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Featured Leader: Sasha Gusain on giving rescue animals a second chance

3 min read
Rescue animals

Australian animal shelters are overcrowded, and pet owners are lining up to surrender their pets. While there are still many organisations, shelters and people willing to adopt rescue animals, it just doesn’t seem enough.

Waldo’s Friends was launched back in 2017 as a small blog and shop to help support animal rescue. Now, a registered not-for-profit, promises to commit 50% of profits from each sale to shelter donations that may help in funding.

Third Sector News interviewed Sasha Gusain, the founder of Waldo’s Friends on giving rescue animals a second chance and responsible pet ownership.

What sparked your initiative to launch a not-for-profit that supports animal rescue?

In 2017, I adopted a cattle dog cross from a shelter in Mt Isa, QLD and a calico cat from Annandale Animal Hospital, Sydney. Both were sickly, skinny and had only been in clinics, shelters and foster care before I got them.

Finding them opened my eyes to an entire animal rescue ecosystem that exists to give forgotten and unwanted animals a second chance at finding loving forever homes.

I spoke to kind and authentic people, some with full time day jobs, who do whatever they can to help animals of all shapes and sizes. I knew right away that I wanted to somehow participate in this chain of kindness and after a few months of exploration, I launched

My mission was simple – I wanted to create a space for those who are curious about rescuing animals and to connect them with one another.

I spent the next couple of years reflecting on how I can use my skills and experience to bridge gaps in animal rescue and realised the key problem spaces that resonate with my work expertise are how to bridge a lack of awareness, knowledge and timely connections.

Since these are all areas that we use technology to solve every day, my roadmap became quite clear – I would participate as an enabler to animal rescue and that’s what Waldo’s Friends does through its platform.

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered as the founder of Waldo’s Friends? How has Waldo’s Friends promoted adoption from shelters as the preferred option for pet ownership?

It’s been a steep learning curve. I first launched Waldo’s Friends as an eCommerce store alone, but soon realised that turning a profit to fundraise for rescues through a solo enterprise would be a long and full-time task. I then introduced a Shelter Finder but realised I also needed to launch a Pet Finder listings feature – which I’ve now done.

My current challenge is to get shelters and foster carers onto the platform so they can experience first-hand our amazing shelter dashboard that gives rescue workers a single dashboard to track their listings and adoption enquiries. We have several first-in-class features such as the ability for those looking to adopt to submit pre-vetted adoption applications directly to shelters for shortlisting in minutes and more.

As the founder who has built this solution for connecting key players in the rescue ecosystem, my biggest challenge now is to spread the word far and wide.

What future objectives do you have for Waldo’s Friends, as the organisation’s founder?

I believe that the missing link between adoption and being successful as a pet owner is all about gaining the right knowledge about how to train and look after your new pet. When we bring our new cats or dogs home, there’s a lot we can get right and a lot more that we can get wrong.

To help new pet owners with this journey, I will soon leverage our Pet Library section to build on these resources for care, training and more thorough content created by animal trainers and service providers, so that no pet parent has to feel frustrated and consider abandoning their animals.

I also believe that wildlife rescue is a large and critical issue for us to pay attention to right now. Once again, knowledge and training are the foundation of how we can successfully help animals in the wild and those who dedicate their lives to it. I hope to provide several free resources for wildlife rescue in the near future.

Anything you would like to highlight?

There’s a lot of great work being done in animal rescue across Australia. At the same time, there are several of us with unique skills that can help move this ecosystem forward in our own different ways – toward a more sustainable and successful future. I would love to encourage everyone to reflect on what we can do as individuals, draw from our unique and personal experiences, and add to this mix of kindness and compassion towards animals.

Related: Sporting icons to support month-long initiative for pet adoption

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Menchie Khairuddin is a writer Deputy Content Manager at Akolade and content producer for Third Sector News. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.


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