A Boost for Man's Best Friend: What a Dog-Loving Funder Is Up To Lately

News out of the Petco Foundation, the grantmaking charity associated with the pet supplies chain, has been crossing our radar a lot lately, including some six- and seven-figure giving to animal shelters, training, and care organizations.

But in particular, how do you look past a program whose nominations for animal welfare group grants are stories about how adopted pets changed their owners’ lives? The foundation’s Holiday Wishes grant campaign sifts through stories (5,000 in 2016) during the open submission process, and this year will distribute $750,000 among the 54 finalists, with a $100,000 grand prize. 

For example, there’s “Miracle Molly,” a pit bull that was hit by a train, nursed back to health and adopted by the police officer who rescued her. Or Lexi, the adopted dog who has greatly enhanced the life of a young boy with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. (Just a second; I think I got something in my eye.) 

Related: Maddie’s Fund Incentivizes Better Data From Animal Shelters

The amount of money disbursed in the competition has gone up since the 2013 inaugural year's $250,000, tracking with increased funding overall from the animal welfare charity. You can see the finalists and actually vote for this year’s winners here. In fiscal year 2015, the Petco Foundation made $30 million in grants, up from around $20 million the year before, and $15 million the year before that. It’s given more than $170 million since it was founded in 1999. Funding comes from both the Petco company and contributions from individuals and other corporations, including regular fundraising galas. The foundation also runs programming with Petco stores and other organizations to promote animal adoptions. 

Aside from the Holiday Wishes campaign, Petco Foundation has a few regular grantmaking programs on recurring cycles. They include shelters and adoption organizations; spay and neuter providers; helping heroes, service and therapy providers; and pet cancer research (this one is invitation only).

Grant amounts range widely, with some around $10,000, but they do climb into the millions. In 2015, it made its then-largest grant of $2.5 million to the Search Dog Foundation, a California-based organization that recruits and trains shelter dogs to join disaster search teams. The Petco grant went toward a new training facility that simulates disaster settings. 

The heroes, service, and therapy providers program is unique, and we’ve written in the past about the foundation’s support to help veteran war dog handlers transport and adopt their dogs as their own. 

Related: For the Petco Foundation: No War Dog Left Behind

Another recent grant went to the Young-Williams Center in Knoxville in the amount of $500,000 to support its cat adoption center. And in the spring, the LifeLine Animal Project landed $1.5 million for its work as a no-kill shelter in Georgia. In fact, the past fiscal year saw a lot of funding go toward organizations to save animal lives and reduce euthanasia. 

One last program to highlight: Petco has an ongoing partnership with the Blue Buffalo Foundation, which has invested $9 million since 2010 in pet cancer research and treatment initiatives. Funding goes toward treatment centers to subsidize the cost of care, as well as toward research that has potential benefits for pets and humans.