By Lisa Granshaw
Here Claire Fraise is with another one of her adopted friends, Lucky the Pit Bull.Some teenagers may dream of helping animals when they grow up, but how many take their passion and start their own nonprofit animal rescue? That's what Connecticut teen Claire Fraise did. The 13-year-old started a nonprofit organization called Lucky Tails Animal Rescue.
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The eighth-grader was inspired to start Lucky Tails after adopting her first dog, Tuggles, whom she found on Petfinder.com and adopted through a rescue. Tuggles had a rough start, roaming the streets as a puppy, at which time he was hit by a car, causing an injury that required a plate and screws inserted in one of his legs.
Soon after Fraise adopted Tuggles she realized something was wrong when he began favoring a leg. After taking him to a vet, she discovered that the previous surgery was not done properly.
"Of course, we got it all fixed, and he's now living happily," Fraise says, but the research she'd done prior to adopting Tuggles and the experience she had with him after bringing him home made it clear to her that she wanted to do more to help other dogs like Tuggles. "Researching rescue dogs and adopting a homeless dog ... made me realize how many dogs need homes and just how many are going to be killed," Fraise explains.A Lucky Start
Fraise began research for Lucky Tails in June as part of a home-schooling program started by her mother. In the program, children choose real-world problems in their area of interest and develop projects that will make a difference in those areas. Inspired by Tuggles, Fraise chose dog euthanasia, and Lucky Tails was born.
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"The mission of Lucky Tails is to find forever families and provide second chances to homeless dogs on euthanasia lists in shelters across the USA," Fraise says.
In July, Lucky Tails rescued its first dog, Lucky, who had an amputated front right leg and was left at a shelter after her family moved. For the four months she was there she hadn't been let out of her kennel.
"She completely shut down. Everybody overlooked her because she was a Pit Bull and she had only three legs," Fraise says. "When we took our first visit to the shelter, she won my heart with her eyes and sadness."
After a month of training and socializing the pup, Lucky Tails found her a forever home where she is now living happily. Since then, Lucky Tails has rescued 14 dogs and found them all forever homes. All the dogs come from kill shelters across the country where they would have been euthanized because of lack of space or funding.The Hard Parts
Fraise has many happy tales to share about the 10-month-old nonprofit, but it has still been hard work.
"Once I did all the research, I started making phone calls, writing emails, trying to find people that wanted to work with us," Fraise says. "The hardest part was finding foster homes."
While Fraise has dealt with these challenges in her own way, her parents offer support and help running the nonprofit. They drive Fraise where she needs to go and work on the legal papers and tax returns.
"Honestly, I don't think I could do it if it wasn't for them," she says.
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While Fraise isn't sure what her long-term plans are for Lucky Tails just yet, she hopes she'll be able to keep running it as long as her community continues to support her. Fraise urges people to consider donating to or fostering for her rescue.
"Without donations, we would be nothing, and without foster homes, we couldn't save any dogs," Fraise says. "The more foster homes we have, the more dogs we can save, and the same goes for donations."
Fraise already has many rescue stories to share, but there's one in particular she highlights as an example of what helping Lucky Tails means for dogs in need. She says the story of 4-year-old Pit Bull Molly "is very close to my heart."
Fraise rescued Molly from a high-kill shelter in rural Georgia where she was on the euthanasia list. The dog's face and neck were covered in scars. While the Fraise family was cautious because of Molly's unknown and possibly abusive history, Fraise was convinced the dog wasn't aggressive. A trip to the vet revealed that she might have spent most of her life in a crate as a breeder.
With some TLC, training and socializing from Lucky Tails, Molly showed her sweet spirit and proved Fraise right.
"Given everything that people had done to her, she never stopped loving. That just breaks my heart," Fraise says.
Molly found her forever home in December thanks to Lucky Tails and is now "living life to the fullest and getting all the love she deserves," according to Fraise.
It's stories like this that stick with Fraise and show the amazing difference she's making in the lives of animals at only 13. So what does this animal-loving teen have planned for the future?
"I am not sure what I want to do when I get older. Dogs will always be a part of my life, so I am likely to pursue a career helping them," Fraise says.
You can learn more about Lucky Tails Animal Rescue and how you can help by visiting its website.More on Vetstreet.com:
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