I'm Bryan Hunter, the Founder and Executive Director of PetLists.

In January 2020, my wife and I adopted our first dog, Olive.

Olive, our lovable "Hound Mix" (she's actually 50% Pit Bull, 25% German Shepard, 10% Bulldog, and a smattering of everything else) when we adopted her at 14 months old.

As adorable as Olive is (and she's undeniably adorable, you can't change my mind), she came with some serious emotional baggage and a lot of challenges:

  • Barking and lunging on leash
  • Fear of and aggressiveness toward other dogs
  • Non-existent social skills
  • Uncontrollable energy
  • Zero training

The shelter didn't know much about her history, save for a few details:

  • She was first rescued at 2 months old when she was found on a road outside Austin, Texas surrounded by dead littermates with no mother in sight.
  • She was adopted out to a family at 3 months old.
  • She was surrendered back to the shelter 11 months later on December 23, 2019 (right before Christmas!).
  • The shelter told us Olive was surrendered "because of the previous owner's medical problems," but given Olive's complete lack of training and socialization, plus her unbelievably high energy level, we're pretty sure the previous owner didn't want to deal with a fully-grown, untrained, hyperactive puppy packing 50 pounds of muscle and enough ups to make Michael Jordan jealous.
  • Based on her behavior, we're also fairly certain she spent most of those 11 months locked away in a crate.

It took me 10 seconds of meeting Olive to blurt out, "We'll take her!"

Pro Tip: Never adopt impulsively!

We were not ready for the challenges life with Olive would present.

Look, I'd be lying if I told you there weren't times at the very beginning when we considered giving Olive up. Maybe she just wasn't the right dog for us.

But we knew if Olive was surrendered again, she'd be completely heartbroken.

As insane as she can be, she's also so full of love! We've never seen a dog that loves to cuddle as much as Olive does. Even today, at a full-grown 50+ pounds, Olive loves climbing on top of our sofa's backrest to drape herself around our necks for a long nap.

That's when we decided to learn everything we could about traumatized dogs (like Olive).

Most shelters dogs haven't lived safe lives with proper training and socialization. Most have traumatic pasts with learned behaviors to help them cope and survive.

In fact, there are 8 common shelter dog behavioral problems:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Aggression toward people and pets
  3. Resource guarding
  4. Destructive behavior
  5. Housetraining regression
  6. Poor social skills
  7. Leash reactivity and barrier-related aggression
  8. Constant whining

While the old adage, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks, " certainly isn't true, it's definitely harder to train a dog that's grown past its formative puppy years (around 1+ years old).

And that means it's harder to correct issues with shelter dogs, many of whom have developed these ingrained, problematic behaviors.

Unfortunately, many people who adopt shelter dogs don't realize how deeply their new dog's traumas run and how much time and effort it takes to help them become the happy, healthy, and secure dogs they deserve to be.

Lost and frustrated, many owners give up and surrender their problematic pups back to the shelter, only for the cycle to repeat.

Instead of giving up, we threw ourselves into healing Olive.

We spent months working with her using positive, reward-based reinforcement to gradually desensitize Olive to her triggers (and there were a lot of triggers).

But you know what?

Olive started improving!

When we first brought her home, the mere sight of a jogger across the street transformed her into a hulked-out monster that put Bruce Banner to shame. After just a few weeks of training, Olive's reaction had downgraded to "seething death stare."

Then one morning, not unlike every other stress-filled morning as Olive's hostages during one of her thrice-daily bark-a-paloozas, a jogger turned the corner at impressive speed. I was startled, first at the jogger suddenly appearing out of nowhere, but then by Olive's reaction.

She looked up, pondered the jogger's presence, and went back to sniffing the sidewalk.

My wife and I looked at each other in amazement.

"We need to tell the world about this!"

That's when PetLists was born.

Just 4 months after adopting Olive, I founded PetLists with two primary goals:

  1. Promote pet adoption to give every animal in need a second (or third) chance.
  2. Increase adoption success rates by providing education and support for owners suffering like we were.

PetLists has grown substantially since its inception in May 2020 with three passionate, selfless volunteers joining the fold:

  • Jordan Hughes: Our Developer, responsible for maintaining our massive (and growing) animal shelter inventory
  • Mia Rossi: Our Outreach Coordinator, responsible for collaborating with likeminded organizations to further our reach
  • Natasha McKinley: Our Content Editor, responsible for the many amazing guides on our site

Without their devotion, PetLists wouldn't be as successful as it's become.

(And we're still very much in our puppy phase.)

Thanks, team!

What will you find on PetLists?

In my 100%, totally unbiased opinion, some pretty awesome stuff.

First, our Shelter Listings. We're hard at work creating listings for every shelter, rescue, and humane society in the United States with accurate histories, contact info, hours of operation, and detailed adoption processes and fees. We're also aggregating them by state, so you can search and filter for shelters near you. It takes a lot of work to vet each of the 10,000+ shelters we're aware of (let us know if your favorite isn't listed yet!) but it's a crucial part of fulfilling our mission to promote pet adoption.

Second, our Dog Adoption Guide. It has over 30,000 words of well-researched, must-read content for soon-to-be and recent adopters. We're working to expand our Guide until it becomes the the web's best resource on dog adoption, and we'll soon be publishing a Cat Adoption Guide for you feline fans out there.

Third, our Email List. All around the site (including at the bottom of this page), you'll find email sign-up forms where you can join our growing PetLists community to receive helpful tips and exclusive info not found on the site. Plus, we run monthly giveaways where lucky subscribers have a chance to win toys, gear, gift cards, and more. It's just our way of saying, "Thanks!" for being a part of our loyal and growing community.

Thanks for reading!

That wraps up what might be the longest "About" page on the Internet. If you've read thus far, thanks! We're incredibly passionate about our work and are thrilled you've found us.

If you ever have questions about pet adoption (general or specific), want to make a suggestion for the site, or have an idea for how we can partner for the betterment of shelter animal welfare, we're always an email away.

Bryan Hunter
Founder & Executive Director of PetLists

Meet the PetLists Team

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