5 Ways you Can Make a Difference
Volunteering cannot only change the world, but can change YOU as a person. I have already elaborated on why I believe volunteering is so important for everyone in my post “Why Everyone Should Volunteer”. Volunteering for any cause is wonderful, but my heart and passion goes to causes involving animals. Although the support has seemed to increase over the years, animals still don’t have enough advocates.
According to the ASPCA website:
“Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats. Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).” [These are national estimates.]
Does that not hurt your heart? I want you to imagine a pet you have or had that you love(d) dearly. Now, I want you to imagine millions of pets just like yours being euthanized (killed) in shelters all across the country. Some people may be oblivious to the fact that shelter animals aren’t just killed for major aggression, severe illness, or severe suffering. Majority of these animals are healthy, adoptable, loving animals that just didn’t get the chance they deserved.
I have volunteered at my local animal shelter for three years and it happens to be a kill shelter unfortunately. It’s hard knowing the reality which is that dogs and cats are being euthanized all the time due to lack of space which ultimately is because of lack of spay/neuter, lack of responsible ownership, lack of awareness, backyard breeding (and breeding in general honestly), lack of potential adopters/rescuers/fosters, and lack of exposure.
Over the past three years, I have walked, cuddled, bonded, loved on, and played with some amazing animals (primarily dogs is what I work with at the shelter). I typically focus on the shy, sad, hurt, sick, mangey, black, scared dogs or the pit bulls…the ones who day after day get overlooked when in my eyes they are incredible. They just need patience, love, and time.
Almost every week I’m at the shelter (sometimes multiple times a week), so as you can imagine I start to really form a bond with these dogs that I continuously take out. There are some dogs that I would make sure I take out every time because I know otherwise, not many people are going to interact with them for whatever discriminatory reason. So the absolute most challenging part is when one of the dogs is killed. I knew from the beginning this would be part of the volunteering, but I also will never accept it.
It is not okay that these almost perfect, adoptable animals are being killed. So THAT is the reason I continue. I often get asked, “How can you do that?” or people say, “I don’t think I could volunteer because it’s too depressing. I would get too attached.”
I find that to be a huge excuse and cop-out. I have yet to meet anyone in person besides my sister who truly loves animals as much as I do. For crying out loud, the primary reason we chose a vegetarian and now vegan lifestyle is for animal welfare reasons. We have basically transitioned to cruelty free, vegan products and even now vegan dog food. I have spent most of my life (and a lot of money) on not only my own pets, but my fosters, and through sponsoring animals to be rescued or animal related causes. So, if there is anyone who can say “It’s too hard or depressing to volunteer at a shelter”, then it’s me!
I’ve also been told that maybe I should take a break from it or avoid looking at Facebook to see updates on the animals from the shelter. However, to me being ignorant to it is part of the problem that exists today. Imagine if I stopped volunteering all because I emotionally felt like it was too draining (which at times, it is). I am one less person who is helping those dogs. So, I sacrifice my emotional state sometimes to benefit the animals. Plus I feel it’s a responsibility of mine and I would probably feel really bad about myself otherwise.
So here’s where you, yes YOU, get involved. Many others like myself carry the burden on our shoulders of trying to do it all. There’s so few of us in the rescue/animal advocate community in comparison to the amount of people in this world.
Here’s 5 ways to help animals in shelters:
1- Adopt from a Shelter
This is probably the most obvious one, but oddly enough people are still spending thousands on purebred dogs from selfish breeders. Did you know there are SO many breeds and types of dogs in shelters? I have seen purebred large breed and small breed dogs in the shelter. Now, personally my favorite are the mixed breeds and specifically the pit bull mixes because they are so overlooked and misjudged. Mixed breeds tend to be less exposed to diseases and ailments that are common with pure bred dogs (ex: Dobermans and Wobbler’s Syndrome or Boxers and cancer).
How you help: When you adopt from a shelter, you save a deserving life. Plus, you open up a kennel for an incoming animal without having to euthanize another.
2- Adopt from a Rescue
Majority of rescue animals come from shelters, but can sometimes be from other situations. Adopting an animal from a rescue allows the adopter to have more of an idea on the background of the animal. For example, let’s say you are looking for a dog that will do well with your current cat. You can look for a dog in the rescue group that is currently in a home with a cat. Also, the foster parent can give you tips or a heads up about anything in particular about that dog. Also, most rescues will work with you to find the right pet for you based on your lifestyle, preference, family, etc.
