Rachel Mairose, executive director of Eden Prairie-based Secondhand Hounds, has turned her passion for animal rescue into a nonprofit organization that has rescued more than 15,000 animals.

After growing up in a family that fostered dogs, Mairose discovered her affinity for animal rescue and the need for it while volunteering at programs in St. Louis, where she was studying at Washington University.

“I never thought of it as something that I would do for a career,” said Mairose, who earned a degree in environmental science with a minor in law and animal behavior.

Instead of going to law school, Mairose returned to Minnesota, where her husband was in medical school.

She had no experience running an organization and was pregnant when she launched Secondhand Hounds in 2009.

“I look back on it and think how crazy was I that it seemed like a good idea when I was seven months’ pregnant,” Mairose said. “But it just seemed to be the right thing to do.”

Secondhand Hounds last year saw more than 3,300 pets adopted and spent more than $1 million on veterinary care for rescued animals, Mairose said.

The organization accomplishes its mission through the efforts of more than 3,000 volunteers, Mairose said. Volunteers hold 17 of 30 staff positions while the others are paid.

Some 400 to 500 of the group’s more than 1,500 foster homes care for animals at any given time, Mairose said.

Mairose began rescuing animals from other countries a few months ago and plans to formalize that service as Secondhand Hounds International. She also would like to expand the organization’s hospice service.

Q: How did you turn your passion for animal rescue into a growing animal rescue organization?

A: I would be a professional student if I could. I surrounded myself with people who were super-intelligent whether they were lawyers, business experts, branding people or marketing people. I’ve been getting such a unique niche education that I wouldn’t have gotten with any MBA.

Q: What’s been your greatest accomplishment at Secondhand Hounds?

A: We’re known as the rescue that doesn’t give up on animals especially when we’re talking about finances. If an animal is in desperate need of help and no other rescue can afford to treat them we’re always the one called upon to help. It’s a testament to our foster homes, our volunteers and our donors.

Q: Is the need for animal rescue rising or declining?

A: We see it as only going up but because people are finding out about us and know the good work we do. Shelters down South say Secondhand Hounds has turned around their situation. They’re sending dogs up every week. In Minnesota we have what seems like an endless supply of amazing adoptive homes.


Todd Nelson