Photo provided by Sam Franklin

Lost Pets & Shelter Me

One can either give into or rise above terrible circumstances. Sam Franklin is an animal lover and rescuer who has chosen to rise above. Despite losing her basset in 2009 and despite being a victim of domestic violence, she persevered and formed two nonprofits to help people in similar situations. Those two organizations are Lost Pets of Lancaster County and ShelterMe Nebraska.

ALLISON: Why did you start Lost Pets of Lancaster County?

Photo of Daisy provided by Sam Franklin
Photo of Daisy provided by Sam Franklin

SAM: In 2009 I lost my basset, Daisy, for three months and 23 days. I did a lot of wrong things trying to find her, and spent about $3000. Finally, I got help from a national organization to find her. After I found her, I took specialized training on how to find lost animals.

That training proved useful in helping a friend reunite with her two lost German Shepherds, Nadia and Sergeant. The search for Nadia and Sergeant was publicized by various local media outlets, which helped me to realize that not only was there a need to educate and assist people who lose their pets, but also indicated that members of our community cared and were willing to share the task of helping folks in that situation.

I decided that everyone should have more knowledge and help to find a missing pet, so I started Lost Pets of Lancaster County in January 2014. Our website includes tips on how to reunite pets. In addition, our group offers traps and equipment.

ALLISON: What lessons have you learned from running Lost Pets of Lancaster County?

SAM: I’ve learned that people and animals are amazing. I’ve learned that animals are so resilient, and people are empathetic and compassionate. I’ve learned that a community coming together can accomplish outstanding things.

ALLISON: Share a favorite success story.

SAM: Koda was a bull mastiff lost from 40/south. He was lost in August 4th, the day his owners were getting married. His owners moved to Arizona on August 11th. He was finally found October 14th.  He was found chasing cows in a field 10 miles northwest of Wahoo. We didn’t know how we were going to get him to Arizona, so we put out a plea in the newspaper and a trucker stepped up to transport him to his owners. It was an amazing reunion!

ALLISON: What obstacles do you face with Lost Pets of Lancaster County?

SAM: We rely solely on donations, and sometimes it gets pretty tough to continue. Our traps have been stolen and we’ve not had the money to replace them, and sometimes we wonder how we’ll be able to afford the website where we tell owners how to be reunited with their lost animals or how to reunite a found animal. Our supporters are amazing and have always come through in times of need. I’m truly grateful for the kindness of people.

ALLISON: How can volunteers help?

SAM: We currently have a core group of about 50 volunteers. They handle the day-to-day
operations of making phone calls, hanging fliers, searching for and tracking pets, and watching traps. The latter is particularly important in inclement weather. We don’t want an animal sitting in the traps for too long when it’s really cold or hot out.

We can always use more volunteers for these tasks. Volunteers are also needed to help organize fundraisers.

We also rely on our thousands of followers who share our posts, which is an integral component of our mission. Our Likes have reached over 13,000. We could NOT find pets without these followers!

According to a study reported on by Adopt a Pet,, in the over 1000 households randomly surveyed, 14% of dogs and 15% of cats were lost at least once in the past five years. Of those lost pets, 7% percent of dogs and 25% of cats were never found. That’s 153,000 dogs and 645,000 cats that are lost each year and are not recovered by their original owners.

ALLISON: Why did you start Shelter Me?

Photo provided by Sam Franklin
Photo provided by Sam Franklin

SAM: I was a victim of domestic violence and had to leave my animals with my abuser for three weeks. I couldn’t check on them and I worried they were being abused too. I didn’t want anyone else to feel what I felt, so I started ShelterMe Nebraska in August 2014.

ALLISON: What lessons have you learned through it about helping pet owners?

SAM: I’ve learned that victims are strong, determined, and resilient people who go through extremes to get themselves and their animals to safety. I’ve learned that we, as a community, need to help whenever we can. I’ve also learned that we need to start having the conversation about how domestic violence affects our community and our pets. Domestic violence thrives in darkness and we need to be the light to stop it from happening.

ALLISON: Share a favorite success story.

Photo of fosters Foo & Poo provided by Sam Franklin
Photo of fosters Foo & Poo provided by Sam Franklin

SAM: Meredith was in a violent relationship. She was trying to get out, but there was a 5-7 week waiting period for the local shelter. She contacted us to take her dog who had been beaten by her abuser. We met up and took her dog into foster care. She contacted us a few days later saying she had just been beaten and raped and her cat had been beaten and she needed to get out. We picked her up and took her cat into foster care, then we took her to a shelter out of the city. Her abuser kept finding her, so she kept being moved from city to city, shelter to shelter. She worked to free herself for two years. Once she had a place where she could keep her cat, we reunited them. Sadly, her dog died in foster care with us, but Meredith is in a safe, loving relationship now, and living with her cat.

ALLISON: What obstacles do you face with Shelter Me?

SAM: Oh my gosh. Funding is a serious issue with ShelterMe. Victims leave with nothing and we pay for everything to get their animals situated and rehabilitated. Our vet bills to treat abused animals are so expensive. We’re not a hugely popular non-profit because no one ever wants to talk about domestic violence, but our supporters are amazing and have kept us afloat.

Now we’re trying to get the funds to build a shelter where victims can live WITH their animals and heal together. 40 other states have this, and we desperately need it too. It’s been proven that victims heal much faster with the emotional support of their animals. We need about $500,000 just to get this started. We’re determined though!

ALLISON: How do you keep going when things go wrong?

SAM: That’s an excellent question. It’s so easy to become depressed when we hear about abuse happening to people and pets, but then I remember my story, and I think about the Merediths of this world and have hope again! I have a very firm belief that we can help victims and their pets, and I have hope that we can eradicate domestic abuse completely. Without hope, I don’t think I could do this work.

ALLISON: How can volunteers help?

SAM: We need help fundraising first and foremost. We also need fosters and volunteers to help with functions. We really need people to not be afraid to speak up and have the conversations about domestic violence and pets. We need people to speak up for victims to help them escape the violence, and we need victims to share their stories to help people understand more.

ALLISON: Anything else?

SAM: I really want people to speak up and say something if they know abuse is happening. Often, victims have lost their voice, feel helpless, and don’t think they deserve anything else. That’s just the abuse talking, and we need to help them.

While I was being abused, a friend would often say to me: “There has to be more to this life.” I knew I wanted a better life, but I didn’t know what that looked like or how to get it. It was through the loving help of my friends that I was finally able to break free and now I have an amazing life! We’re all capable of helping others in need.

Relevant statistics on domestic violence and animal abuse:

  • 52 percent of victims in shelters leave their pets with their abusers (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
  • Nearly 50 percent of domestic violence victims have delayed leaving their abuser out of fear of harm to their animals (Carlisle-Frank, Frank and Nielsen, (2004))
  • “With only 3% domestic violence shelters in the U.S. providing co-living options for survivors and their pets, individuals are often forced to make the nearly impossible choice of abandoning their pets to enter shelter, or remaining in an unsafe environment and risking further abuse.” (Urban Resource Institute)
  • 71 percent of pet-owning women entering women’s shelters reported that their batterer had injured, maimed, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or to psychologically control victims; 32 percent reported their children had hurt or killed animals (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)

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