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Giving pets a second chance at life, love

Jenny Jennings, right, adopted her dog Annie, via Second Chance Animal Rescue 13 years ago. She later joined the organization with friend and founder Nancy Minion, left. Both are residents of Woodbury. Staff photo by Hank Long.

Annie is a runt of a border collie. With a healthy black coat accented by a few trace spots of white under her chin, on her upper breast and on the tips of her ears, she has a energetic personality to match. It would be understandable to think she is much younger than 13 years old. But that's what makes Annie special, said her owner Jenny Jennings.

"She was one-and-a-half years old when we rescued her," Jennings, a Woodbury resident recalled. "The white on her ear tips is actually from the frost bite when she was found that winter we adopted her."

The fact that Annie has been living the good life in Woodbury with the Jennings family for more than a decade is a stark contrast to what could have become of the one-time abandoned pup who was found wandering a rural community near Duluth, before she was taken to an animal shelter.

Annie would have likely been euthanized if no one had claimed her. But she was adopted by Jennings through Second Chance Animal Rescue, an organization with roots in Woodbury. After Jennings and her husband Tom brought Annie home it wasn't long before Jenny felt the call to help other animals. Since then she has been a dedicated volunteer and board member for Second Chance Animal Rescue, which was co-founded by another Woodbury resident, Nancy Minion.

Since its inception in 1994, the non-profit organization has saved more than 8,000 dogs and cats from being euthanized. Second Chance is not a shelter itself. It is an organization that counts on a network of donors, vets and foster homes to care for and temporarily house abandoned and stray pets while they are waiting to be adopted to their "forever homes," Minion said.

"We don't have a facility, and we never will," said Minion, who spends most of her free-time (when she isn't working her full-time job) helping to run Second Chance. "We really count on foster families and volunteers to transport animals when they are rescued and need care."

In order to be successful in rescuing animals and placing them in their "forever homes," Second Chance has developed working relationships with pound facilities that contract with cities all over the Twin Cities metro area.

The city of Woodbury contracts its animal control services with the Animal Human Society and Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Maplewood. As a result Minion said she and other Second Chance volunteers have become familiar faces at the shelter and hospital that each have components to serve as a pound. There is generally a five-day holding period before strays dropped off by animal control officers are scheduled to be euthanized. Minion said her organization's name-sake explains their mission clearly.

"That's all we want, is to give these wonderful animals without a home a second chance," she said. "They would be dead otherwise."

Finding a 'forever home'

Every other week volunteers for Second Chance set up their adoption station at the Petco in Roseville with hopes that some of their new arrivals will find their "forever home," a term Minion uses to communicate to prospective owners that is something Second Chance takes seriously.

"We are very careful to make sure that the pets we are offering adoption are compatible with the potential owners," Minion said. "Everyone has a different circumstance and needs and so do these pets."

Official paperwork is part of the process. And screening interviews are conducted on site during the adoption events at Petco. Much more often than not, matches are found, which is the reward for putting in the hard work, said Jennings, who fills out much of the adoption paperwork.

"It's about the only job where you could have a smile on your face when your filling out paperwork," Jennings said.

So what type of pet owners would best fit the animals rescued by Second Chance? Many types, Jennings said.

"We love people who think of their pets as their children, just like a member of the family," Jennings said, "But obviously every pet has a different need, so we really do try to find them the best situation where they and their new owners will thrive."

Minion said the pets Second Chance rescues come from a variety of backgrounds.

"We have pets that were born strays or rescued from mills and can barely walk a straight line," she said. "And then we have pets that were lost or abandoned by their owners, but they are friendly, well-trained and know all the commands. But each pet is worth loving for someone."

Increased demand

Minion said Second Chance is always looking for more volunteers and foster homes. Especially in an economy that has had a trickle-down effect on even dogs and cats.

"There is no doubt that when times are tough, pets feel it too," Minion said. "We see more pets that have to be given up by owners, and some that are just abandoned.

"At the end of the day, we can only help as many dogs and cats as we have volunteers. And we have a great group of people supporting this organization. But the need is greater now than it has ever been."