This week is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week (November 6th through 12th). This event was started in 1996 by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) as a way to encourage people to get acquainted with their local shelters and rescue groups and to find out how they could help.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that there are approximately 13,600 different independent community animal shelters and rescues in this country. These include both volunteer and staff-based organizations, with approximately 3,500 brick and mortar facilities.
As noted in a previous article (Start The Search for Your Next Family Member – Adopt), ASPCA statistics for animal homelessness are not pretty.
- Approximately 3.9 million dogs enter shelters nationwide each year.
- Almost twice as many dogs enter as strays as those that are given up by their owners.
- Of the dogs who come in as strays, approximately 542,000 are reunited with their owners.
- Approximately 1.4 million dogs are adopted from shelters yearly.
- Another 1.2 million are euthanized.
The statistics for cats are even worse, with 3.4 million entering shelters, only about 100,000 being returned to their owners and 41% of them being euthanized.
With these kinds of numbers – and this just includes dogs and cats – these community shelters and rescues would likely be grateful of any help you are willing or able to provide.
While that previous article was aimed at helping people find animals to adopt, it also provides information on locating local shelters and rescue groups. I will refer you there for ways to locate shelters and rescues local to you.
What Can You Do?
There are lots of things you can do, with or without spending money.
Of course, monetary donations are always needed – but also donations of food, treats, blankets, towels, toys, and probably many other things that aren’t coming to mind right now.
Cleaning out your linen closet? Great – now you know what to do with the clean-outs. Maybe you’re much more creative than I am and could turn some of those clean-outs into toys.
Buying a bag of dog food for your own little guy? Great – buy a bag for the shelter – or a can of cat food. I buy canned cat food whenever I buy dog or cat food and leave it in the car for any trips close to the shelter. (Afraid I don’t so much pay attention to this specific week for donations – just when I’m in the neighborhood.)
Do you have a little bit of time that you are willing to give? Maybe they need help walking dogs or cleaning cages or feeding animals. Maybe they need help with adoption events (those are always a lot of fun by the way if you like to talk to people). Find out how they need help.
Maybe you could go with a friend or a family member? That might be even more fun – although you may be surprised how rewarding time at the shelter can be – and how it draws people together as a community even when you have absolutely nothing else in common.
Do you have a special skill – graphics or carpentry or writing or photography, for example? They may well appreciate and need it.
Do you have room in your heart and your home for another animal until they find their forever home? Foster. Many of the volunteer-based groups depend on fostering and have no brick and mortar facility.
Be an example.
Adopt your next family member – don’t buy.
Spay or neuter and microchip your four-legged family members.
Have conversations with your friends about the shelter or rescue – and about adoption, puppy mills, spaying and neutering, etc., when the opportunity arises.
Do you like to write? Write a letter to the editor of your paper describing what an amazing organization your group is and why.
Put together Facebook or other social media posts about your group.
Send a “thank you” card to the group itself.
There are two contests that I know of at this time of the year – probably even more that I don’t – that require a written submission. Why is your group awesome? Why do they deserve the prize? How do they serve the community?
This is the third year that PetMeds has run their contest. The grand prize is $1,000 to a shelter or rescue group – with several smaller prizes.
The ASPCA and FreeKibble.com also run a contest at this time of the year and I believe this is their third year also. This contest runs through 12/10/2016, with a grand prize of 10,000 meals of Halo food for the organization.
Not so sure of your writing skills for the applications? That’s okay – mention the contests to someone who can write. You can spread the word on Facebook or other social media and remember to vote for your group.
Just “thank you.”
Baking today? Make some extra cookies or buy some donuts and take them in to your special group – and just say “thank you.”
Don’t have time for that? Pick up the phone and call. Let them know that you appreciate all that they do.
Animal shelter workers are a special group of people. I think of them much like jailers – they see the results of the worst types of abuse and lack of responsibility on a daily basis – and still keep coming back for more. The occupation is certainly not at the top of anyone’s top 10 list for best paying or most glamorous jobs. These people are dedicated and good people that more than deserve a week in the limelight. Let them know how much you appreciate what they do – and if you have the time or money to do more, then please do it.
This shelter in Wake County (not sure of the state) made this video promoting adoption of pets from their facility. I don’t think it was intended as a promotion video of the facility itself – but after watching it, who would not want to go there to volunteer for a few hours? They look like such a diverse group of creative, fun, socially conscious people! And again, the video is just too darned cute not to include it here.
I would love to hear a few words about your special group – and anything you’ve done to show your appreciation of them. Any other ideas for ways to put your special group in the limelight or ways to say “thank you?”
A special “thank you” to the above-mentioned photographers for making their work available for use.
My sources for this article are listed below for further reading.