About Us

House of Hope Animal Rescue is a 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Cecil County, MD and run by a 100% volunteer staff. Not a single donation dollar goes to pay anyone – all of it goes to the medical, transportation, and fostering expenses needed to help dogs that have found themselves in high-kill shelters throughout the southern US, by absolutely no fault of their own.

The dogs pulled from shelters by House of Hope are primarily black labs/lab mixes as they have the highest euthanasia rate of any other breed/color combination in the country, but we also extend a helping hand to dogs of many other breeds, dogs that our volunteer network can save and place in good homes.  No dog is too old, too sick, too injured, too untrained, or too “anything” for us to help; we have rescued senior dogs, dogs that have been in car accidents, or shot, or burned, dogs that require hospice fostering due to terminal conditions, feral dogs that have never known human kindness, bonded pairs that need to be adopted together, litters of orphaned puppies, and everything in between.  At House of Hope, we believe there is a perfect home for each and every dog. And we are committed to finding it for them.


House of Hope founder, Patti Clifton, has always been an animal lover, starting her career as the youngest licensed female horse trainer at Delaware Park. She trained horses for 22 years, racing all over the country. She had adopted Lucy, a black lab mix, from the Delaware SPCA and had a special bond with this loving girl. Lucy became her “heart dog” and when she crossed the Rainbow Bridge in 2010, Patti was devastated. She wanted to do something to honor Lucy’s loving spirit and decided that she needed to start a rescue to give other “Lucy-s” a chance.  In May 2010, Patti rescued Hope, another black lab mix, from a shelter in Georgia. Hope was severely ill and required round-the-clock care. But Hope was a fighter, and her strength and courage inspired Patti to name her newly found rescue after her, and so was born the House of Hope Animal Rescue.

as told by Patti…

” I remember seeing Hope’s picture on the shelter’s site back in the spring in May 2010. I see many sad dogs but this one I just could not get out of my mind. She was a depressed soul with her head hanging down. Some dogs just seem to affect you more than others and this girl I knew felt like she had no reason to live. Her coat was in horrible condition and matted and she was so very thin and life had not been too good to her.

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I called my friend in Georgia and asked if I could pull her. At the time they had named her “Polly”. The shelter workers said she was extremely depressed. Little did she realize that her life was about to change forever.

She arrived in transport and it was apparent that I had a very sick dog that needed medical attention right away. We pumped fluids into her as she was so dehydrated. She was diagnosed with pneumonia. The vet gave us antibiotics and said that she was a very sick dog and may not make it. As I held her head in my lap I decided then to name her “Hope”. I told her that I didn’t bring her all the way up here from Georgia so that she could die. I sat with her day and night holding her head up so that she could get a drink or eat because she was too weak to do it on her own.

Hope is a survivor. She taught me something about the spirit of an animal. All that she needed was for someone to show her they cared and she has thrived.

Today she is just a beautiful dog with a sparkle in her eye and a tail that wags non-stop. She never meets a stranger and leaves an impression to all that meet her. Because she has touched me so deeply I decided to name this rescue after her. As proof that with just a little love and kindness we can change the lives of these dogs and give them “Hope.”

For over a decade, Patti has been developing an amazing network of shelters, veterinarians, transport groups, foster homes, and volunteers – all focused on the same mission: to provide Hope to the otherwise Hopeless dogs which have found themselves without responsible homes, loving owners, or even the most basic medical care.  

Sometimes we pull dogs that require medical care; whether it be a simple kennel cough or digestive issue, testing positive for heartworm, or something more serious like surgery to repair broken limbs, we are committed to doing everything we can to make these animals whole and healthy before we find them their forever home. We will never adopt a dog out before they are fully vetted, and any known medical concern we have is always communicated to our adopters.

The majority of our dogs are heartworm positive. Heartworms are easily prevented with proper medication, but once they are contracted, a dog requires 3 rounds of treatment over a course of 6-8 weeks. This treatment costs roughly $1500 per dog, and our adoption fees do not even come close to covering these vet bills – let alone standard preventative care, spay & neuter surgeries, and transport costs.

As soon as we are medically able, we transition our rescue pups into a foster home.  This is so important for both the dog and our adopters because it allows us to really see each dog’s individual personality. How a dog behaves in a cage in a shelter kennel is not necessarily how they are in a home setting – they are often frightened and confused and it is hard to assess how they will behave once you get them in a home.  Our fosters not only provide medical care, but they give these dogs a sense of stability and love that they need. It is during this important phase that we learn if a dog needs to be an only dog, or if they love little kids, or if they are cat-friendly, and so many other characteristics that help us place our dogs in the right home setting.

While the welfare of the animal is always a primary focus at House of Hope, we are also very invested in ensuring that the adoption process is a success for our human constituents as well! House of Hope has a highly successful adoption rate, and the best practices we have in place have adopters referring us to friends and family and becoming repeat adopters themselves, earning us the reputation of “Rescue Done Right.”  We have a team of adoption coordinator volunteers that review applications, conduct initial phone interviews and check vet references, and then coordinate a home visit. All of this is done so we can match the right dog with the right adoptive family.  

Not all of our dogs go through our traditional adoption model outlined above.  When we hear about a veteran suffering from PTSD or TBI, and we come across a dog that would be a good fit for them as an emotional support dog, we will donate that animal to them.  Similarly, we have had requests for service dogs to assist a child or adult who has a mental or physical disability. While we do not train service dogs at House of Hope, we have pulled breeds that are known to be trainable for this purpose and donated them to a service dog training group on behalf of the family in need.