As uncertainty about the economy lingers, the pace of pet abandonment is on the rise. Largely attributable to the collapse of the housing market in 2007, the effects of which continue to ripple through our economy, nearly every state has seen a dramatic increase in the number of homeless animals. During this short time frame, tens of thousands of companion animals have been surrendered to rescue organizations, or worse, simply abandoned, left to fend for themselves.
You’ve probably read some of the heartrending stories: dogs left behind, locked in foreclosed homes; a box of kittens dumped in a community park; and families facing homelessness themselves surrendering to a shelter all of their pets in a moment of heartbreak. The problem is so severe that some shelters have exhausted their resources and are forced to refuse new intakes.
As a society of pet lovers, this represents an unprecedented situation in most of our lifetimes. Now, more than ever, homeless pets need our help.
Many of us want to provide assistance, but don’t know the best way to make a difference. Fortunately, there are five ways to reach out and make a difference to pets in need.
1. Volunteer at a shelter
Brimming with new animals, many shelters urgently need “boots on the ground”. Volunteers are needed to walk dogs, play with kittens and greet potential adopters, as well as handle routine feeding and cleaning tasks. In some cases, you may be able to offer assistance based upon your unique skill set. If you have a knack for organization, your talents could help streamline anything from file systems to fundraising appeals. Even if you only volunteer for only a couple of hours per week, you will still be providing invaluable help.
2. Donate money
Unfortunately, growing shelter populations are not the only crisis shelters and animal rescues are experiencing. Organizations of all sizes are struggling with finances, as personal and corporate donations have dropped off a cliff. As you might expect, this lack of funding affects every aspect of a shelter’s operations, including staffing, facility maintenance, veterinary care, food and medical supplies. Any amount you can spare will be welcomed by your local shelters. Don’t fall prey to the misconception that small donations don’t make a difference. Even $5 or $10 can provide several meals for a pet in need.
3. Donate goods
If you prefer to donate physical items rather than cash, please consider donating items like food, treats, blankets or toys. In most cases, these items are sorely needed and gratefully accepted at most animal rescue organizations. Be sure to contact your local shelter to learn their specific needs prior to deciding what you’ll give. If you can’t afford to give new items, consider doing some “Fall cleaning” … because old towels dry just as well as new ones! Just like with financial donations, the gift of goods is tax deductible; just be sure to confirm that the organization you choose has non-profit status.
4. Foster a homeless pet
Fostering a pet is a great option if you’re not ready to commit to a long-term relationship with a companion animal. As a temporary adopter, you will not only provide a loving and healthy environment for a pet in need, but you will also free up valuable space and resources at rescue facilities. Be aware that many of these animals are coming from difficult circumstances and may require a good deal of patience and understanding on your part. To get more information, speak with your local rescues, veterinary schools or humane societies about foster programs in your area.
5. Adopt a pet
Lastly, the boldest and most dramatic step you can take also offers the greatest rewards. Perhaps the best way to combat pet homelessness is by opening your home to an abandoned pup or kitty. Many shelters maintain an online presence where you can review photos and descriptions of the companion animals that are available for adoption.
Even if they receive outstanding care during their stay, shelter animals experience high levels of stress, which can lead to minor illnesses (like colds). With time, love and good nutrition, these conditions usually quickly abate. If you adopt, remember to be realistic about your expectations with the pet and invest time early on acclimating your new family member to their new environment.
If you have ever considered adopting a companion animal in need, the time to act is now.
If your circumstances prevent you from taking part in any of these solutions, please keep in mind that simply by purchasing Life’s Abundance products you’ll be making a positive difference. Every order that you place results in a contribution to our foundation, which in turn awards financial grants to small rescues across the country.
No matter how you choose to help during this crisis, you will have my eternal thanks, and the thanks of the entire Life’s Abundance staff. Together, we truly can make our world a better place.