Priyanka Johri was working as an animal shelter volunteer when she said she noticed dogs that had serious illnesses, special needs or were older, were not getting adopted or saved by rescue groups from the shelter. In hopes of giving these dogs a chance at survival, Johri said she took matters into her own hands.
Johri founded Pure Mutts Animal Sanctuary in 2008 to give a home to dogs unlikely to be adopted due to age, serious illness or special needs. Located on a 1.5-acre property in The Woodlands area, the property is home to 37 dogs and Johri, who lives in the house on-site.
“The whole idea for the sanctuary was that dogs—who don’t have any place to go or who cannot be adopted because of their special needs—could come here and live out their lives here until they pass away,” Johri said. “I want to stand up for the dogs that don’t have anybody.”
The sanctuary is a cage-less environment where the dogs are free to go inside the house and outside in the yard as they please. To make the property dog-friendly, Johri adapted the house to include ramps and dog doors to improve accessibility. She also built three cabins to provide additional shelter for the dogs, each of which is air-conditioned and heated, has dog bedding and a yard area.
The sanctuary is home to a variety of dogs, including elderly dogs as well as dogs with cancer, amputated limbs, blindness, deafness, diabetes and other serious illnesses and disorders. Because many of the dogs have strict diets, instead of purchasing bags of dog food, Johri cooks fresh organic food for her animals twice a day, made with ingredients, including vegetables, meat, beans, rice and oatmeal.
As the sanctuary is private and closed to the public, Johri said the nonprofit rarely accepts dogs directly from the public, and most of the dogs are brought by shelters and rescue groups.
“The rescue community has been really good with us, and when we get a call, we know that they really need us,” Johri said. “They only send dogs to us when they’ve checked all their other resources and they don’t really have any other options.”
In times of crisis, such as Hurricane Harvey, the sanctuary has been home to as many as 57 dogs that were separated from their families, Johri said.
In addition to dogs with special needs, over time the sanctuary has also become a temporary home to healthy dogs that are available for adoption. Johri regularly takes these dogs to local adoption events and also lists them on adoption sites like Petfinder.
Johri said many dogs with special needs have also been adopted through the sanctuary, including a dog with obsessive-compulsive disorder that was adopted by a man who also has OCD, and a deaf dog who was adopted by a family with a deaf daughter.
“All of these dogs are waiting to rescue somebody,” Johri said. “I’m just a caretaker while they wait for the right person to show up.”
To fund the sanctuary, Johri uses profits from her business, Woodlands Eco Realty & Executive Rentals. Twenty percent of proceeds from the company benefit the dogs at Pure Mutts Animal Sanctuary.
“I always thought nonprofits should be run like for-profit businesses, so we’re not dependent upon other people,” she said. “I tried to raise money, but I was spending so much time trying to raise money that I didn’t have time to take care of the dogs. So I decided to start a profitable business to fund the nonprofit. That way, we’re not so dependent upon other people.”
However, as the nonprofit is not funded entirely through her business, Pure Mutts Animal Sanctuary still relies on donations and sponsorships to help cover the costs of food, supplies, medical bills and surgeries. Johri said the sanctuary’s biggest expenses are medical bills, which includes procedures like spay and neuter to cancer treatments.
In the future, Johri said she hopes to build more dog cabins on the property to add capacity to the sanctuary. She also said she is looking to hire a volunteer coordinator to aid with adoption events, taking animals to the vet and caring for the animals while she is at work.
“Sadly, there is a growing need in this community for a sanctuary like this,” Johri said. “I hope one day I’m not needed, but unfortunately, Houston has such a bad problem with overpopulation of pets that it has become really hard for dogs with special needs to survive.”