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Tail Waggers USA helps people keep the animals they love


Laura Zain and friends. Photo courtesy of Tail Waggers USA

It started as a simple promise to a beloved aunt. Twenty years later Tail Waggers USA has grown into an organization devoted to helping people help animals. Instead of rescuing animals themselves, they help other people rescue animals.

Tail Waggers was begun in honor of Jean Polka, and animal lover, rescuer and all around animal advocate. She and her husband Ted operated a bar in Detroit for many years and she would often take in the strays, feed the hungry, spay/neuter the wandering and care for the injured, all using her own funds.

Before Jean passed away, her niece Laura promised her that she would take care of Jean’s animals. In order to do so, Laura decided to have a one-time event to raise funds. That one time event is now the annual Tail Waggers Ball! To further their mission, Tail Waggers has focused on community needs where pet food assistance, spay/neuter funding, low-cost vaccinations and emergency services.

Tail Waggers USA holds vaccine clinics at various locations around the city to help people get their pets vaccinated and keep them healthy. Their Pet Food Assistance Program is designed so families’ who are struggling to keep their pets can get food to feed their animals. All food is donated. For a list of collection spots to donate food, check out the Pet Food Assistance section of Tail Waggers’ website.

Tail Waggers is also working on a Spay/Neuter Program and Emergency Assistance Program which will provide financial assistance to families who are in need when a pet is in a crisis. Their goal is to work with families to offset some of their medical costs or pay for services so that euthanasia can be avoided.

And finally, there’s Tail Waggers Breath of Life Program. This program donates specially made oxygen masks for use with dogs and cats to area fire departments. Founder Laura Zain had a vision three years ago to equip local fire fighters with these masks after hearing about how Matt Schaecher, a Detroit Firefighter and Tail Waggers board member, had to carry a dog out of a house fire in Detroit. Schaecher put his own life at risk by using his own oxygen mask to save the dog and suffered minor lung damage because of it.

Pets are at a greater risk than their owners of suffering smoke inhalation during a home fire because they hide rather than leave the house. Last year, more than 40,000 family pets died in home fires across the United States. Mask sets cost $50 each and to date, twenty-nine sets have been purchased. So far, Tail Waggers had donated these special oxygen masks to fire departments in Westland, Redford, Garden City and Inkster. Donations can be made specifically to the Breath of Life Campaign so that Tail Waggers can continue to equip the Fire Departments that are in need.

Tail Waggers USA is making a difference in the lives of people and the animals they love in the metro Detroit area. Check their website for information on coming events and ways you can help them help people and their pets. You can donate online or by mail. Donations are tax-deductible.

For more info: If you need help or know of a family who needs help with their pets, please contact Tail Waggers by e-mail at or by phone at 734-560-4660.


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