Animal funds

Freshpet partners with actress and animal rescue advocate to fund animal shelters

Sarah Michelle Gellar will serve as judge to decide which American no-kill animal shelters will receive cash prizes

Freshpet is collaborating with actress and animal rescue advocate, Sarah Michelle Gellar, in honor of her fifth annual Fresh Start initiative that celebrates and rewards kill-free animal shelters. The initiative is open to the public through a submission process beginning today and running until September 25, 2022. Since its launch in 2018, the Fresh Start program has donated more than $400,000 to kill-free shelters across the country.

According to a company statement,1 Gellar, whose family has 1 rescue dog and 2 other dogs, will be a judge who will help choose 16 shelters across the United States to receive funding, including 1 overall winner receiving $25,000 and 5 regional grand prize winners who will each receive $15,000. The supplemental grants consist of 10 finalists, 2 in each region, receiving $5,000 each.

Alongside Gellar, other judges include pet influencer Tatum Talks, Freshpet expert veterinarian Aziza Glass, DVM, and shelter partners St. Hubert’s and Pennsylvania SPCA.

“We treat our pets as if they were our children; they are so much part of our family,” Gellar said in the statement. “We have always been big supporters of animal adoption because there are so many deserving animals that need good homes. And right now the need is greater than ever, with many shelters overcrowded and needing support.”

She continued, “There are so many rescues doing amazing work across the country, so partnering with Freshpet to recognize and reward them is something I couldn’t pass up.”1

Of the approximately 4,000 animal shelters in the United States, only 52% are no-kill shelters, many of which are run simply with volunteers and donations.2 Donations from Fresh Start help shelters with a variety of needs, from animal health care and adoption support to operating costs and equipment. All Freshpet grants can be used at the discretion of the shelters.

“Fresh Start allows us to continue unleashing the power to give to pets and working people to improve their lives,” said Steve Elwell, chief digital officer at Freshpet. “There is an incredible network of animal shelters and organizations across the country that advocate for the welfare of companion animals who can use our help, whether through volunteering or donations, and we are happy to be able to expand the Fresh Start initiative to reward them for their work.”

Submissions can be made to Winners will be announced the week of October 17, 2022.


  1. Sarah Michelle Gellar partners with Freshpet to reward animal shelters. Press release. Freshpet. September 12, 2022. Accessed September 12, 2022.
  2. No-kill 2025. Best Friends Animal Society. Accessed September 12, 2022.