Photo courtesy Karey Burek

The puns roll off the tongue: Going to the Dogs. Who Let the Dogs In? Yes, You Can(ine)!

But whatever clever spin one puts on it, the Pinch A Penny store in East Lake, Fla. is doing important work for dogs being processed by a local animal shelter. It’s helped prepare the canines for new homes — and maybe even saved some lives.

Headed by co-owner Karey Burek, Ph.D., the staff works at or even organizes fundraising events, perhaps raffling a Big Green Egg grill, to support the Suncoast Animal League, a no-kill shelter that pairs many of the animals with foster homes. But the company makes the cause even more personal, often hosting individual animals for lunch and a visit at its store.

The cause sits close to Burek’s heart: Before joining her family in two Pinch A Penny franchises, she worked at a local zoo, helping with animal handling, tours, writing programs etc. After moving to the store, she studied for a doctorate in science education.

Since 2013, the store has raised $72,000 and hosted well over 100 dogs (and a piglet). “We were looking for a way to give back that wasn’t just writing a check or donating for a raffle,” says Burek, also an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida. She owns the Eastlake and South Tampa locations with her father and brother.

The fundraising helps dogs receive needed medical attention; the visits help socialize them for their adopted families. Burek says the work makes life better for Pinch A Penny as well: In addition to gaining recognition for the company, the visits can brighten a day of hard work, and the fundraising efforts solidify bonds among coworkers. The work even resulted in Burek finding a dog to permanently adopt. Denali was suffering severe chemical burns after having been doused with accelerant before the house was set on fire around her. After the dog’s hospital stay, Burek fostered and cared for her during a recovery that included two months of bandages and a cast. It was meant to be. “I think everybody knew I was going to adopt her before I did,” Burek remembers. “Everybody said, ‘You’re going to keep her.’”

Nate Traylor contributed to this story.