Donation match to help Detroit Dog Rescue raise money for second site

Mark Hicks Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

This month only, a Michigan-based company is matching all donations and proceeds up to $100,000 made to Detroit Dog Rescue as the city's first no-kill animal shelter works to raise $1 million to renovate a new headquarters.

The effort by Bissell Homecare Inc. was highlighted during a press conference Tuesday by Detroit Dog Rescue to offer updates its "Closer to Home" fundraising campaign.

"Every single day Detroit Dog Rescue are in the streets of Detroit helping residents, helping animals and we need a bigger space and it came down to we need to move into this building," said Kristina Rinaldi, the group's executive director, of the west side location where the media event took place.

"We're very excited about the progress we've made. Our zoning has passed and we're creating an architectural plan."

Kristina Rinaldi of Detroit Dog Rescue gives a tour Tuesday of the site of a second location for the group in Detroit, the former Westcott Veterinary Hospital.

Since its launch nearly a decade ago to help strays in the city, DDR has grown to become a major force to save and rehabilitate canines, collaborate with Detroit Animal Control officials as well as offer pet owners resources such as vaccination clinics or supplies.

To expand beyond relying on fosters to take in dogs, the group acquired a building on Detroit’s east side that opened in 2014. However, the nearly 2,500-square-foot space is limited in how many dogs it can house, Rinaldi said.

"We've just simply run out of space. Every day we have to turn dogs away that come to us for hep... we need a safe space and a safe haven for people to come and adopt and see the dogs that we care for," she said. 

A second building for DDR, expected to be renovated by fall 2021, will include space for 60 dogs, on-site adoptions, a puppy preschool and a training area.

In a surprise gesture, Westcott Veterinary Care Center officials in 2017 gifted her group its former site on Detroit’s west side to use as another location.

That property, which has nearly 10,000 square feet, is slated to become a hub to for on-site adoptions, training, space to walk dogs, even house a "puppy preschool" and house as many as 60 dogs. 

Meanwhile, the current location would transition into an outreach center featuring a pet pantry plus services such as spaying and neutering, Rinaldi said.

A rendering of Detroit Dog Rescue's planned second site.

“We already have so many people in the neighborhood who approached us to tell us how excited they are about the project,” she said.

To push the group’s dream, much work is required to update a structure more than 40 years old, said Evan Pomish, project manager with PCI One Source, the Oak Park construction management firm leading the effort. 

“Unfortunately, there’s a full gut that’ll be needed,” he said, referring to knocking down the interior structure. “Really, it’s taking the entire building back to the studs and then starting over.”

DDR, which relies on contributions, has been seeking grants to offset the cost, Rinaldi said.

A chance conversation sparked the Bissell match.

Cathy Bissell, whose family leads the company, has long supported DDR, dating back to when the group she founded, the Bissell Pet Foundation, helped fund the care for a wounded dog named Courage.

That sparked a bond with Rinaldi and the group, said Bissell, a former Metro Detroit resident.

“It’s just been fun to watch her in action and help so many dogs,” she said. “I totally believe in her and I believe in what she’s doing. Without places like Detroit Dog Rescue, there’s no tomorrow for so many pets.”

Bissell’s six-figure match aids DDR as it seeks more help, progresses on the west side project and builds out its operations. Demolition  starts  this winter, Rinaldi said. 

“We’re hoping by this time next year we’ll be ready” to open, she said.