I started in rescue in 2000 when I adopted my first rescue dog. At the time, rescue organizations were far and few between! I spent the next 8 years helping to re-home Golden Retrievers. The later part of that was spent doing transports. That is when we realized that the rural shelters were having a hard time adopting out anything other than a purebred dog. The connections made during the years in rescue helped get BRATS off the ground. We had connections with almost all of the shelters in Wisconsin, many of the rescues and with local breeders. My husband and I have 2 dogs that we transported but ended up staying with us. One is a Boxer Mix and the other is a Pitbull.
What is BRATS?
BRATS is a Wisconsin-based animal rescue transport service. We started this in 2008 to help rural Wisconsin shelters get their animals to areas of the state where they had a better chance at adoption.
At the time their kill rates were high. The big thing holding them back was a reliable transportation system to move animals around. Fast forward 10 years and most of these same shelters are now finding themselves in a position to bring IN animals.
Do you help more than just dogs?
We learned early on that it wasn’t just dogs that needed to be transferred. There were cats, birds, small animals, rabbits, reptiles and occasional farm animals. Wisconsin has a rescues for all of these so we adjusted our business model to include all of them.
What programs do you have?
1. We have our ambulance service to pick up sick and wounded animals at the shelters to get them to Spay Me in Madison. That led to our work with UW Vet School in Madison. We also run a chuck wagon service that moves food and supplies between shelters. So nice to see everyone sharing!
2. During the busy times of the year we help MADACC get their animals to Wisconsin Humane Society’s Spay/Neuter Clinic.
3. BRATS has worked with breeders in Wisconsin since the beginning. We move their retired breeder dogs to rescues and shelters that know how to work with them. Some are seniors, but most of them are in the 2-8 year range. We would prefer to see them living out their lives as pampered pets vs never knowing a loving family. Most find homes in a few weeks. Some take longer to adjust. Occasionally breeders will call with puppies that have gotten too old to sell. We work with breeders of big dogs like Golden Retrievers and Golden Doodles to the cute little fluffy dogs. They all deserve a home, and we do our best to make sure they get that.
4. Two years ago we started our Wisconsin Junior Heroes For Animals to recognize kids making a difference in the lives of animals. That is what BRATS does right now. It will be interesting to see what we look like in 5 years as we are always adjusting to what our partners need. Junior Heroes are nominated by shelters, rescue groups, family members or friends. Some of these kids have overcome some pretty substantial hardships in their lives but find a way to help animals. One young lady raised funds for vests for police service dogs. Some of them help bottle feed kitties and puppies. Some spend a lot of time at their local shelter reading to animals and helping in ways only kids can. There is a BRATS youth volunteer this year that reads to the animals on the transports to help them de-stress. We want to recognize these wonderful kids and their good deeds. It really helps to keep them motivated. Kids who are kind to animals are generally kind to humans!
How can the public help?
The public can help by spaying/neutering and microchipping their animals and keeping them safe so they don’t end up in shelters.
BRATS does not charge for our services. There are no paid positions. Everyone pays for their own vehicles and their own expenses. Many of the people that drive during the week are retired or on some type of fixed income. A gas card helps them tremendously.
BRATS is pretty complex for an all- volunteer organization nobody outside of rescue knows about. We prefer to have the spotlight on our shelter/rescue partners who are doing the heavy lifting.