Industry Veteran Establishes

Industry Veteran Establishes

Steven Schillinger of Reno, NV, has worked as a collision repair industry consultant in different capacities for more than 40 years, as a compliance expert focusing on permits, license protection and record keeping.

As a member of the Government Regulatory Compliance (GRC) Board of Directors, Schillinger has tried to retire several times over the years but has failed miserably. He thought fishing and golf would be his activities after retirement, but discovered both are “boring,” he said. Losing his dog also created a void in his life.

During the COVID pandemic, Schillinger lost his beloved friend and canine mascot, George, at age 14, and it hit him hard. As a result, he began looking for a way for body shops and other auto repair businesses to help displaced pets.

Many people have been abandoning their pets during the pandemic by dumping them in the Nevada desert. When Schillinger kept seeing news stories about it, he decided to act, and that’s when he founded the campaign to help and promote animal rescue and shelter groups in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. is an exclusive automotive aftermarket program in support of to help pets and people in local communities all over North America, and with auto repair facilities---including body shops---playing an integral role.

Approximately 7.6 million companion pets are surrendered to a shelter every year in the U.S. alone. That includes 4.2 million dogs abandoned---1.4 million of which are euthanized annually.

“Animals have no voice of their own, no social safety net and very few rights under the law,” Schillinger said. “They are vulnerable and, unfortunately, mistreated more often than most of us can even imagine. The Pet Rescue Campaign is focused on automotive service and repair shop owners in North America that has gained recognition with...

...regulatory agencies and insurance partners as well as community leaders.”

When Schillinger saw a sudden surge in pet adoptions during the COVID lockdown, he was encouraged, he said.

“It has definitely gone viral nationwide. Shelters, nonprofit rescue organizations, private breeders and pet stores have all reported more consumer demand than there were dogs and cats to fill," Schillinger said. "Rescues were accepting dozens of applications for individual dogs and breeders were compiling waiting lists well into 2021. Dog lovers kept trying to fill voids with canine companions, either because they were stuck working from home with children who needed something to do, had no work and lots of free time, or felt lonely with no way to socialize.”

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) President Madeline Bernstein reported adoptions doubled during the lockdown, with 10 or 13 adoptions a day. A waiting list formed for certain types of dogs and for puppies in general, because so few were left in the shelter. But now, shelter directors are wondering what will happen as Americans start returning to school and work.

Bernstein foresaw at the start of the pandemic many of these adoptions could potentially lead to more dogs being abandoned. She has also seen many people bonding with their pandemic pets and providing them with forever homes.

“Like so many things concerning the pandemic, the territory is uncharted," Schillinger said. “Just as nobody predicted that the start of a pandemic would lead to a huge spike in the number of adopted pets, nobody is quite sure what the end of a pandemic will mean for many of them, and that’s why we see some genuine value in the campaign.”

Animal rescues are typically privately-owned, and do not have a facility---often, they are run entirely by volunteers, including people who...

...volunteer as fosters. Fosters care for animals at their homes for a few weeks or months until the animal gets adopted.

In the last few years, a lot of rescues have shifted to promoting their animals on Instagram and Facebook, which serve as free marketing for getting their animals adopted.

The campaign is also supported by many members of the Alliance of Auto Manufacturing that are partnering with animal shelters. In addition, Subaru has joined with the ASPCA to help find thousands of animals their forever homes, and donated nearly $16.5 million to support shelters and adoption events.

In conjunction with their dog rescue efforts, supports local volunteer organizations that are too small to raise substantial funds themselves, and would fall through the cracks without us.

“We network online 24/7 with business owners to provide instant assistance, boarding, medical care, food, medicine, training and transport for desperate animals,” Schillinger said. “We are the place to go when there is nowhere else to turn. We rescue pets, and we rescue the rescuers---shelters and other animal welfare groups that are currently inundated with new pets.”

You’ve likely heard about AMBER Alerts. has developed the same system for pets---Area Missing: Pet Emergency Response (AMPER) Alerts---which connects auto body shops with an assigned AMPER area-alert team to offer advice and assistance for confidentiality, as well as to transport pets to shelters, rescues and private owners.

“It is designed to achieve a uniform, interoperable network of plans across the country, and to minimize...

...potentially deadly delays because of confusion among varying participants,” Schillinger said.

Every authorized AutoShop facility will have an email contact and telephone number assigned for AMPER alerts. Participants receive alerts of a recently lost or missing pet. If the pet is found/rescued, most do not go back home but instead go to a transitional facility, a Pet Halfway House. As the name implies, it is not a dog pound, but closer to a foster home.

For an AMPER Alert to be effective in recovering a missing pet, must have enough information to believe an immediate broadcast to the public will enhance the efforts to locate the pet. This element requires as much descriptive information as possible about the lost pet. Issuing alerts in the absence of significant information that the pet is actually lost could lead to abuse of the system and ultimately weaken its effectiveness.

Vice President of Industry Relations at Automotive Service Association (ASA) Tony Molla sees real value in the campaign for several reasons.

“It’s a great idea and much-needed,” he said. “We have two dogs, Luna and Lola, and if we ever lost them, we would be crushed. It’s simple---a dog is found and quickly an alert goes out and shops get to play an important role. is a great way for shops to help people and dogs to find their homes or new homes for dogs who have lost their way and just need a break.”

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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