It’s typically more expensive to adopt from a rescue, BUT there is an absolutely justified reason. The $200 you spend on your new friend is actually nothing in comparison to sometimes the THOUSANDS that the rescue spends on these animals. That adoption fee money gets put back into rescuing more animals in need. It’s cyclical and it’s how the rescue group is able to continue!
How you help: When you adopt from a rescue, it opens up a spot for another animal to be rescued and fostered. So if the animal is rescued from the shelter, it then opens up a kennel as well.
3- Foster Animals
Fostering animals is such a rewarding experience! I am currently with my 14th foster dog and I actually adopted two of my foster dogs. Essentially as a foster, you work with a rescue group and just temporarily care for the animal until it is adopted. Now, this time frame can vary depending on the type of animal. For example, if you are fostering newborn kittens, then you’ll be with them for a few weeks. If you are fostering a pretty healthy one year old dog that was surrendered to the shelter, then you may not have him as long.
In my case, I tend to foster the ones with behavioral (shy or unsocial) or medical concerns (primarily it’s been heart worm or a hurt limb). I prefer those dogs because that’s what I work best with and I like seeing them flourish in the end! Typically the rescue covers the medical expenses and you just provide the basics like food, leashes, toys, or whatever else you want to provide. However, I am willing to bet most rescues will even help with those things too!
Yes, it is sad to say good-bye when they get adopted, but it’s so rewarding to know that you were a part of the process in getting that animal a great home. Plus, you can always keep in touch via text or social media! I love getting updates with cute pictures from my former fosters’ new parents!
I believe I might make a whole separate post about how to foster animals because I think so much could be said about it!
How you help: Fostering helps in a lot of ways. When there are fosters, rescues can pull more animals from shelters. When animals are pulled by rescues, a space opens at the shelter. In the end this means, one less dog is killed due to space. Essentially, rescues rely on having foster homes to continue saving lives.
Also, you can help by making an animal more adoptable. Sometimes the shelter environment is too stressful for an animal, so learning in a home environment can definitely help that animal.
4- Sponsor or Donate
One of the easiest and time efficient ways to help shelter animals is to sponsor or donate. When there is an animal posted on Facebook from the shelter I volunteer at, people can pledge to donate toward that animal if it is rescued by a rescue group. Sometimes these animals have a major medical issue or they are a senior or they just are having a hard time getting adopted. This sometimes helps a rescue group when pulling an animal because if honest people follow through with their pledges, it will help offset the costs of rescuing the animal. You can also donate to rescues as a way to thank them for rescuing an animal you were really rooting for or just because you want to support their vision!
Did you know, you can also set up a percentage of your purchases to go to a charitable organization through Amazon Smile? Plus, you can register your Kroger Plus Card with Kroger Community Rewards to do the same thing. There’s plenty of ways the companies give back with your involvement…choose your local rescue group!
How you help: Obviously saving animals will cost money. Rescue groups (501c3 tax exempt) are not a corporation that profits off of adopting out cats and dogs.
5- Share and Spread the Word
People don’t know what they don’t know. Therefore, sometimes we have to help educate them on this issues. If you know of someone who is looking for a new pet, please encourage them to adopt or rescue. Hit the share button on Facebook posts. Kindly suggest spay/neuter and the benefits of it. There are so many simple, quick, and cost-free ways of doing this!
How you help: By a single share on Facebook, a potential adopter could see an animal and be the one to adopt it. Even if someone is in another state, they might find it in their heart to donate. Any amount of exposure that these shelter and rescue animals can get, can make a huge difference.
To wrap this up, I just wanted to point out why this post was inspired. I have always had on my idea list to write about this topic, but yesterday really pushed me to get it done today. This is Gypsy (from Pen 157 at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter) or more like this was Gypsy. She along with a few others were killed yesterday. Anytime I know that animals are killed, my heart breaks. However, Gypsy’s death hit me pretty damn hard. Honestly, I’m even crying right now as I type this up. Yesterday I cried so much and mentally felt so hurt.
I have been taking her out every week for about the past two months. I tried to get people to be interested in her, I tried to network her, and I pledged money for her rescue. Unfortunately,
that wasn’t enough. The shelter got full and she was one of the dogs on the list. So I can no longer take sweet Gypsy out even though she was such a deserving, well behaved dog. She is now part of the statistics I stated above. This is my reason. This is why I continue. This is why I need your help…THEY need your help.
RIP Gypsy and the many others who didn’t get the life they deserved. I promise I will always work to better this broken system.
If you are interested in getting involved, please reach out to me. I will gladly assist you with any of it!
Thank you for taking the time to read this and for those of you who also make a difference. <3