All Paws on Deck – 7 Easy Ways you can Volunteer to Help Homeless Pets!
The best thing about working in the pet industry is having a platform to support and educate people about pet adoption. My first job in the pet world was as PR director for the SPCA Tampa Bay. I spent 15 years promoting responsible pet ownership and the importance of spaying and neutering, as well as encouraging people to adopt pets. I would drive dogs and cats to local radio and television stations each week to give them—and the pets back at the shelter—the exposure they needed to find homes. In my last year with SPCA Tampa Bay, I calculated that over 1,000 pets had been adopted through the on-air media exposure alone. More importantly, thousands of other shelter pets that did not make television appearances were adopted into homes as a result.
Today, Chilly is my one-year-old shelter pet “spokesdog”. Wherever we go, I tell people we adopted him from the SPCA, and most people say "you got him at a shelter?"— in the most surprised fashion. This tells me that there is still plenty of room for education about pet adoption. Chilly and I go to dog parks and pet events, participate in fundraising activities for our local shelter, and get “out-and-about” to spread the word about the great pets that need homes RIGHT NOW.
My friends at BISSELL also are big supporters of pet adoption. This year they’re partnering with the Petfinder.com Foundation to provide a series of grants to animal shelters and rescues across North America, one of which will fund an Animal Lifeline Rescue U program in Eastern Kentucky May 25-June 1. Through the Rescue U program, a group of student volunteers and animal care professionals from across the U.S will undertake a series of “paws on” clean-up projects at Kentucky’s Rowan and Menifee County animal shelters. At the end of the week, the group will transport a number of homeless pets from Kentucky to shelters in the Northeast, where there is more demand for adoptable animals.
For the past few years, BISSELL and I have worked together to address one surprisingly significant barrier to adoption – the fear of pet messes. BISSELL’s research shows that 38 percent of Americans would add a pet to their home if cleaning up after them was easier. Think how many homeless pets we can help by spreading the word that pet clean-up really can be easy with the right tools!
Another reason many people don’t have pets has to do with the cost, but adopting is the least expensive way to obtain a pet. Most animal shelters and rescue groups charge between $25-$250 per adoption and that generally includes the pet’s spay or neuter surgery, vaccinations and a microchip for identification.
Plus, when it comes to pets, you do NOT get what you pay for! By this I mean that expensive pets are not better than shelter pets. It’s important that people know about the healthy, happy pets—both mixed and pure bred—that are waiting for someone to pick them up from shelters and rescues to give them a second chance.
People of all ages can help spread the word about homeless animals and also volunteer to help at shelters within their local communities. Ways to help include:
- Walk and talk with the animals. Pet shelters and rescues need volunteers every day of the week to walk animals and give them love and human companionship. Sometimes help is needed for a one-time event or for just a few hours. If you don't have time to volunteer on a weekly basis, let the shelter know that you're available occasionally and add your name to their email list.
- Foster a rescue dog or the pet(s) of a deployed soldier. There are many rescues that work to place specific breeds of dogs with new homes. Find out if a favorite breed has a rescue and is in need of foster homes for animals until a permanent home becomes available. Is there an organization in your community to help place soldiers' pets in foster homes until they return? If there isn't a group like this, talk with your local shelter about setting up such a service. Many service members surrender their beloved pets to a shelter since they have no one to take care of them.
- Help at adoption sites. Many shelters and rescues partner with local stores to set up temporary adoption locations on certain days of the week and need volunteers to man these events. You can help just a few hours a week or even once a month.
- Volunteer your services. Are you a web designer, digital photographer or writer? You don’t have to be a professional to offer to help with a shelters website design or newsletter, or to take photos of adoptable pets and edit those photos for webs or print publications. If you enjoy writing, offer to write articles about shelter activities and events to promote to local media.
- Help animals who don’t live in the shelter. Meals on Wheels or other community services providing food for families in need often have pet food banks. Donate pet food to these groups.
- Donate food and items for your shelter's wish list. When you're buying food for your pet, why not pick up some food for the shelter animals or for your local pet food bank? Often shelters need blankets, sheets, computer equipment, etc. Spring cleaning? Check with your shelter to see if any of your old items are needed. Also, find out if there's a second hand or thrift store in your area whose donated items benefit animals.
- Make cash donations and donations "in honor of" and "in memory of." In addition to the traditional cash donation to your shelter, remember the animals if there's an event in your family for which others may send flowers or gifts. Request a donation to your shelter instead. For example, are you getting married? Ask your friends to donate to a special need at the shelter, such as a spay/neuter mobile clinic. Or, for a funeral, if Dad was an animal lover, in lieu of flowers, ask that a donation be sent in his memory to your local shelter. Often you can specify a particular fund or need.
This summer, join BISSELL, the Petfinder.com Foundation, Animal Lifeline, Chilly and me as we all strive to make a difference in the lives of homeless pets.