Holiday Heroes Interviews: Midwestern Animal Rescue Services 🐱 🐢

Happy holidays to all! I’m happy to share a project that has come full circle. And just in time for the holidays! You may recall my Quilting For Rescue Pets blog about my small kennel quilts to fit pet carriers for cats and small dogs.

This year, I sent quilts to several animal rescue groups that save the lives of pets in disaster areas. To celebrate the holidays, I decided to conduct interviews with some of the rescue groups.

I’m sharing another Holiday Heroes Interview about these wonderful animal rescue groups. Staff and volunteers give so much to help homeless animals.

This week’s interview was with Camille Bates from Midwestern Animal Rescue Services (MARS). Camille works in MARS Community Relations.

MARS is a foster-based rescue group that serves the greater Minneapolis area. Lost, left behind or forgotten animals are fostered and loved until they find a forever home.

Fostered pets have a good chance of finding adoptive homes: Pet foster families help socialize cats and dogs and learn their personalities. The partnership produces the best match possible for new families. MARS is proud of its 99% success rate!

All breeds and ages of animals are welcome by MARS dedicated staff and volunteers. At-risk animals receive medical care, (vaccinations, spay, neutering) or microchipping before going to their foster families.

MARS’s vision: To be the leader in innovative companion animal rescue.

I hope you enjoy the MARS interview!

Tell us about Midwestern Animal Rescue Services.

MARS is a 501(c)3 animal rescue. We are funded through our adoption fees, services offered and donations. When our mission receives $1.00, 86Β’ goes back to supporting both pet and parent!

The remaining 14Β’ takes care of the overhead to keep our mission going, including oversight of the organization by utilizing third party audit and accounting firms, detailed financials available to our board quarterly and we remain compliant with required transparency by all 501(c)3 non-profits.

Here is a video walking people through how to see our GuideStar information.

Are you a small rescue organization and where do most of your animals come from?

MARS has approximately 732 active volunteers and foster homes with over 200 in application process.

Size of an organization is relative. MARS started in 2006 and have adopted out over 18,000 animals since then with a 99% adoption success rate. Once they go home, they stay home!

Between our nonprofit, low cost community Vet Clinic, Adoption Team, Foster Team and Administration, we have 19 employees.

Approximately 2,000 pets are brought into MARS care annually. And around 1,500 pets find their MARS Road Home forever families annually.

We included the word “Services” in our name because we knew we wanted to be more than just an adoption agency. We wanted to support both ends of the leash, community/rescue pets, along with their parents holding the leash.

Below is a photo of some of our current services, however we are always striving and innovative to expand our services to the needs of both pet and parent.

Where do most of your animals come from?

We take in dogs from local impounds and local surrenders.

In addition to that, we have the opportunity to help save dogs from other states, such as Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, etc. where the pet culture is very different than animal friendly and rescue aware Minnesota.

States such as Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and other states, see pets as disposable vs family members. If their dogs get lost, they don’t go looking. Instead, they go to the flea market to get a puppy.

How much support do you give to foster pet parents?

We offer introductory classes to people considering fostering so they know exactly what to expect.

In addition, MARS has a Foster Team and Foster Community who directly dedicated to supporting our foster homes. If they have any troubles with their foster(s), they have a team of support.

Before a dog even gets into their homes, we learn about their life and family, in order to put the best fit dog in their home.


We also have an emergency medical line through our vet clinic foster homes are able to call 24/7 for medical support.

To help with behavior troubles, we offer free to foster homes obedience training classes along with 1:1 training sessions with a trainer.

Our Adoption Center allows a safe space for the foster dog and potential adopter to spend time together, along with adoption counselors to help facilitate the process.

Our MARS Community and MARS Supporters (such as Dr. Pet Mom!) help in donating supplies, so if a foster dog might need things like dog food, kennel, toys, etc. we have them available.

Oscar the feral rescue (photo by @SocialClaude)

Do you work with other animal rescue or shelters?

Absolutely! The more rescues and shelters work together towards one common mission, we save more animals. Yes. If organizations work together, we are able to accomplish more good.

Do you mainly help homeless animals left behind in natural disasters?

