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Kait Dineen – Jack J. Valenti School of Communication

Using public relations degree to rescue homeless animals in Houston

Kait Dineen

When Kait Dineen was a little girl, she didn’t wait for her parents to give her pets. She found them for herself.

“I always found stray dogs and would bring them back to our house,” recalled Dineen.

Her role as a ‘puppy pied piper’ continued long after she graduated from Cinco Ranch High School in Katy, TX and moved to College Station, TX to attend Blinn College.

“While I lived there, my home backed up to some woods where I usually found stray dogs,” she said. “So I would take care of them and could usually find them homes in a couple of days.”

After attending Blinn for a few semesters, Dineen moved from College Station to Houston because her boyfriend had graduated and found a job in the city. She transferred to University of Houston to enroll in the public relations program. The move home also allowed her to become the primary caregiver for her father, who suffers from a neurological disorder.

Dineen will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations on December 20. Her plan is to combine her degree with her dog rescue efforts to create a non-profit organization that finds homes for some of the 1.2 million homeless animals in Houston.

Dineen initially became interested in non-profit work because of her father’s health issues. He has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a condition that damages the individual’s nerves in their arms and legs. Before she graduated from high school, she held a fund-raiser to donate money for research on the disease.

“I put together a walk-a-thon with the help of one of my teachers,” she said. “We had radio exposure, vendors, and eventually raised $10,000 to donate to CMT research. From that moment, I had fallen in love with public relations and non-profit work.”

When she moved to Houston from College Station, Dineen had three dogs. Today, she has nine – seven of whom live with her and the remaining two are boarded and pending adoption.

“The two that are boarded are female pit bulls that I found behind a car wash,” said Dineen. “They had obviously been used for breeding and as bait dogs in dog fights.”

After she discovered the pit bulls, Dineen took the two dogs home and put them in her garage. They were badly injured and Dineen wasn’t convinced they would live through the night.

“Then I witnessed the most amazing thing,” she recalled. “One of the females kept the other one alive. She kept nudging her friend, and licking her wounds as if she was willing her to live. It was a very moving experience.”

The next morning, Dineen took the dogs to the vet who was able to provide them with first aid. She created a Facebook page for the dogs which included a way to donate to their care. She raised $1000 for their food, care, and shelter. She also found a place that was willing to board the dogs until they found forever homes. To date, one of the pit bulls is in the process of being adopted and the other one is still available to go to a responsible home.

Dineen continually takes in stray dogs, and then finds them forever homes by utilizing social media, as well as by taking advantage of the strategies she learned as a student in the Jack J. Valenti School of Communications.

“Kait reached out to me this semester to find out how she could use communication to increase the number of foster families she is getting for her dog rescue program,” said Dr. Jennifer Vardeman-Winter, Assistant Professor of Public Relations.

Dr. Vardeman-Winter suggested that Dineen partner with another dog rescue foundation. Together they have been using social media and fundraising events to help each other’s organizations meet their missions.

“I think I have been successful because of the communication tools I learned as a student at UH,” said Dineen. “We have taken in donations, and there have been articles written about my dogs, and our efforts to find them forever homes.”

Dineen is currently applying for a 501(c)(3) so that her organization – she is going to call it Dog Bless Texas – can be a fully recognized non-profit organization. That designation should make fundraising much easier because people are more willing to donate to a documented non-profit organization.

“Kait is one of those rare students who already knows what she wants to dedicate her life to, is already running an organization, and tries to incorporate her rescue work into all her school activities,” said Dr. Vardeman-Winter. “I am deeply impressed with her dedication to this important cause.”

- By Monica Byars