Small Business Success: Rescued dogs make great pets
Should you want 2022 to be the year you add man’s best friend (woman’s too) to your household, Susana Burgess is your answer.
This Griswold entrepreneur runs All Paws on Deck, a dog-rescue and adoption enterprise she founded as the pandemic raged, opening her doors in March 2020.
Her niche is rescuing pregnant dogs, then placing the mothers and puppies in welcoming homes. Pregnant dogs are shunned by most rescue agencies as too complicated and too expensive. Susana reports they are a burden to the shelters because puppies are very susceptible to diseases and the shelter noise causes a lot of stress on mothers. As a result, she says, the mothers often kill their puppies out of despair. In the cases where the puppies survive, they quickly get adopted, but the mothers are often left behind. Susana accepts female dogs bearing litters, cares for them until the puppies are born, then arranges adoption of mother and pups by families throughout New England (Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, extending into southern New Hampshire and Vermont).
Adoption fees for an adult are $400 and puppies $700, and include a complete physical by a veterinarian: heart-worm test, vaccinations, and spaying or neutering. If a puppy being adopted is too young for the surgery, the new adopter can have it done at a local partner clinic as part of their adoption fee.
In this case, the puppy comes with a coupon that the new owner can redeem at a vet near home. Often neglected in their previous situations, the mothers are nurtured and get used to family life, often accustomed to living with kids and cats.
Susana has developed a network of rescue and transport agencies in the South, principally Georgia, Mississippi and Texas. Dog overpopulation and abandonment is a greater problem in the South than the North for several reasons, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Warmer weather makes it seem less cruel to turn dogs out, and lower household incomes make it difficult for many dog owners to pay for spaying and neutering. In addition, there are fewer municipal and other local legal controls over loose dogs. Susana finds homes for the dogs via word-of-mouth, her website (allpawsondeck.org), Facebook (facebook.com/allpawsondeckctrescue) and other social media platforms, plus specialized websites like adopt-a-pet and petfinder.
Susana moved to Connecticut 17 years ago, immigrating from Brazil. Married with three children, Susana has learned that running a business as well requires organization and efficiency.
“With no formal education or practical experience in business management or finance, I’ve faced a steep learning curve,” she says, “relying on two allies, my husband and my SCORE mentor, Bob Potter of Old Lyme.”
Potter volunteers with the Southeastern Connecticut Chapter of SCORE, a nationwide, nonprofit association and resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration that offers free, confidential advice to small-business owners.
She was referred to SCORE by a business-owner friend who had been mentored by the organization.
“Bob is a steadying force,” Susana says, “always there with sound advice. He reminds me that volunteers are, in his words, ‘the heart of my business.’ They help as foster parents, caring for the dogs in their homes so I do not have to work 24/7.”
After application, screenings and records checks, Susana has several families who foster dogs while she find homes for them.
“The number of dogs in need of good homes is not diminishing,” Susana says. “Fortunately, neither are the folks in this region eager for a rescued family pet.”
Hugh M. Ryan is a certified mentor for the Southeastern Connecticut chapter of SCORE. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Business people interested in connecting with a SCORE mentor can do so via sect.score.org/content/find-mentor-174.