Our Vision

Empowering shelters & rescues to see behavior through the lens of science, ethics, and compassion.

Our Mission

To provide a customizable process allowing organizations to accurately, ethically, and efficiently make decisions about the animals in their care and in their community.

Our Story

The First Train Home story begins, like most philanthropic endeavors do, with love: a love for homeless animals and those who care for them. A love for the down-trodden, the underdog, the before and after stories. A love for the tireless people creating those stories with often little thanks in return. Our story, like others, also begins with frustration and heartache. The befores who never got their afters. The animals we could have saved if only we knew how. Incidents that could have been prevented. The emotional toll of feeling hopeless. From frustration, from heartache, is born the spark of change.

Founders Emily Strong and Allie Bender have collectively worked in animal behavior for two decades and the animal sheltering community for over four decades. In that time we’ve spent countless hours in shelters across the nation, worked with thousands of homeless animals and their caregivers, and have seen the trends and problems facing the sheltering nation first-hand. One of those trends is an emerging dichotomy: adoptable animals who are getting euthanized for behavior which could be easily resolved, and unsafe animals who are being adopted out into communities that are unable to sustain them. Both issues can be addressed with a better understanding of animal behavior and how to apply it in a shelter or rescue environment. That’s where First Train Home comes in.

Emily and Allie started working on what is now First Train Home in 2014 as a way to address the behavioral needs of the sheltering community we love. Our goal is not to turn shelter workers into animal trainers. Our goal is to equip those in the sheltering community with the ability to accurately identify behaviors, better understand those behaviors, and utilize the tools which can best address them within their unique organization and community.

Meet the Team

Emily Strong

Co-Founder, President, & Secretary

Emily Strong is a behavior consultant in Salt Lake City, Utah. Emily is a national speaker, published writer, and has an international client base. Emily was a board member of Wings of Love Bird Haven, co-founded and operated Austin Parrot Society, and became the volunteer medical coordinator as well as a medical and behavioral special-needs foster home for Austin Pets Alive!  She is a certified behavior consultant who worked at Best Friends Animal Society as a Behavior Consultant in Dogtown. In this role, she contributed to the complete overhaul and revitalization the training protocols, trained staff, and co-wrote all behavior-related articles for Best Friends’ various media outlets to ensure that the organization put out the most accurate, ethical, and effective information possible.


Allie Bender

Co-Founder, Treasurer

Allie Bender is a behavior consultant in the Chicago suburbs. Allie is a national speaker, published writer, and an animal welfare advocate. She has been working with rescue groups and shelters since 2006 in various capacities, including founding a student-run animal welfare organization. Allie started dog training professionally in 2012 and by 2015 became the lead dog behavior consultant at Best Friends Animal Society, the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the nation. Here she had the opportunity to work with dogs and cats with serious behavior challenges as well as speak at national conferences, write for the Best Friends magazine, and make TV and commercial appearances. Allie has a BS in Animal Science from Iowa State University and is certified through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and Council for Certification of Professional Dog Trainers.


Next Steps…

Check out our services or contact us to learn how to become part of the First Train Home community.