Mission and Values

Our mission

End pet homelessness by making pet ownership a joyful and accessible experience for all.
We accomplish this by rescuing animals from overcrowded shelters, placing them in loving forever homes and providing support and resources to pet owners in need.

Our Values

Compassion for all animals and the people who care for them. We aim to foster a non-judgmental environment to build bridges and relationships with our community to help keep pets out of the shelter and in the homes where they are loved.

Community engagement and participation in all our programs. We aim to empower our community to be the change they want to see and rely on our volunteers to provide daily care in foster homes and our facilities.

Vulnerable populations are a priority for rescue and support. We aim to deliver programs focused on finding the most vulnerable populations of animals including big dogs, senior dogs, sick dogs, parvo puppies, pitbulls and neonate kittens, and delivering solutions to help them live and be loved.

Progress and growth every day. We aim to consistently be on the front lines of progressive policies and programming in the animal welfare community, knowing that change is made by taking risks, challenging the standard and always thinking differently.

Our Story

In 2007 Heather Owen, One Tail at a Time’s President and co-Founder, visited Chicago Animal Care and Control for the first time. That year, the city shelter was euthanizing more than 13,000 animals in those walls. The visit was an inspiration to become involved in the animal rescue community and be part of the solution. The next year One Tail at a Time was born inside an Albany Park apartment among five friends.

We started as a backup plan for animals that were not getting adopted or rescued by other groups in the area shelters. Over the years we have experienced consistent and steady growth, being among the top transfer partners for both open access shelters in Chicago and having a robust transport program in which dogs are continuously rescued from southern states in need.

Our growth was, and continues to be, due to the overwhelming support received from the community. Volunteers lined up to foster and care for dogs, take on leadership roles, and make sure that One Tail at a Time become a name recognized throughout the city.

In 2015 our growth led to the opening of our first brick and mortar location, the Adoption Center. Since the opening of the Adoption Center community involvement has been at an all-time high. That growth led to the start of the neonate kitten program as well as our shelter diversion program that keeps pets with their families.

In 2016 we started the “ISO Program” which assists pets in our city shelters that are exposed to shelter illnesses. This vulnerable population of animals was experiencing higher rates of euthanasia and we made the decision to focus on their needs. In 2018 the ISO House was opened, which is a temporary stop over for sick animals coming from the shelter before they move to foster homes.

As of 2019 One Tail at a Time hosts a bustling dog adoption program at the Adoption Center, an ISO Program focusing on Chicago’s dogs, a Kitten Team that cares for neonate kittens, vaccine clinics in low income neighborhoods, and leads the Chicagoland Rescue Intervention & Support Program (“CRISP”) which keeps pets intending to be surrendered at the city shelter with their loving families.

Financial Information & Adoption Statistics