Each year the Roanoke Valley Regional Center for Animal Control takes in 6,000 to 7,000 stray animals and 6.5 million companion animals enter the United States shelter system every year (ASPCA). Rescue groups on Facebook share pictures every day of animals desperate for help. As animal lovers we all want to help, but how? This article will provide different ways you can help make a difference for the animals in your community.
Spay and Neuter
One of the easiest ways to reduce the population of homeless pets is to make sure you don’t contribute. Beyond the medical benefits of spaying and neutering your pet the surgery can also reduce or eliminate unwanted behaviors. Many pet owners report more relaxed pets, especially male dogs and cats, after neuter surgery. Some vets recommend waiting to fix large breed dogs as their growth plates are still developing, but a neuter surgery at 1 year of age is no more dangerous than at 4 months of age. If you are tempted to breed for money, or just because puppies are cute, make sure to swing by your local shelter and see all the pets left there. They also started out as cute puppies!
Running a non-profit takes money. After taking care of the basic needs such as food and shelter, rescues also have to contend with unexpected needs such as heart-worm treatment, spay and neuter surgeries, or even major medical emergencies. Some rescues also provide community outreach which requires monetary resources. These beneficial programs are the first to be cut in a budget shortfall but can provide much needed help in their communities. Just because you cannot contribute thousands of dollars doesn’t mean your $5 donations doesn’t help. Imagine if every person in the Roanoke Valley contributed $5.
Food. Toys. Bowls, leashes and collars. All important supplies for any rescue. Many rescues have an Amazon Wishlist, or you can simply call to see what they need. In Roanoke many children collect donations for their birthday parties instead of presents. What a wonderful way to give back! They next time you’re in the store swing by and see what’s on sale. Or if you are crafty you could organize a group to make blankets or beds for shelter animals.
Kitten in a foster home
When you foster an animal you provide it with a temporary home. Some rescues only need help for one night to a few weeks, while some rescues may need you to foster for up to a year. It just depends on the situation. Foster pets come in any size, age or shape so you can find one that would fit your household. Then you provide the love and socialization the pet needs until they are adopted. Fostering is an invaluable service because it:
Frees up space in the local shelter. The cage the pet would have been in is now open to save another life.
Allows pets to be themselves! Shelter life is hard on animals, and foster homes help stressed out pets decompress.
Provides important medical help. A heart-worm positive pet needs a calm, quiet environment during treatment. Foster homes are the perfect place for them to recover.
Socializes the pet. This mean the pet learns how to interact with humans in a positive manner. Just knowing the command “sit” helps dogs get adopted faster.
When you adopt a pet you save two lives: the life of the pet you adopt, and the life of the pet that take it’s place in the shelter or rescue. A sad fact of life at open-intake shelters is that they must euthanize animals when the shelter is full. The shelter workers don’t want to, but without fosters or adopters they simply have no choice. So instead of looking for a breeder or going to the local pet store, please go to your local shelters instead. Many pets end up at shelters through no fault of their own and just need a second chance. The benefits of adopting a shelter pet deserves it’s own article!
Woman walking a dog
Got some extra time on your hands? Maybe you want to get outside and exercise more. Go talk to your local shelter! Shelters always need volunteers to walk and socialize dogs and to cuddle cats. A gentle touch or word from a volunteer can can mean the world to a shy or scared pet. And just 5 extra minutes of playing or walking helps alleviate stress for dogs. Then you, the volunteer, get to hang out with many different dogs and cats in the space of a day. It’s a win-win!
I hope this article encourages readers to help homeless pets in their local community. There’s no wrong way to help so don’t be shy. Just call and see what they need!