It was a perfect match. The German Shepherd puppy starting up at Tanya Miller needed a home—and Miller and her husband were looking for a new pet.
“When I looked into those scared, soft, brown eyes I knew that she was my new baby,” Miller says. The couple was visiting a local animal shelter in the hopes of finding a companion when they met the six-week old dog. Loki, now two years old, may have never found the Millers without the dedication of animal shelter employees. “The staff was excellent and very friendly,” says Miller. The successful adoption is just one of thousands of examples of how shelters across the nation, and around the world, help animals every day.
Bringing together hopeful critters and loving homes is one of the things that your local shelter does best, but it’s by no means the only thing. From taking in homeless animals and giving them food, water and shelter to rescuing injured or abused animals to reuniting lost pets with their families, your local animal shelter spends 365 days a year saving animals.
For one week out of that year community members, animal lovers and grateful pet guardians come together to celebrate their local shelter. National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week, November 7–13, is the perfect time to recognize the organization in your community dedicated to animals. Here are ten ways to show shelters you care this week and throughout the year.
- Adopt a Best Friend. Animals make great companions, but having a pet is a big responsibility and it involves a lifelong commitment. Find out if you have what it takes to provide a safe and loving home and learn more about adopting from your local animal shelter. When you’re ready to adopt go to http://www.petfinder.com. to find pets in your area.
- Take a Tour. Never been inside an animal shelter? Take an hour or two out of your day to stop by your local shelter during public hours and see firsthand how things work. If you’d like to become more involved, find out how you can become a volunteer. Allison Miller, a volunteer at the Lancaster County Humane League in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, uses her skills as a graphic designer to produce the shelter newsletter and other publications. “The staff is absolutely wonderful and greatly appreciative, and I absolutely love what I do.”
- Keep on Giving. Many animal shelters struggle financially so every penny helps. Donating to your local shelter is as simple as writing a check and dropping it in the mail or picking up an item on the shelter’s wish list during your next shopping trip.
- Connect with Kids. Help children learn about the importance of being kind to animals. Find out how easy it is to educate—whether it’s an entire classroom or a single child.
- Be Committed. Providing quality food, water and shelter is important, but it’s not the only thing involved in being a responsible and caring pet guardian. It’s also essential that your pet has current identification tags and is properly confined or supervised while outdoors. Keep your pet healthy and up-to-date on all vaccinations by visiting the veterinarian regularly and give your pet lots of love and attention.
- Expect the Unexpected. Local shelters are most often on the front lines during natural disasters such as hurricanes. Would you know what to do in the event of a flood, tornado or fire? Learn how to help animals in your community, including your own pet, whether it’s a disaster, an emergency or an accident.
- Stay Alert. Your local animal shelter and animal control agency not only take in homeless animals, but also rescue injured, abused or neglected critters. Assist them by helping injured animals in your neighborhood, and letting them know if you suspect animal cruelty in your community.
- Spread the Word. Does the community that your local shelter serves understand and appreciate the shelter’s dedication to animals? Tell your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors about the importance of supporting animal shelters and their staff.
- Do Your Part. Spaying or neutering your pet is one of the most important things you can to reduce the number of homeless pets in your community. Jennifer Thompson of Dayton, Maryland, helped to ease her local shelter’s burden by offering to have a barn cat spayed at her expense. “Spaying and neutering your pet is important because it helps keep the animal population down. Our shelters are already overcrowded with unwanted pets.” Learn more about why spaying/neutering is important and how you can find affordable options.
- Two Simple Words. The words “thank you” are powerful. But since animals can’t speak, it’s up to community members to let shelter workers know just how much their commitment to animals is appreciated. Send a letter, card or e-mail to your local shelter and let them know you care.
Rebecca Simmons is the Outreach Communications Coordinator for the Companion Animals section of The HSUS.