, the group has helped more than 5,000 dogs through its vaccination clinics, rehabilitation and adoption services.

Among those on hand for Thursday’s announcement were staff and volunteers and Chandler, a pit bull mix rescued by the group earlier this year. The pup was found in a city park in May with his abdomen cut open.

The former Wescott Veterinary Care Clinic building, in Detroit’s west side Five Points neighborhood, was donated to Detroit Dog Rescue by the building’s owner, Dr. Janice Collins, the DDR announced Thursday.

The dog, now about 8-months old, was adopted by James Rigato, the owner and chef at Mabel Gray restaurant in Hazel Park.

“Chandler wouldn’t have lasted another day. He was on the brink of death and was literally brought back to have an exceptional life,” Rigato said. “They take worst-case scenarios, and they get the best possible outcomes.”

Rinaldi said the group is known for taking on some of the city’s toughest cases, including stray and homeless dogs that have been shot or stabbed or burned.

“Chandler is everything that represents Detroit Dog Rescue,” she said. “He is your average Detroit dog. The dogs that were never given a chance.”