Shelter Chic is a rescue organization in New York City that is dedicated to saving cats and dogs and also giving them the opportunity to get out of enclosed cages. Essentially, via the Shelter Chic location, several cats can wander the indoors premises as they would in a forever home.
Shelter Chic also strives to educate the public about the importance of adoption and other issues relating to animal welfare in a friendly and fun way. They welcome all, promote love, and encourage spoiling furry friends because in the end, they’re the ones who rescue people–not the other way around.
Shelter Chic is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit animal rescue devoted to finding forever homes for cats and dogs in need. They help relieve overcrowded New York and New Jersey municipal shelters and takes in strays and welcome animals left destitute from the death of their owners. Shelter Chic will collaborate with other rescue groups on missions to bring dogs back from Puerto Rico and Nevis. All of their animals are housed in loving foster care until they are able to find the perfect forever homes.
Shelter Chic relies on their devoted foster network for the care of our animals and they are a 100% volunteer based Nonprofit Boutique. Shelter Chic currently operates out of a donated space in Tribeca, NYC where they offer a wide variety of high-end pet clothing and accessories as well as t-shirts, greeting cards and other gift items for animal lovers. 100% of the income from the boutique helps fund our animal rescue efforts. Recently Brittany Feldman, a former school teacher who is the founder of Shelter Chic, spoke to the Examiner about her experiences working for the organization and her hopes for its future:
Meagan Meehan (M.M.): How and when did you decide to start the Shelter Chic and why was
that specific name chosen?
Brittany Feldman (B.F.): In 2012 I took a trip to Villalobos Rescue Center in New Orleans, the world’s largest Pit Bull Rescue, which changed my life. I started sponsoring Pit Bulls through that organization, dogs who had been rescued from dog fighting and other horrific abuse. I started making yearly trips to New Orleans to visit my sponsor dogs, and I felt a strong desire/need to get involved in animal rescue in NYC. So I started volunteering for Animal Haven, while still teaching. In 2013 there was a reform in the public school system that resulted in the termination of my self-contained special education class. I was offered to teach a general education first grade class, but my heart was in special education, and so I thought it was a sign that it was time to leave teaching and pursue work with animals. I got hired in the fall of 2013 at Animal Haven as the cattery attendant. I absolutely loved working hands on with the animals and seeing the journey of an animal coming into the shelter and then being adopted. While working at the shelter, I had a vision of starting my own animal rescue with a little twist. I wanted to appeal to a different group of pet lovers, specifically those who were turned off from animal welfare issues due to their notoriously heartbreaking advertisements. I wanted to create a revolutionary boutique shelter, one with a light-hearted, upbeat, whimsical vibe. With a funky, fashionable edge (and provocative/racy slogans), we could grab people’s attention, get them through the door, and then educate them about the importance of adopting their pets rather than going to pet stores and breeders. I spoke to my friend Amanda, casually telling her about my idea over dinner. The next day she created a business plan and had outlined exactly what we needed to do to make this happen. We decided to go for it! I am forever grateful to Amanda for making this happen. Our friend, Trent Huffman, actually came up with name. We were discussing the idea and he just blurted it out! After discussing it with Amanda, we realized that the name “Shelter Chic” would appeal perfectly to the crowd we were aiming at, those that tend to have a stigma against shelters. The juxtaposition of the two words works against this stigma. I love the name; I think it explains what we’re about perfectly.
M.M.: Aside from cats and dogs, does your organization assist any other animals?
B.F.: We solely take in dogs and cats, but we do provide customers with multiple resources, such as names and contact information of other rescues, some of which have other animals available for adoption. In our nonprofit boutique we only carry vegan and cruelty free products (no leather). We once had a girl come in who had a wounded pigeon in a box. We contacted the Wild Life Bird Fund on the Upper West Side and gave her directions to where she could take the pigeon.
M.M.: So far, how many animals have been rescued via the efforts of Shelter Chic?
B.F.: So far we have taken in 42 animals, 35 of which have been adopted!
M.M.: What have your experiences running a rescue center been like?