When a natural disaster hits, MARS proactively goes in and helps clear the shelters/impounds of animals that were brought into the shelter/impound prior to the disaster, to help make room for displaced animals due to natural disasters so they have the best possible chance of being reunited with their families.

We don’t take any natural disaster pets until they’ve had the best possible chance of going back to their families first. When it’s clear this isn’t possible, we will bring them into rescue.

Can you briefly explain your adoption process? Do you include home visits?

The volume of education that has happened in Minnesota in the last 10 years, more people are initially thinking adopting vs. shopping.

The [adoption] application review process can take up to a week depending on the information we need such as a verification from a landlord.

In most cases we are able to complete a virtual home study, however please note that depending on a dog’s individual needs a physical home visit may be required to adopt.

After your application has been processed a MARS Adoption team member will review it to help determine if the pet you are interested in fits your lifestyle, home environment and energy level.

The Adoption team member will be in contact with you regarding the next steps and potentially setting up a meeting for you at our Adoption Center.

Our adoption center offers large meeting rooms to allow you the opportunity to interact with your potential furry companion and space for the resident dog(s) and potential adopted dog to meet.

If at any point in the process we or you find that the dog of your choice is not the perfect match, then we will work with you to find a dog that is more suitable and would make a GREAT addition to your home.

Upon adoption, we require that you sign an adoption agreement and pay the adoption fee.

Our fees range from $200 to $600. All fees are subject to MN sales tax and a processing fee at the time of adoption. We accept Credit cards, Debit cards as well as cash. At this time we do not accept checks.

What’s the one thing you wish more people knew about animal shelters?

The “pretty” dogs tend to get adopted first. As a rescue, we wish more people would think about the little brown dogs, older dogs, the “not so perfect” dogs that tend to be overlooked, left behind and forgotten.

They are amazing companions who deserve a chance too.

How did you get involved in helping animals, Camille?

Ever since a young age, I have always been passionate about causes and working towards bettering the world. When I was in my preteen years, I befriended my neighbor’s adult daughter who was/is heavily involved in rescue.

One day she emailed me making me aware of a dog that needed a foster home or she had a euthanasia time scheduled for that day if a foster home was found…

I pleaded to my parents, “We neeeeeed to save her!” and it’s all been a beautiful journey from there.

What is the most rewarding part of your work? What is the most challenging?

The most challenging and the most rewarding things in rescue go hand in hand. Being able to see pets come in from some of the most horrific conditions known to humans, and yet they are kind, forgiving, joyful and present in the moment…they teach us to be better humans.

It is hard to see them come from awful past lives, however seeing them transform into their new lives within rescue and find their forever families – That is by far the most rewarding thing. That keeps us motivated to save the next one, over and over again.

How can people help local animal shelter and rescue groups?

Volunteer! More hands make for lighter work and a greater impact. If someone wants to do more or is unable to volunteer, there are so many ways to help!

Donate, foster, adopt, or spread the word! Every bit of support helps and we greatly appreciate it.

I was so happy to make some small kennel quilts for MARS. How did you hear about the Small Kennel Quilt project?

I became aware of Small Kennel Quilt Project and Dr. Pet Mom after she was kind enough to make blankets of comfort for the 47 hoarding dogs that came to us from “the worst hoarding situations” we have seen in rescue.

These were dogs that no one else could/would take due to their environment.

What else would you like to tell people about your rescue group/adopting pets?

We are forever grateful to Dr. Pet Mom for being one of their first acts of love and kindness of support as they joined our MARS Community on their new, fresh start.

If someone chooses to adopt through MARS, you become part of a community of support and encouragement.

Whatever people like to do, whatever they are good at – we need their help.

If they like helping dogs coming in off transport, learning things at our Veterinary Clinic, filing or even cleaning…it’s not all playing with puppies!

Some of our current services:

  • Medical
  • Vet clinic care
  • Vaccine & microchip clinics
  • Nail trimming
  • Basic manners classes
  • Veteran service dogs
  • Pet food banks
  • Disaster relief support
  • Pet surrender intervention
  • Educational community classes
  • Student volunteer programs

Thank you Camille! And thanks to the MARS staff and volunteers for your good work to help homeless dogs.

Happy holidays!
Dr. Pet Mom

β€œDogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent.”
–Milan Kundera

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