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VERY inspirational PEOPLE
AS HE APPROACHES the age where most people are readying for retirement, Lee Legenhausen keeps doing more and more. And his pet projects literally are ‘pet’ projects: Pets in Omaha and Kirby’s Hope. He’s owned a successful private detective agency for more than 20 years. For the last 15 years, he’s also served as an event supervisor for the CenturyLink Center and TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. And in 2013, Lee Legenhausen started an online pet magazine followed by a nonprofit in 2016 that supports animal rescue services and promotes pet adoption. “The detective agency pays the bills, the job at CenturyLink is my fun job, and Pets in Omaha is my passion,” Legenhausen said. “I wake up every day and wonder what will happen today. You never know; life is short, so I try not to waste any days and I’m just inspired by what can happen every day. And something happens every day if you just have your eyes open.” In Legenhausen’s case, it’s more of a matter of what he makes happen. The idea for Pets in Omaha, for instance, came to him a few years back after floundering online looking for an item for his canine companion, Kirby. “I can’t even remember exactly what it was, but I thought maybe I could find it locally,” Legenhausen said. “So I went to Yahoo or Google and typed in ‘pets Omaha.’ I thought there might be some big hub for everything pets and there just wasn’t. So I thought that would be a good idea.”
launched Pets in Omaha at petsinomaha.com. It quickly became the area’s allencompassing, one-stop website for everything pets—just as Legenhausen had envisioned. “Our readership has grown month after month and we have a lot of traffic; 200,000 visitors came through our site in the first three years,” Legenhausen said. The objectives of the site include serving as a comprehensive resource for pet owners seeking services, products and information on pet care; bringing together Omaha’s pet community; and helping humane societies and local rescue groups promote their mission and message. Thousands of pages of pet-related news, advice, and interviews with local pet enthusiasts and professionals comprise the site’s original content. Pets in Omaha isn’t making him rich, Legenhausen said, but it’s self-sustaining. “We have ‘Pet Partners,’ advertisers on our site, and we promote them very well.”
A good home
“Something happens every day if you just have your eyes open.” LEE LEGENHAUSEN F
A good idea Legenhausen’s preliminary research showed that the majority of Americans— around two-thirds—have pets in their homes. As the son of a veterinarian who owned a farm, Legenhausen grew up around animals and loved being a pet owner himself, although “one at a time is enough for me.” Anecdotally, he had noticed through social media how enthusiastic his friends, family and acquaintances were about their pets. “Everyone feels the same way as I do about my Kirby,” he said. “People really love their pets.”
In the fall of 2016, Legenhausen founded the nonprofit Kirby’s Hope to promote responsible pet ownership, provide timely financial assistance to humane organizations, and provide tech support to shelters and rescue groups for promoting adoptable animals on the web. “We were already doing some of this through Pets in Omaha, but one of our goals with Kirby’s Hope is to help (shelters and rescue groups) with their websites and communication and take responsible pet ownership education into the schools,” Legenhausen said.
Fans of Pets in Omaha and supporters of Kirby’s Hope are caring, loving pet owners, but not every pet is lucky enough to have a good home, Legenhausen said. “There’s an overpopulation across the world,” he explained. So to help ensure every pet is a wanted pet, he’s hoping Pets in Omaha and/or Kirby’s Hope can sponsor spay and neuter clinics in the future. Also, Pets in Omaha has coordinated three successful two-day Pick-a-Pooch adoption events, drawing around 7,000 visitors each year.
Legenhausen knew that pet-related businesses like supply stores, groomers, boarding facilities, trainers and veterinary clinics were thriving and abundant in the area. He learned that local shelters and rescues usually lacked the resources to establish an online presence or engage in marketing efforts.
“A lot of animals have been adopted through being at the show, and a lot of animals who weren’t even at the show were adopted,” Legenhausen said.
But he faced a big deterrent to building a web resource: Legenhausen didn’t know the first thing about building a website.
“One thing we do is educate people about the puppy mills,” he said. A Humane Society of the United States report published annually has identified both Nebraska and Iowa “problem dealers” among the “Horrible Hundred” worst puppy mills in the country. However, the Nebraska number dropped from 14 in 2015 to eight in the 2017 report. “Slowly but surely, people are waking up to this puppy mill situation,” he said.
“Long story short, four and a half years ago I had coffee with a friend of mine who had been in the PR and ad agency business. I told him about the idea,” Legenhausen said.
A good resource The friend to whom he pitched the idea, Steve Lorenz, had a soft spot for animals, too, so was immediately intrigued. After consulting with tech and communication professionals and executing a feasibility study, Legenhausen and Lorenz assembled a team and eventually 30
Pets in Omaha and Kirby’s Hope also promote a strong ‘adopt, don’t shop’ message.
Legenhausen said one reason his various ventures have succeeded is because he’s always willing to ask questions and learn from others. And he’s happy to return the favor. “I’m an open book and I’m always ready to share anything about that I know,” he said. “[Through this] I’ve made a lot of friends in the community. mquarterly • spring 2018
Published on Feb 14, 2018
Published on Feb 14, 2018
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