Rescue Spotlight: Underdog Pet Rescue

In the past 10 years, Underdog has kept thousands of animals off euthanasia lists and in good health.
Lauren Brinkman in front of Underdog
Courtesy of Underdog Rescue
Lauren Brinkman

Lauren Brinkman founded Underdog Pet Rescue 10 years ago because, while she saw some great things happening in the rescues and humane societies she’d volunteered for in the decade prior, she also saw things she wanted to change. “I wanted to make rescue more approachable and accessible because I found that [some] felt like it was a very judgmental experience, or that they had to jump through a lot of hoops.”

Brinkman started by fostering animals in her own home with a goal of saving 10 per year — but in year one, Brinkman crushed that goal and saved 100 animals. In the past 10 years, Underdog has kept thousands of animals off euthanasia lists and in good health. Brinkman is particularly passionate about helping the animals that need the most help and might be considered underdogs.

In 2021, Underdog Pet Rescue saved 1,822 dogs, cats and other critters, like guinea pigs. Along the way Brinkman has worked side by side with veterinarians to make sure all rescue animals receive necessary medical care, and she added in-house veterinary services to her business in 2017. Underdog has 10 paid staff members today, including two full-time vets, two vet techs and two assistants who treat animals in a 1,200-square-foot rental space at 231 S. Fair Oaks Ave. Brinkman is in the midst of a capital campaign to move into a bigger space and expand services, which will include offering homeless and low-income pet owners affordable access to veterinary care in the Madison area.

dog in a sweater and bowtie

Courtesy of Underdog Rescue

“People really want to do the right thing, I really believe, and get their animal the care they need,” she says. “It’s just a matter of cost. It’s $1,000 sometimes to do dental on a cat, and that’s beyond the average person’s means a lot of the time.”

This passion for helping animals and their owners stems from when Brinkman got her first dog at 23. “He really just inspired me. I didn’t know that animals were being euthanized in our community for space,” she says. “I did a deep dive into why people surrender animals and what services are needed. Foster-based rescue is really what I thought was necessary 10 years ago when I got started.”

And there have been so many success stories since, including a senior poodle mix named Peter. He came in from Milwaukee Animal Control with matted fur and fleas. “We got him cleaned up as much as we could, being a little old man of a dog,” Brinkman says. “And I found these people who previously only had bunnies as pets and wanted a dog now.” They adopted Peter, and he lived another five to six years. “They bought a house because they thought he wanted a yard,” Brinkman says. “They had a condo — and they bought Peter a house.”

Find other rescues in the area here.

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