2009 Prize Winner
When Amy Sacks turned her lifelong passion for animals into a career in 2006, she named her new nonprofit after her parents dog, Pixie, a rescue animal she insisted they keep.
The Pixie Project, which Sacks, 26, has directed ever since, is part animal adoption center, part pet supply store. She intends for it to become self-sustaining through the sale of pet suppliesa business model she hopes will be copied in other cities. Her adoption center does not take owner surrenders or strays but instead functions as a support system for existing shelters that struggle with overpopulation. Sacks wants to get the message out to future pet owners: I want to get into schools and educate kids about why we spay and neuter, why we adopt, she says.
In an ideal world, if we had the money, Id have the staff to staff my store [so] I could be out in the community pushing these agendas and progressing our cause, Sacks adds. But the reality is, with four staff members and a store thats open six days a week and staffed seven days a week for care, were a little bit limited. Even with limited resources, Pixie Project has placed more than 1,000 animals in homes in the past two years, and Sacks says the Project does such careful matching of pets and owners only a handful have come back. Our return rate is minute compared to a traditional shelterId say its less than 1 percent, she says. Directing this effort is a 24/7 job, and the idea of a normal 9-to-5 work day, Sacks admits, is at this point completely foreign to me.
Sacks often compares the Pixie Project to more traditional shelters hidden on the outskirts of cities across the country. She admits the scenes in them are often gruesome: dogs hit by cars, families crying as theyre forced to give up their pets. The city would rather pretend the problem doesnt exist. Its the reality, but no one wants to look at it. Its not part of a fun-filled day, she says.
As for Pixie Project, Sacks is hoping a crafty combination of friendly faces and a chance to play with the dogs in their open shelter or to sit in a room surrounded by cats will entice people to adopt.
So far, it appears to be working.