Consider Stray Haven on ‘Giving Tuesday’

If you are looking for a pet rescue to help on Giving Tuesday, which falls on Nov. 28, let me introduce you to an organization that has been standing up for dogs and cats in need since 2017.

Stray Haven Pet Rescue is based in Aurora, Indiana, in the tri-state area between Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville, Kentucky. Its goal is to save stray animals through adoption, education, exposure and sharing of resources to support the “front line troops” that have eyes on the ground in Kentucky.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), an advocacy group that works with officials on the federal, state and local levels to improve the lives of animals, examines each state’s animal protection laws, then issues a list of states ranging from best to worst.

For 12 straight years the ALDF ranked Kentucky as the worst state for animal protection laws. In 2022, the state moved up to 45th, a slight improvement but by no means a ringing endorsement.

China Pittenger is Stray Haven’s founder and director. Since childhood, China has had an affinity for dogs. She grew up in a marina in Madison, Indiana, with a 20-minute drive to the nearest neighbor. Her sibling was nine years younger so her best friends, playmates and confidants were the family dogs.

As an adult, China has volunteered at several rescue organizations, including six years as an assistant director at Tails of Hope in Cincinnati. The 90-minute commute back and forth to Aurora was the impetus to start the rescue.

Since its inception, Stray Haven has placed 4,264 dogs. It started placing cats in 2022 and so far 574 have found loving homes.

My daughter, Jordan and son-in-law, Alex, adopted their dog, Carl, from the rescue in 2022.

Stray Haven is strictly foster-based, and at any given time there are 35 to 40 active fosters. All members are volunteers with all donations going toward the welfare of their charges. This includes vet services, medications, food and ancillaries such as toys, leashes, beds and the like.

This past September, a Kentucky rescue organization, Pleasant Springs, tagged China in a Facebook post concerning a hoarding case in Irving City, Kentucky. Seventy-three Maltese and Maltese mixes were found in horrible living conditions. If Stray Haven was interested in helping, China was told she should contact the rescue, Paws 4 Hope, overseeing the case.

Stray Haven volunteered to foster 15 of the dogs. Of course, with rescued animals, many have medical concerns that need to be addressed quickly, and these dogs were no exception. A number were partially blind due to ammonia poisoning. The ammonia smell coming from the dog’s living areas was so powerful due to canine waste that workers had to wear oxygen masks when rescuing the dogs.

China said these dogs were some of the friendliest rescues she’s worked with, loving the attention they were now receiving.

The Giving Tuesday movement believes that “whether it’s making someone smile, helping a neighbor or stranger out, showing up for an issue or people we care about, or giving some of what we have to those who need our help, every act of generosity counts, and everyone has something to give.”

If you would like to add Stray Haven to your charitable donations this holiday season to help these dogs and their other charges, check out the info box with this column for ways to donate.

To donate to Stray Haven:


Venmo to: @StrayHaveninc

Mail: Stray Haven PO Box 571 Aurora, In. 47001

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Karin Spicer is a member of The Dog Writers Association of America. She is lives with her family and two furry pets who inspire her. She can be reached at

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