National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week: How can you help?
Animal adoption is near and very dear to my heart. All of my animals have entered my life through some form of adoption whether it be an actual organization like the Humane Society or an owner surrender. An extraordinary number of animals are shuffled through rescue groups, animal shelters, the Humane Society & the SPCA and unfortunately, I don’t see this changing any time soon. As the veterinary community works tirelessly to educate the public, it seems there are still animals without homes. So, what can you do to help? Aside from the obvious: Adopt! There are many ways you can lend a hand to your local shelter.
1. Take care of the people!
We all love animals, that’s why you’re here reading this. But have you thought about the people who care for them day in and day out? Shelter workers obtain little to no compensation for their efforts. Bringing by some bagels in the morning or buying a couple of pizzas in the afternoon is the perfect pick-me-up to keep their passion alive.
2. Become a foster parent
Maybe you aren’t 100% ready to commit to another family member. Maybe your buddy recently passed and you have a void that needs to be filled. Becoming a foster parent is a great solution. It helps the animal more than you can imagine, and increases the likelihood of that animal finding a home!
3. Volunteer your time
If all shelters were filled with 8-week-old puppies and kittens, well, there would be no shelters! Puppies & kittens find homes quickly while the older animals tend to become residents of a shelter for months to years. Take some time out of your weekend to volunteer to take the dogs on a walk. Many shelters allow you to walk them outside, off the premises. Taking them out of the shelter for fresh air and new smells is imperative for mental and emotional health which in the end allows them to be adopted easier! Cats need social time too. You can volunteer to spend time playing with the cats available for adoption. Encouraging play and providing stimulation so they stay healthy while awaiting a forever home. Have a teenager thinking about a career in veterinary medicine? Some shelters offer volunteer positions for children this age. It is a great way for your child to get an idea of animal husbandry and help them decide if veterinary medicine is right for them.
4. Spring (or Fall) Cleaning
We all go through a personal purge of household items at least once a year. Call your local SPCA or rescue group and ask if they could use any of the items you might otherwise throw away. Towels & blankets are typically always in need. If you are unable to reach the shelter via phone, try their website. Many shelters have a ‘Wish List’ of items they are constantly in need of. My local shelter has a wish list linked to Amazon.com so helping them out is virtually effortless!
5. Donate! Fundraise!
Monetary donations are usually always accepted and much needed. But also, reach out into your local community. Many fundraising events exist where you can socialize, drink a glass of wine (or 2!), and help animals all at the same time! I mean, SIGN ME UP!
If you don’t have space in your family (I get it, I have 1 cat, 3 dogs, 2 human kids, and a husband!) to adopt an animal, I hope this list helps you realize there are so many other ways to make a difference!
– Leigh Hofmeister, DVM