Evie Bañuelos may have one of the most stressful but also one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. As the founder and president of a nonprofit called Pups Without Borders (PWB), Bañuelos gets to spend her days cuddling with some of the most adorable dogs ever! Recently, Bañuelos even appeared on The American Rescue Dog Show on ABC, where a three-legged PWB alum named Nova won the “Best in Belly Rubs” award.
While working in animal rescue has been an incredible experience, it’s also hard. Caring for all the dogs can be difficult, and Bañuelos knows she can’t save them all. But the more than 2,000 dogs and puppies Bañuelos has rescued since PWB was formed in 2020 make it all worthwhile.
Now, Bañuelos wants other animal lovers out there to know that they can also help dogs in need, and it’s easier than they may realize. Whether donating funds to a shelter, volunteering your time, or opening your home as a foster, you are saving lives. Bañuelos shared her inspirational story of how she founded PWB, and it’s life-changing in all the best ways.
Catie Kovelman: Why did you start Pups Without Borders?
Evie Bañuelos: Honestly, it was almost by accident. I was a music teacher and freelance musician for ten years. But when the pandemic hit, I was laid off. I always had some dog stuff in the background, like fostering, driving dogs, and fundraising for rescues. And during this time in the pandemic, when I was unemployed, it was the perfect time to foster. I had always wanted to foster a pregnant dog and help her give birth. So I found the most pathetic pregnant dog I could and brought her home. I named her Storm, and all her puppies got names after X-men characters. I totally fell in love with her to the point I almost kept her. But we did eventually find her and all the puppies amazing homes.
Storm and two of her puppies resting
After Storm, I had to decide if I wanted to go back to teaching or do this. I never once dreamed PWB would be at the scale it’s at today, but it all grew organically. First, I started getting calls from people about pregnant dogs and dogs in need, and I could start charging small adoption fees. Then, it just grew from there, where eventually, I had to hire a staff and went all in with the 501(c)(3) to become an official nonprofit.
The PWB Team
CK: This line of work can sometimes be hard. How do you make tough choices and overcome challenges without losing your motivation?
EB: There is never a moment when I want to give up. But sometimes, I do feel defeated or depressed. It’s hard when I want to pull 150 dogs at risk of euthanasia from a shelter but don’t have the capacity or manpower to do it. I could sit here and cry about the dogs we’re not saving, or I could keep trying to rescue as many as I can. Even if I pull ten dogs from the shelter, that’s ten dogs who aren’t getting euthanized, and it frees up space in the shelter to buy time for other dogs, too.
Ultimately, this job does require some tough choices. But we try to share the burden as a team and make practical decisions instead of emotional ones. We always ask if we have the space to help and then choose dogs we know we can help.
CK: What’s your favorite part of owning your own rescue?
EB: We specialize in nursing litters, and I get to interact with some really incredible and adorable dogs and puppies. I love to watch them grow up. I also really love getting the nicest letters from adopters updating me on the dogs so I can see how well they are doing.
A puppy named Nancy from a recent Stranger Things-themed litter
CK: What do you wish people knew about working in this industry?
EB: The fact that we are still euthanizing healthy dogs means that not enough people are doing this kind of work. We need more people. But if you do get into pet rescue full time, know that you need to be careful because their lives are on the line. You’ll need a good head on your shoulders, people to support you, and an awareness that you won’t be able to say yes to everyone.
You can also make a huge difference by spaying and neutering your dogs. If everyone fixed their dogs and didn’t support breeders, it would solve like 80% of the problems rescues deal with. Also, it’s easier to foster than you may realize. At least for us, we will provide all the supplies the dog needs, so you don’t need to pay for anything. You’re basically just babysitting, and it frees up space so we can rescue more dogs.
CK: What’s coming next for PWB?
EB: We are grateful to be growing every day, both in support and in dogs we help! We have begun the process of expanding to a new, bigger facility and are also planning to do more events to spread awareness, such as puppy parties and puppy yoga.
*Some answers have been edited for length and clarity*
Images provided by Evie Bañuelos