According to the ASPCA five to seven million companion animals end up in shelters every year . Of those that enter shelters between three and four million of them are euthanized. That translates to somewhere between 8,000 – 10,000 companion animals dying EVERY DAY in our country simply because they have no home. These are overwhelming statistics and I believe we can do much better as a nation.
Below is a list of ideas for how we can all help save more lives. These are ways that anyone can help…being part of the solution does not mean you necessarily have to adopt animals of your own…there are endless ways for everyone to make even very small gestures that can save more lives.
- ADOPT! When looking for a new four-legged family member always consider adopting animals from shelters. Don’t let breed preferences dissuade you from adoption; 25% of the animals that enter shelters are purebred and most breeds have breed specific rescue organizations (just google it and you will find many adoptables!) All sizes come through shelters and there are plenty of puppies and kittens too! A simple internet search on the type of pet you are looking for will yield many options and a trip to the local shelter to browse will surely melt your heart.
- ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO ADOPT. Most people don’t realize just how many healthy cats and dogs die in shelters every day in our country; if they knew the facts it just might be enough to change their mind from purchasing a dog to adopting one. You can be an ambassador to homeless animals by simply spreading the word about how many need to be saved. Many people don’t consider adoption because they want a pet of a specific breed – but most breeds have breed specific rescue networks – it is just as easy to rescue a purebred as it is to buy one (and probably cheaper too)! Many people also want a puppy – but puppies end up in shelters too. If you have a friend considering a new pet, offer to join them on a trip to the local shelter just to check it out; sometimes trips to the shelter end in love at first sight!
- FOSTER! Sometimes we aren’t ready for a full-time pet in the home. Fostering is a great way to help and have some rewarding fun with a shelter animal for a short period of time. Foster homes are often the difference between life and death for a pet for which there is no room in the shelter!
- SPONSOR! Many shelters run sponsor programs. If you can’t have a pet in your own home you can still sponsor one who is temporarily in a shelter and specifically help those that are in need of special care. One of my favorite sponsor programs is the Guardian Angel Program at the Best Friend Animal Society.
- SPAY AND NEUTER! A good step towards keeping animals out of shelters is to keep the pet population under control. Spaying and neutering your pets is a great way to contribute to preventing more homeless animals. If you know there is a cat colony in your area; contact your local shelters and inquire if there is a mobile neuter program for feral cats.
- DON’T JUDGE! Sometimes a pet must be re-homed, it is difficult, but the goal is to find every pet a good forever home not to cast judgment on someone who can’t care for their pet anymore. If you now someone who has to re-home their pet – be a supportive resource to them. Share information about which shelters are no-kill and which are not; help them write a promo for their pet on Pet Finder; encourage them to explore every option possible before taking their pet to a shelter.
- VOLUNTEER! Shelters are always short handed and the list of things to do is endless; bathe, walk, groom, socialize, feed, clean, etc. Even if you aren’t comfortable working hands on with animals or simply can’t handle the heartbreak of spending time at a shelter there is much you can still do to help. Shelters need volunteers to do home visits to prospective adopters. Volunteers can do fundraising, run errands, coordinate events, office work, make phone calls, building maintenance…its endless. Shelters also need specific expertise; lawyers, accountants, computer experts, photographers, vets, groomers, etc.
- DONATE! Every penny counts when it comes to animal rescue; even a few dollars here and there makes a difference. Shelters need more than cash…bedding, bowls, office supplies, cleaning supplies, leashes, tennis balls, cat toys, litter…its endless. Call your local shelter and simply ask them for a wish list…you might be surprised at how many things lying around your house that are unused could help them out.
- DO A RUMMAGE HUNT! Most shelters will be happy to take donations of gently used leashes, collars, bowls, toys, pet beds, towels, crates etc. All of these items can be found for pennies on the dollar at rummage sales. This is a fun and inexpensive way to find great items for your local shelter at a great price.
- THROW A PARTY! Who doesn’t like to have a party? Why not have one in honor of your local shelter pets! Invite friends over for a barbecue and instead of a dish to pass ask everyone to bring an item for the local shelter.
- SCRAP THE GIFTS! Why not skip gifts for the next birthday or holiday and instead everyone gives a donation or some volunteer time to the local shelter (some people even do this for their wedding)!
- SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHELTER STAFF! Working in a rescue shelter is an incredibly draining job; physically and emotionally. Why not bring a basket of treats (the human kind) down to your local shelter staff to show them that there are people in the community who appreciate and support their hard work?
- CRAFTERS AND ARTISTS ARISE! Many shelters have events, fundraisers or even little gift shops. Why not donate some of your arts and crafts for them to sell?
- START A DONATION DROP OFF SITE! Many pet stores already have a donation box for food and items to go to the local rescue groups. If your store doesn’t have one, why not offer to set one up and deliver the donations to the shelter yourself? Odds are the store would be glad to do it if you are willing to administrate it!
- CLICK FOR FOOD! Visit The Animal Rescue Site (www.theanimalrescuesite.com). Visitor clicks on this website fund millions of bowls of food for animals in shelters. You can even sign up to get a daily reminder to click on their website. Purchasing items from their site creates donations as well; 3-50% of the purchase price goes to food for shelter animals. When you make a purchase, at the end of the transaction, it will show you how many food bowls your purchase funded.
- HAVE A RUMMAGE SALE! Set up a rummage sale – ask some friends to help and donate some or even all of the proceeds of your sale to the local rescue shelter.
- HAVE A FOOD DRIVE! It is common for places of business to have their own food drive. Why not organize one at your work for the local rescue shelter?
- INCLUDE HOMELESS ANIMALS IN YOUR ESTATE PLAN! What could be a better legacy than to leave a gift that saves some lives?!