B.F.: Running a nonprofit animal rescue has been the most rewarding experience of my life, and definitely filled with highs and lows. The best part of running the rescue is not only seeing our animals go to their forever homes, but also staying in contact with our adopters and getting updates about each animal. There is nothing as wonderful as seeing the journey our cats and dogs make from when we first take them in, to seeing them living happily ever after in loving homes. The worst part is knowing that we can’t save them all. Going to shelters is always overwhelming, and knowing that we can only take a few animals at a time is heartbreaking. We see and hear horrible stories of abuse and neglect and it’s sickening knowing that someone can hurt an animal that way. We do the best we can, but it can be dejecting knowing that while we are part of the solution, it’s an ongoing battle.
M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding part of working with Shelter Chic? Have any stories been particularly memorable?
B.F.: Taking dogs and cats from the municipal shelters have definitely been the most rewarding part. Cody’s story was one of the most memorable. We were at a municipal shelter in New Jersey, looking for a dog to pull. Cody was around 7 months at the time. When we saw him in his kennel he was curled up in a ball, tail between his legs. We were told that he had been seized by the police after being left outside in freezing temperatures by his previous owner. He was taken with another dog and it was clear they had been severely neglected and abused (he was terrified of brooms). He has permanent scars on his ears from frost bite. After 24 hours in a loving foster home (which quickly turned into his forever home) he was playing with toys and wagging his tail. Gus’s story was also very memorable. Amanda and I were in the Bronx picking up a dog, when we saw this cat covered in motor oil, drinking out of the sewer. He came right up to me, circling my feet. There was no way we were leaving there without him. After bringing him to the vet we discovered he had deep, infected bite marks all over his body, and scratches on his eye lids that prevented him from fully opening his eyes. It was clear this cat had an owner at one point, and was struggling to survive on the streets. The vet said if we had not taken him in he would not have made it much longer (this was in the winter in December). Gus has been adopted and now lives a wonderful life with his new mom. She even takes him out on a leash in the suburbs, which he loves! As I mentioned before, we keep in close contact with every adopter. Getting pictures and updates of our cats and dogs can make a bad day so much sweeter.
M.M.: Where do you hope Shelter Chic will be in ten years?
B.F.: Currently we run a nonprofit boutique in a donated space on Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan, which is only temporary. Our animals live in foster care, which can be a challenge as part of our goal is to make animal adoption more accessible and visible. We are also 100% volunteer based, and so we occasionally have to close in order to work at other jobs. In ten years I hope to have a permanent location for our boutique, where was can house our cats and dogs who are available for adoption, while still utilizing, but not depending, on foster homes. The long term goal is to generate enough revenue through the boutique to make is self-sustaining so that expenses like rent, salaries, and utilities are covered. This will enable us to use 100% of the money from donors and fundraising efforts to save that many more animals. I would like Shelter Chic to be a resource, a source of education that encourages people to adopt their pets. There are large organizations out there who do so much for animals worldwide, and we always want to support them. Shelter Chic’s job is to reach the market of people who tend to turn away from animal welfare issues because of the sadness and overwhelming feeling that one person cannot make a difference. We hope that our positive approach and upbeat advertising will reach a whole new audience, encouraging more people to adopt rather than buy their pets. It is our responsibility to work besides and with the other amazing organizations out there to save more lives. We also want to encourage others to get involved and follow this positive approach to expand the population of animal adopters. We want to encourage entrepreneurs to start business that help a greater good, working for a larger cause.
M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who is striving to enter the
B.F.: Make sure you enter the rescue world knowing you cannot save every animal out there. If you take on too much, you will burn out very easily and very quickly. Think long term, how can you make the biggest difference? Do it because you genuinely love animals and want to help. Focus on the positives, and all the animals you can save with your resources. Revel in the good you’ve done. Nothing you do is too little, educating others about adoption and issues important to you in animal welfare still counts. If you can change one person’s mind about adopting rather than buying, or on the importance of spaying and neutering, you’ve made a huge difference. Nothing you do is too small.
M.M.: Are there any upcoming projects and/or events that you would like to mention?
B.F.: Our Second Annual Benefit is on Thursday, April 28th, from 8-11pm at Avenue New York. The night will be complete with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, information about pet adoption, adoption and fostering opportunities, a silent auction and more. Sponsors include Tito’s Vodka, Sixpoint Beer, Manhattan Magazine, and Pure Paws Veterinary Clinic. The event is open to the public and tickets are available at Eventbrite.com and through our website. 100% of event proceeds go to Shelter Chic. Also, we want to thank our awesome sponsors, Gato Negro Wine as a sponsor!
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To learn more about Shelter Chic visit the website, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.