New Home for Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit

Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit at newly renovated location in Dearborn, Michigan. Photo courtesy Neumann:Smith Architecture

Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit, which has helped families adopt pets for over 30 years, moved to its newly renovated location at the Maryann Wright Animal Adoption and Education Center on Reckinger Road in Dearborn, Michigan, this year. The 15,000-square-foot facility has 38 staff members and an estimated 400 volunteers to help find homes for over 2,500 animals a year.

The new facility allows Friends for Animals to employ environmentally responsible practices such as LED lighting and energy efficient equipment that minimizes their carbon footprint.

The move has meant several improvements. Communication and interactions between team members and volunteers in their separate locations have been enhanced. President and CEO, Cory Keller, explains, “When we merged into one location, it benefited the communication between our teams and being able to be more efficient at providing quality care for all the animals under one roof.”

Another advancement that was possible with the move was the physical aspect of being able to house animals in a safe facility rather than being housed in trailers. Keller explains that the shelter’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system provides purified air for the animals within the shelter, which is incredibly beneficial to their overall health, along with the acoustic ceiling tiling that dampens out loud sounds, creating a peaceful space. Cleanliness is another element the facility upholds by disinfecting appropriately before touching surfaces and other animals throughout the shelter to avoid potential disease outbreaks. “Everything is built around ensuring that animals have the best care possible,” Keller says.

Cory Keller has been the president and CEO of Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit for over a year. Keller has been a part of animal welfare for over 19 years. Keller earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration at Devry University. While he was finishing his degree, Keller started working at a newspaper that led him to a local animal shelter in Ohio. Keller worked for Portage Animal Protective League in Ravenna, Ohio for three years.

For the next eleven years, Keller worked at Geauga Humane Society’s Rescue Village as their front desk coordinator, and he worked his way up to deputy director. Keller says, “I certainly value working hard to reach your goal in life and your career. Putting in the work and dedication can truly pay off.” The organization had a humane law department and a barn program where Keller expanded his knowledge of animal welfare and gained valuable experiences.

Keller’s next step was to become executive director of Berea Animal Rescue in Columbia Station, Ohio. His opportunity came when he was called for a position in Cleveland, to run the city’s entire animal control division, which he did for about two years. This was a tremendous learning experience for Keller because it was different from his background of doing humane society and rescue work. Keller went from dealing with stray animals to owner surrenders or seized animals through cruelty neglect. At the time, Keller missed his “nonprofit days,” so he took his current position at the Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit shelter.

Keller’s vision for the Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit is to make it diverse and inclusive as it represents the community. He adds, “As an organization, we want to expand our footprint and our mission of helping people and animals come together.”

Friends for Animals brings sheltered animals to potential adopters by partnering with other pet stores, such as PetSmart, that can house cats and attract shoppers to adopt. Keller mentions that they allow adoptions at all their events. For instance, each month, they host a Gateway Classic Adoption event where adoptable animals can be brought to the attention of folks looking for a new pet. Since animals are a huge commitment and financial responsibility, Friends for Animals also offers the option; “Foster to Adopt.” This allows potential adopters to foster a pet to see if the animal integrates well into the home or with the family.

Friends for Animals offers an outreach program called, “Reader Rover,” which promotes education about acceptable pet ownership. “This includes planning and thinking ahead about situations, such as annual costs from a medical perspective,” Keller notes.

Friends for Animals is too small of an organization to advocate directly for state and federal animal welfare legislation. “It certainly would be something we grow into, but we do review any legislation and acts that are going through the State legislature and Senate in order to provide our support,” Keller says. Friends for Animals partners with other shelters and humane societies in the community to amplify their voices.

The Friends for Animals shelter is funded primarily by donations from the community, fees for services, and a small percentage of revenue from the city of Dearborn. The previous name of the shelter was, “The Dearborn Animal Shelter,” and was changed to “Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit” because the organization realized that they were receiving a large amount of donations, volunteers, and stuff outside of the Dearborn community.

According to the organization’s annual animal statistics, cats are more likely to be adopted. “It’s directly connected to the economy- As the company costs increase with inflation, things like veterinary care and pet food expenses become even more costly,” Keller explains. Therefore, it is less costly to care for a cat than it is for a dog. Another issue pet owners may run into is the rules of not being allowed to own a dog in their apartment.

There are several types of volunteer opportunities, such as dog walking and cat cuddling “Volunteers have the opportunity to become ambassadors for the organization. They can also be out in the community helping and supporting Friends for Animals. Being animal handlers at our events, advocating and promoting a particular cat or dog is another way volunteers can get involved,” Keller notes. It’s important to look for openings on the Friends for Animals website where anyone can submit an inquiry, attend orientation, and talk about the various opportunities the organization offers during the tour to decide what works best for you as a volunteer.

Keller says that Friends for Animals is working to build an enrichment and behavior program to help and support animals struggling within the shelter. “And what I mean by ‘struggling’ is deterioration,” Keller adds.

The shelter will attempt to reduce any stress or depression some animals may have been feeling by putting together a robust program. This includes everything from enrichment toys, mental stimulation, puzzles, aroma therapy, canine massage, and Reiki dog play groups. These are vital. “Think of yourself when you go out with your friends to socialize; it’s the same thing with pets. Dogs are social creatures. They need to be a part of a pack sometimes, have playtime, and be silly around other animals. And so we are going to ensure that we provide those daily play groups so that they can have that mental simulation, be able to be around their kind and hang out,” Keller says.

For those wanting to adopt a pet from the Friends for Animals shelter, Keller recommends doing your research and knowing exactly what you are looking for while keeping an open mind. “Just make sure you know what you’re getting into. Ensure that you have a framework and a system to be able to properly care for the animal you adopt. Don’t always base things on the breed, or because an animal is a certain color. It’s really about the connection and making sure that the animal fits within your lifestyle,” Keller says.

For further information, check out the Friends for Animals website: