When Bedford Hills resident Sophia Silverman was just 7 years old, her father told her she could get a dog — the words every kid dreams of hearing. Unlike most kids, though, Silverman knew there was more to the story when she opted for a rescue dog. With a bit of convincing, Silverman’s family began fostering multiple dogs at a time, and when Silverman was 15 years old, she and her mother, Sharon, cofounded A New Chance Animal Rescue (ANCAR), a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit.
Now eight years old, Silverman, 23, says ANCAR is the only animal-rescue group in Westchester that is entirely foster-based and does not use paid boarding (unless in urgent situations) or have a shelter. Instead, the dogs live in volunteer foster homes largely in Northern Westchester, which are screened for references, background checks, include phone interviews, and home visits, until they are adopted by what Silverman refers to as “forever families.” She describes this foster-based rescue system as being significantly unlike the traditional brick-and-mortar shelter.
“It’s a really different environment, in terms of preparing the dog to be adopted into a home,” says Silverman, “but also getting to know a dog so that we can determine which adoptive home is the right match.” Adopted dogs have the opportunity to experience a loving household, often for the first time, as most of the 800+ dogs that have gone through ANCAR come from high-kill shelters in the southern U.S. ANCAR’s Save a Geezer program advocates the adoption of senior dogs in addition to rescuing mother dogs, which are often left in shelters after having puppies.
“Having rescue dogs is nothing new to our family, but what is especially great about A New Chance is that they take it one step further,” says Bedford resident Cathy Shaffer, spouse of musician-entertainer Paul Shaffer, both of whom are devoted supporters of ANCAR. “They not only take these rescue dogs, they’re placing them with amazing foster families who really care, ultimately placing them in wonderful, loving permanent homes. Getting involved with A New Chance was a no-brainer for us.”
Silverman says she hopes to one day open a “revolutionary facility,” with family rooms rather than kennels and extensive after-school programming for children. She adds, “Our children are going to grow up, and we want them to grow up to be a generation that treats animals respectfully. Every rescuer’s hope is that someday none of us will be needed to do this anymore.”