In 1996, the Humane Society of the United States launched National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week. The campaign was created to shine a light on the priceless role shelters play in our communities and to increase public awareness of animal welfare issues and shelter services. Most people probably don’t realize how many homeless animals are cared for by animal shelters across the nation each day. The shelter I managed in Detroit took in close to 100 animals per day. To help the efforts that shelters go through everyday, 365 days a year, the best thing you can do is make sure that you are part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Here’s how to become part of the solution:
Spay or neuter your pet.
If you are a pet owner, spay or neuter your pet before they reach the age of sexual maturity. The chances of your pet developing mammary or testicular cancer decrease if you spay or neuter before sexual maturity. An added benefit to you as the pet owner is that certain undesirable behaviors may be altered with spaying or neutering. For example, animals tend to roam less, and fewer will mark their territory once they are spayed or neutered. Plus, you won’t have to worry about your female dog or cat going into heat!
Own your pet for life.
If you own a pet, remember that pet ownership is a lifetime commitment. Many of us pet owners will get married, have children, move, start a new job, etc., throughout our pet’s lifetime. When these changes occur, it should not be a reason to give up your pet. Studies have shown that regardless of the reason given when an animal is surrendered to a shelter, behavior problems are the underlying issue most of the time. If your pet has a correctable behavior problem, try to get professional advice and training before you opt to hand over your pet to an already overpopulated shelter.
Identify your pet.
According to the National Council on Pet Population Study, about one million stray dogs and half a million stray cats are turned into shelters across the nation each year. Unfortunately, only 15 percent of those dogs and a measly 2 percent of those cats are ever reunited with their owners. Don’t let your pet become a statistic. For more information on identifying your pet, review a previous Pet Chat column: http://independent.com/news/2010/apr/02/id-your-pet/
Before you shop, ADOPT
If you don’t own a pet but would like to, choose an animal shelter over a pet store. There are many shelters in the Santa Barbara area alone with hundreds of pets looking for loving homes. Even if you’re looking for a purebred, you may find one at an animal shelter. For a listing of Santa Barbara area rescue groups, animal controls and humane societies, click on the following link: http://www.animaladoptionsolutions.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=34&Itemid=55. If you don’t see what you’re looking for at a local animal shelter, you can go online. Go to, www.petfinder.com and you can search by area, breed, sex and size of the animal.
Volunteer your time.
If you can’t adopt a pet, consider helping out a shelter by volunteering your time helping out at the shelter or fostering an animal. Not only will you be helping animals in your community, but you also will be building knowledge and skills. Call your local shelter and find out how to start volunteering.
Donate old toys or beds
If your pets have items they no longer use, consider donating them to your local shelter instead of throwing them away. Many shelters will wash and reuse old beds and toys.
Specials for Shelter Appreciation Week
Ellen DeGeneres released a special T-shirt that supports animal rescue. For more information, or to purchase the shirt, visit, http://www.humanesociety.org/news/news/2010/10/ellen_degeneres_laugh_dance_rescue_shirt.html
Celebrate National Shelter Appreciation week by becoming part of the solution!
San Diego-based travel journalist Maggie Espinosa recently published a book titled The Privileged Pooch, Luxury Travel with Your Pet In Southern California. The 206-page, full-color guide profiles unique pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, activities, and shops from San Diego to Santa Barbara. Twenty-one pages are devoted to the Santa Barbara/Ojai area. Espinosa will be in town for a book signing at the State Street Barnes & Noble on Saturday, November 20, 2-4 p.m. The author is really looking forward to meeting the laid back pups of the American Riviera. For more information on visit, www.travelwithmaggie.com