by Leah Fishman
When they spotted Django fresh off of the transport from South Carolina, he was filthy. He had a bad eye and a limp. He was only 6 months old, but life in an overcrowded rural shelter had taken its toll.
Many rescue organizations would have given up on Django on the spot; he would have been sent back to South Carolina, he would have lived in a dirty wire cage, and, eventually, he would have been euthanized. But instead, Django found hope where he needed it the most.
Meet the raddest girls in animal rescue.
Together, they are the RAD Girls Club, an independent adoption promotion organization based out of Burlington, VT. The RAD Girls Club uses nontraditional approaches to introduce people to dogs in dire need of rescue.
The members of the RAD Girls Club reach out to their local community through sponsored events and social media to help get dogs like Django out of the shelter. Their goal? To pair each rescue dog – including senior, special needs, and breeds that are discriminated against – with a loving, forever home.
To learn more about their rad mission, Sniff & Barkens talked to Katie Falcone and Chelsea Vella, founders of the RAD Girls Club, about rescue dogs and the power of community.
Sniff & Barkens: Who are the RAD Girls? What do you do?
Chelsea: The RAD Girls club is a third party rescue. We rally for the underdogs: bullied breeds, senior dogs, dogs who need special accommodations, or dogs with medical issues. Our aim is to show people dogs that might be easily overlooked. We do this by bringing them out of the shelter and introducing them to people or places where we think we can find them a great owner.
S&B: What is your background? How did that background inspire this project?
Katie: We are two friends who settled in Burlington, Vermont, after college. Although we run in the same crowd of people, it was our rescue dogs that bonded us and brought us together. Through our love of rescue dogs and all things Vermont, we decided to start this project in order to give back to our community.
S&B: Where did the name come from? What does “girl power” mean to you?
Katie: The word RAD came from “Redemption for Adoptable Dogs.” The whole concept of the girl’s club came about because we all strongly believe in encouraging women to band together and stick up for one another.
S&B: What sets RAD Girls Club apart from other rescue groups?
Katie: The RAD girls are taking a unique approach to bringing attention to rescue dogs. Our group’s focus is highlighting adoptable dogs and providing a voice for them. We have found that shelters are insanely busy and don’t have a lot of time to market and establish a presence on social media, so we have taken it upon ourselves to help them.
Another component that sets us apart is our backdrop of Vermont. Vermont is the foundation of the “support local” movement and its one of the only states left in the country that still feels like an entire community. The fact that we have a whole community of local Vermonters supporting our cause is truly unique.
S&B: What type of dog does the RAD Girls Club help?
Katie: We work with the dogs who may be considered unadoptable or are stigmatized by their history. We advocate for bullied breeds like Pit Bulls or Staffordshire Terriers, older dogs who may only have a few months left, dogs with medical issues that may be a financial burden, dogs with psychological issues, such as separation anxiety or dog aggression, etc. A lot of these dogs have a checkered history, which can make them seem like more of a burden than a blessing to adopt. These are the dogs we choose to highlight.
S&B: What types of gatherings do you hold in the community?
Chelsea: We just had our first event on Valentine’s Day on the Burlington waterfront and it was a huge success. We collected donation items from local businesses and held a raffle, where we raised funds for two dogs who needed medical treatment. There was a bluegrass band and people brought donation items for the local shelter. We are currently planning collaborative events in the next few months and really want to raise awareness of our club so we can get more dogs adopted.
S&B: What’s next?
Katie: We are going to keep fundraising by hosting events around the state, saving as many dogs as possible. We want to meet with as many trained professionals, behavioral specialists, vets, and healers in order to develop resources for rescue dog owners. This spring, we would like to create a marketplace to sell beautiful locally made merchandise to sell on our website. Proceeds will go to medical expenses, transport fees, and cover donation items for our adoptable dogs.
S&B: How can others get involved?
Chelsea: We urge anyone who wants to be involved in the RAD Girls Club to reach out to us; the more people involved in this project the better. The more people we have the more dogs we can help, and the power of networking within the community will be so beneficial in helping us find specific homes for specific dogs. Rescuing is an “all hands on deck” lifestyle and we are psyched people want to be a part of it.
To donate or volunteer, visit the RAD Girls website.