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Johnson County shelter ‘unleashes’ warmth, comfort to vulnerable animals

Watch wiener dogs ‘make a run for it’ at Westport’s Oktoberfest

Dozens of dachshunds, aka wiener dogs, raced Saturday at the second annual Westport Oktoberfest Wiener Dog Races, organized by Unleashed Pet Rescue and Adoption.
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Dozens of dachshunds, aka wiener dogs, raced Saturday at the second annual Westport Oktoberfest Wiener Dog Races, organized by Unleashed Pet Rescue and Adoption.

Traveling to Chetopa, Kan., to carry out a mid-winter rescue of nearly 50 neglected, abused dogs from deplorable conditions. Searching on foot for hours in February’s icy drizzle to find a single lost dog.

For Danielle Reno, founder of Unleashed Pet Rescue and Adoption, it’s all in a typical day’s work. For Reno, the work is all about a lifetime dream of saving the lives of vulnerable animals.

Passionate about animals from early childhood, Reno was 13 when she first volunteered at an animal shelter in Atchison.

“I loved animals my entire life, and we always had animals in the house,” she said. “Parrots, birds, gerbils, cats and dogs. I always knew my life work would be something to do with animals.”

After graduating from Benedictine college in 2011, Reno answered that childhood calling and took the first steps to make animal rescue her career path and life’s work.

She establishing the groundwork for her non-profit and founded Unleashed Pet Rescue and Adoption that year. In 2012, after operating the organization chiefly through foster volunteers and social media outreach, Reno moved Unleashed Pet into its current facility at Broadmoor and Johnson Drive in Mission.

“When I got started, I thought the worst thing that could happen is I’d go broke and have to move back in with my family,” Reno said. “I thought the best thing that could happen is what has happened.

“We’ve saved more than 20,000 animals since we started in 2011 and the numbers are growing.”

Unleashed Pet Recue and Adoption is a licensed shelter that primarily takes in dogs and cats and find homes for them, regardless of age, health, temperament or history.

Animals that find their way to Unleashed Pet arrive from diverse locations and situations. Many have been relocated from rural shelters across the Midwest where they would otherwise be euthanized. Others arrive from overcrowded shelters, or are brought in by law enforcement agencies because they’ve been abused or neglected.

Some are surrendered by owners; others have been abandoned or found as strays. The nonprofit, which receives no government funding and operates solely on donations, also manages an outreach program.

Through this program, a team educates area owners about proper pet care and training. They also respond to calls in cases of abuse or neglect. Emergency medical care and spay/neuter services are also part of the outreach initiative.

A large, extended family, the Unleashed team encompasses more than 30 staff and 200 volunteers, many who open their homes for foster care.

Alexa Despirito, of Shawnee, is a first-time Unleashed Pet foster volunteer. She and her partner, Dan Colburn, are fostering Wally, a 3-month-old, mixed-breed puppy. Wally is one of the 43 dogs rescued in Chetopa.

Despirito never thought she could foster an animal, but Facbook videos of the Chetopa rescue changed her mind.

“I swore I’d never be able to foster because bringing a dog into our home, treating it like our own and then having to let it go seemed impossible,” Despirito said. “But, scrolling through social media and seeing all the pups for adoption or ones that need help was heartbreaking. When I saw the videos on Unleashed Pet’s rescue mission to Chetopa, I knew it was time to help.”

For now, Wally, who is shy and unsure like many of her fellow Chetopa rescues, has a safe, loving home with Despirito, Colburn and their other two dogs.

The Unleashed Pet Rescue and Adoption motto is, “Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.”

At Unleashed Pet, the worlds of those who save the animals also change forever.

“The impact animals have on us is unlike any other companion,” Despirito said. “They deserve to have a voice and it’s our job to give them one. Being a part of the rescue community is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever had the opportunity to be involved with.”

For more information, or to learn about volunteer opportunities, contact Unleashed Pet Rescue and Adoption www.unleashedrescue.com or call 913-831-7387

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