Brooke Bourgeois is the delightful executive director of PPC, moving to Chattanooga from New Orleans in late 2021 for the job. She shares an overview of the shelter: “Pet Placement Center is Chattanooga’s oldest no-kill shelter, opening its doors in 1983. With a small but mighty staff of eight, there are many hats worn by employees, board members, and dedicated volunteers from the moment an animal arrives through the day that animal is adopted.”
Bourgeois’ background is in managing high-intake municipal shelters, where there are unrelenting capacity demands and frequent cruelty and large-scale seizure cases. Heading a nonprofit no-kill shelter has different challenges, but has reignited Bourgeois’ passion to make a difference for every animal that comes through the door.
The philosophy of PPC is about individualized care. “We heal broken hearts; we replace fear with confidence, and we form genuine bonds with the animals under our care. They are not just a mouth to feed or a kennel to clean. To be able to leave work every evening knowing that our animals feel safe and loved is the ultimate reward. We go above and beyond to ensure that their in-shelter quality of life is abundant. That is how the longest tenured residents remain content,” Bourgeois says.
Take the case of our Eleanor. She was adopted as a puppy, then relinquished to PPC a year later. Bourgeois told me Eleanor was one of the most shut-down, despondent dogs she’d encountered in her career. Eleanor simply did not understand why she had been left there. The PPC sprang into action to figure out her needs, which included time away from the bigger and rowdier dogs (even though she is over 65 pounds), sleeping in the director’s office rather than a kennel, and lots of crispy salmon skin treats.
“When we commit to an animal, we are committed for the journey - no matter how long it may be,” says Bourgeois. “‘Assembly line sheltering’ often results in animals being placed in the wrong hands at worst and returning back to the shelter at best.”
This commitment is partially accomplished by managing capacity, a problem that was heightened by the pandemic. Early in the pandemic, pets were relinquished when their owners faced job insecurity. When the shelter is at capacity, someone seeking to relinquish their pet will be directed to other shelters and provided with any resources PPC has available to stabilize the situation.
The vast majority of dogs (97 percent) that owners seek to surrender are large-breed dogs. Unfortunately, these pets are also the most challenging to adopt-out, especially if they are mixed-breed. The cats that have the longest tenure at the shelter are usually tabbies.
The Naughty Cat Café in St. Elmo is a partner of PPC and helps find homes for some of these kitties. “It is a win-win for the cats, as the cafe is a wonderful haven for felines, and it allows us to help more cats in need,” says Bourgeois. “We also enjoy sending cats that have been with us for prolonged periods of time to get them more exposure in a different venue.”
Bourgeois says it takes a village to make PPC successful, including a network of vets that offer a complimentary veterinary exam post-adoption at no charge to the adopter. (Animal Hospital of Signal Mountain is one such vet.) Volunteers and fosters are also critical to PPC’s operations.
Volunteer duties range from cleaning and laundry to walking dogs. Some volunteers even take a dog on a hike, or to their home for a weekend reprieve from shelter life. “These volunteers are integral to keeping our dogs socialized and providing us with helpful feedback on their experiences in the public so that we can promote them with full transparency as to how they will transition from shelter dog to family companion,” says Bourgeois.
Plans are in the works at PPC to grow its foster program this year. “Kitten season will be arriving in the next month or so, and it is a most challenging time, as we take in litter after litter of kittens, nearly all needing foster home care until old enough to be spayed or neutered,” explains Bourgeois.
If you have a heart for homeless pets but cannot adopt or volunteer at this time, Pet Placement Center has a couple of major fundraisers each year (as well as ongoing fundraising efforts). Tails at Twilight is its annual gala, and August brings a raffle ticket auction with truly fabulous prizes. For more information on Pet Placement Center, you can visit petplacementcenter.com or check them out on Facebook/Instagram. Bourgeois offers this parting sentiment, reiterating, “There are so many ways to give back and enrich the life of an animal. If you want to make a difference, please join our PPC crusade!”
by Ginger Gibson