Jessie Klepsic’s Angels for Animals finds homes for dogs

Published Jun 12, 2013 at 7:32 am (Updated Jun 10, 2013 at 10:43 am)

As Jessie Klepsic sits in her living room of the home she shares with her husband, Pete, she is surrounded by more than a half dozen dogs. While that may seem like a lot to most, they are only a mere handful of the dogs she has rescued from almost certain death through an organization she co-founded with Dr. Christine Wittman, a chiropractor from Bethel Park.

Twenty years ago, Klepsic and Wittman started Angels for Animals, an all-volunteer organization that finds homes for dogs that have been rescued by animal control, from puppy mills, kill shelters and from people who are no longer able to care for their pets.

“If you can find a dog a home, then find it a home. Why kill it? The word ‘can’t’ is not in my vocabulary,” Klepsic said.

It is because of that attitude that Wittman nominated Klepsic for the 2012 Jefferson Award through a local newspaper. Klepsic was one of six winners chosen for the award.

But notoriety is not what Klepsic desires. “You can’t save every one of them, but you feel like you want to try,” she said. “If you can, detach yourself a bit and say, ‘this dog is going to have a better home, a better life, a family.’”

Through Angels for Animals, Klepsic works tirelessly with many organizations to rescue dogs from almost certain death. “I work with a lot of different animal control people, animal control facilities, the Upper St. Clair police have called many times because they only have a small kennel.” Klepsic doesn’t have a facility to house the dogs, and therefore works strictly with holding, or foster, homes.

“Foster homes are my biggest need,” she explained. “I’ve got two active right now, and other people have said they’d help me so I’ve been calling on them periodically.”

Klepsic doesn’t allow any of her holding homes to be stuck with a dog for long, adding that dogs are normally in foster care for about a month. “Six weeks at the most. I move them kind of fast because we put them on Petfinder.”

When a dog is put into a holding home, Klepsic buys the dog food and pays all of the vet bills. “But, they have to train the dog, housebreak it, socialize it, see what kind of family I should be looking for. Maybe it might not be good with kids. It might be better with an older couple. It all depends on what the foster tells me,” she explained.

And Klepsic deals strictly over the phone or face-to-face. “Hearing is very important. Face-to-face is very important. That’s why I have no online applications and that’s proved to be a really big thing. You hear a lot that you wouldn’t see in an email.”

When adopting a dog through Angels for Animals, two references are required, either from a vet and a groomer, or a vet and another person. If the person has never had a dog before, two personal references are needed. There is also a legal contract that one must sign when adopting a dog through the organization, and adoptees get at least a two-week trial period with the dog, which Klepsic will extend, if needed. She told of one man who wasn’t sure if a dog would work in his home and asked for a three-month trial period. “I said, ‘You want three months? You got three months.’ He called me exactly three months later, crying, and said, ‘This is such a good dog. I can’t tell you how much we love this dog.’ And I said, ‘I told you.’”

Klepsic offers a lot of advice to those trying to adopt a dog and even to those wanting to turn a dog over. Throughout the years, she’s had very few dogs returned to her. When a dog is returned, for whatever reason, Klepsic re-homes the dog. A clause in the contract also states that if at any time a person doesn’t want the dog – if the person gets sick, has to move, whatever the circumstance – Angels for Animals will take the dog back. The adoptee is not allowed to give the dog away, adopt it out, or take it to the pound. Angels for Animals also reserves the right to do a home check, and if it is brought to Klepsic’s attention that a dog is not being taken care of or treated properly, the organization has the right to take the dog back.

Many dogs come to Angels for Animals from Amish puppy mills, which Klepsic says are particularly nasty. “A lot of the dogs are terrified. These are some of the problems you encounter with these dogs. You don’t know where they’ve come from, what they’ve been through.” She said the Amish men often pull the puppies out of their cages by their back legs, dislocating their hips. Klepsic says Angels for Animals has been very blessed to have several area doctors – not vets – work with them on nutrition and chiropractic adjustments, Dr. Whittman included.

Klepsic is especially thankful to Dr. Sulkowski, the former South Hills dentist-turned-nutritionist. Although he now lives in Arizona, he is always available by phone to answer any question Klepsic may have, and he makes the trip back to the area each October to record programming with Klepsic for Peters Township Cable 7 to help bring awareness to Angels for Animals.

“It’s tough because we’re not funded by anybody. I depend on the fees I get for the dogs, plus we sell Enjoy coupon books every August and I collect aluminum cans,” Klepsic said. “We get very few donations. Some people will give me crates, beds and other things when their dog dies, but that’s about it.”

The biggest problem for Klepsic is time, or lack thereof. “I’m on the road a lot, collecting cans, taking them to the crusher. I work two different jobs, then I’m always transporting dogs to the holding home or to the vet, picking up dogs, delivering them, whatever. It’s constant motion, and I get tired. I get up at a quarter to four in the morning to drive a school bus.” She said it is difficult to do all that plus take care of her dogs. But the joy of finding a dog a loving home, especially a dog with special needs, makes it all worthwhile.”

“God has been good,” Klepsic said. “I can’t tell you how many people have called back, sent messages, a letter with a picture, saying, ‘This dog has changed my life. This dog is wonderful.’ And it just makes me smile.”

Angels for Animals is always in need of foster homes for its rescue dogs, including special needs dogs. If you are willing to open up your home to a dog in need, contact Jessie Klepsic at 724-941-5737. To view a list of pets currently up for adoption, visit and search “Angels for Animals in Eighty Four, PA.” To make a contribution or donate aluminum cans, contact Klepsic.

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