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The Return to Home Challenge to Provide $300,000 in Grant Prizes

This Challenge is funded by Maddie’s Fund®Michelson Found Animals Foundation and Petco Love in collaboration with Adopt-A-Pet.comAmerican Pets Alive!ASPCAThe Association for Animal Welfare AdvancementBest Friends Animal SocietyCompanions and Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE)Community Cats PodcastCuddlyGreater Good CharitiesHeARTS SpeakHumane Society of the United StatesNational Animal Care and Control AssociationPetfinder Foundation, and PetSmart Charities.

At its core, the Return to Home Challenge is simple. Find a pet? Get it home. That home might be a cozy apartment, a house with a big yard or, if you’re a community cat, an abandoned lot.

For the month of October, 17 national organizations are inviting animal shelters and rescue organizations who handle lost/stray/at-large dogs and cats to elevate Return to Home (RTH) by creating a culture of return to home within their organization and community. In just 31 days, your organization can create or expand inclusive and diverse new programs or practices to make it easier for your community to help a lost pet or find a pet they have lost, and ultimately keep families together. Simple practices like microchipping, making information about lost pets easily accessible on your website and letting the community know what they should do if they find a cat can go a long way in keeping pets out of the shelter and getting them back into their homes.

Along with saving time, resources and shelter space to help those pets who really need it, you’ll have a chance at the $300,000 in grant prizes, thanks to Maddie’s Fund, Michelson Found Animals Foundation and Petco Love.

As with the previous Challenges, there will be plenty of help along the way. Resources from town halls, standard operating protocols, partnering with local businesses, creating flyers, photography tips and website best practices will be available. Additionally, four Zoom Huddles will be held with a diverse line-up of RTH experts. These Zoom events will bring you together with your peers who are successfully implementing RTH practices to share how they do it.

Note: This year we’ve expanded Return to Home to include the Return to Field/Shelter-neuter release (RTF/SNR) category in addition to the Return to Owner category on the Basic Data Matrix. Traditional trap-neuter-return, while invaluable to your community, is not included in this Challenge.

Challenge Details

The goal of the Return to Home Challenge:

  1. All animals in the community have identification
  2. Return to Home polices and lost/found techniques are marketed to the community
  3. Organization embraces a culture of Return to Home
  4. Organization works with community to help facilitate Return to Homes
  5. Technology is used to help reunite pets and owners
  6. Regulations and laws encourage Return to Home
  7. Organization strives to keep pets and people together by returning pets in the field rather than at the shelter

Key Dates

  • Registration Period: July 25 – August 1, 2022
    Apply through our Grants Portal until 5pm PT on August 1, 2022.
  • Prep Period/Zoom Huddles: September 1 – 30, 2022
    This is your chance to prepare for your new RTH practices. With Zoom Huddles every Wednesday in September with peers who will share the “how to’s” of their successful programs.
  • Challenge Period: October 1 – 31, 2022
    During this time, you will pilot your new RTH practices.
  • Participation Reports Due: November 14, 2022 by 5pm PT
    Sample Participation Report
  • Final Report (Zoom Huddle): Early to mid-April 2023
    Sample Final Report

To be considered to PARTICIPATE in this Challenge, your organization must:

  • Be a U.S.-based government animal shelter or 501c3 shelter or rescue organization who handle lost / stray / at-large dogs and cat.
  • Be an active participant in Shelter Animals Count, if applicable to your organization. (If you are awarded a grant prize from this Challenge, you agree to join the Maddie’s Fund Coalition in Shelter Animals Count.)
  • Be current on all grant reporting for any prior Maddie’s Fund grants.
  • Register for the Challenge by submitting a complete application through the Maddie’s Fund Grants Portal. You’ll be notified by August 19, 2022 if you meet the eligibility requirements to participate in the Challenge.
  • Recommended but not required: participation in Maddie’s® Pet ForumMaddie’s® UniversityPetco Love Lost and Best Friends Pet Lifesaving Dashboard.

To be considered for an AWARD from this Challenge, your organization must:

  • Meet the requirements above.
  • Submit the Participation Report (due Monday, November 14, 2022 by 5pm PT). Find a sample of this report here. Please note, this sample is provided for reference only and questions are subject to change.

Additionally, if you are selected as an award winner from this Challenge, there’s a final report via Zoom to be scheduled for April 2023. Find a sample of this report here. Please note, this sample is provided for reference only and questions are subject to change.


Prizes will be determined based on the participation reports that we receive.

Maddie’s Fund, Michelson Found Animal Foundation and Petco Love

  • $300,000 in grant prizes. Each participating organization will be eligible for up to $10,000 in grants.


Browse our growing Return to Home resources from Challenge Partners, organized by category.


Every Wednesday during the month of September, we will host a 60-minute Zoom Huddle at 12pm PT/3pm ET. Each Zoom Huddle will consist of 20-minute presentations from peers involved in Return to Home programs at their animal shelter or rescue organization. This will be followed by 30-minute Q&A. Topics will coincide with the Return to Home practices.


Join the Return to Home Challenge group on Maddie’s® Pet Forum!