Bet Your Life: Local Heroes Give Animals a Second Chance at Companionship…and at Life


Photos courtesy of Second Chance Animal Rescue

“Single male, four legs and a tail, enjoys long walks around fire hydrants, chasing postal workers, and smelling scat; seeks two-legged, tail-less M or F for lifelong friendship. Serious inquiries only.”

This personal ad has never before appeared in print — let’s hope it hasn’t, anyway — but it could describe many of the potential companions currently affiliated with Second Chance Animal Rescue. Second Chance Animal Rescue is “an all-volunteer, nonprofit 501(c)(3) animal rescue organization dedicated to rescuing, caring for and providing homeless dogs and cats with a second chance at life and companionship.”

At the center of Second Chance is one remarkable woman. “I am a co-founder and the president of Second Chance Animal Rescue,” declares Nancy Minion. “We just celebrated 23 years of saving animal lives! Second Chance was one of the first rescues in Minnesota, and we strive each day to help as many animals as possible.”

The situations requiring rescue are lamentably manifold. Says Minion, “Animal rescue is taking in animals from situations that are usually not the best for the animal, whether it is taking them out of animal control facilities before their ‘time is up’ and they are euthanized, or rescuing them from puppy or kitten mills, hoarding situations, cruelty cases, or helping families who can no longer care for their animals, and many other situations.”

Sometimes, the first step is more of a reprieve than a rescue. “Like Second Chance, the vast majority of animal rescue organizations do not have a facility where dogs and cats have to live in cages and be alone at night,” Minion discloses. “We utilize volunteer foster homes where the dogs and cats can bond with people and live in their homes. Many sleep in or on the beds with a human. They are taught commands and good behavior. They learn to have fun and enjoy life where they don’t have to be afraid.”

If you think this work is performed by pampered professionals, you’re as wrong as a house-broken piranha. Minion says, “Since we are an all-volunteer nonprofit organization, volunteers are the mainstay of Second Chance.”

This shouldn’t imply that the joint is run by a pack of rank amateurs, either. “We provide orientation, ongoing training, and support for our volunteers,” Minion reports. “We ask that volunteers have basic animal care skills and have time in their lives to give the animals attention, loving care, and training.”

That training — for the volunteers, not the companions — might be used in any number of ways, depending on the requirements of the present moment…or the moment after that. “We usually don’t know what will arise any given moment that we need to respond to,” Minion observes. “There is such a huge need for helping animals. One way we touch more animals than the ones we physically rescue is we provide grants to help low-income people spay or neuter their animals.”

Each rescue is unique. “There is a lot that goes into saving a life,” Minion admits. “Coordinating the intake by going to impound facilities or other locations, coordinating the vet appointments, caring for the animals in their homes, screening potential adopters, holding adoption events, attending community events, and so much more. We always say we can only save as many animals as we have foster homes available.”

All of Second Chance’s work takes place under the shadow of a great, cosmic clock. “Every day there are animals that need rescuing, and we, unfortunately, can’t help them all,” Minion sorrows. “It is difficult, but we have to stay focused on the ones we can help and save. We constantly need more foster volunteers so we can save more lives.”

That said, Second Chance never gives in to desperation. “Our adoption contract requires that adopters properly care for the animals, keep them as house pets — not outdoor animals — not declaw cats, and return them to our program if they are unable to keep them,” Minion recounts. “We also have a strict spay/neuter clause. If the animal is too young to spay or neuter at the time of adoption, we require the adopter bring it to one of our vets to have the surgery done within the timeframe we specify…and we pay for it. If they don’t comply, we take the animal back.”

The quantity of these adoptions is as impressive as their quality. Says Minion, “This varies monthly and yearly. It’s hard to give a specific number but we have saved over 9,500 lives since inception and helped thousands more with our outreach work.”

This outreach has been catalyzed in recent years by gadgetry of every stripe. “There have been so many changes in technology since we started which have helped connect potential adopters with our animals,” Minion has noticed. “Having a website and being able to show adoptable animals online really helps get the public interested in a specific dog or cat by reading their personality profiles and seeing their pictures.”

As useful as the internet is in connecting humans to companions, it’s also helpful with connecting humans to other humans. Minion says, “Facebook is a great tool for us to let people know about our upcoming events, special rescues we are working on, highlight some of our long-term animals, and we reach more people.”

Sometimes the human-to-human connections are of a more organic variety. “One of the things I really enjoy is Second Chance being asked to attend children gatherings — Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, birthday parties, etc. — where children are getting involved in helping animals at a young age,” Minion reports. “They ask good questions and collect monetary donations and animal supplies to help our foster animals.”

Rescuers oftentimes find themselves rescued by their rescuees. “Our volunteers get a great sense of accomplishment,” Minion asserts. “They know they are literally saving lives. They get to see shy, sick, or ill-mannered animals turn around and thrive in their homes by just providing the basics of love, food, shelter, and positive reinforcement training. It is amazing to watch the transformations and preparing the animals to move on to their forever homes.”

To Minion, animal rescue isn’t merely her mission, it’s her purpose. “My life is pretty much animal welfare when I’m not at my paying job,” says Minion. “Growing up, my family always had dogs, guinea pigs, and gerbils, and we helped injured birds, squirrels, and other critters. Rescuing and helping animals is just part of my life and is so rewarding. Outside of Second Chance, I write and help pass animal welfare laws and ordinances in Minnesota and have been doing that for over 27 years. It is extremely fulfilling.”

That fulfillment is most rewarding when shared. Minion encourages, “We are always in need of foster volunteers for dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens. Help us save more lives!”

For more information about the animals and work of Second Chance Animal Rescue, go to

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