Animal shelters and rescues are some of the first charity organizations to come to mind when people think about where to volunteer or make donations to. The work that they do is often praised and seen as a necessity. Some of the more cynical people around us may ask why they are so important and well liked. Today we’re going to take a dive into why the work that shelters and rescues do is so helpful.
Did you know that cats are actually an invasive species? They hunt for fun, and large colonies can decimate local wildlife populations. They also reproduce rapidly, with around 70,000 new animals being born in a day. This is close to 3,000 an hour! Shelters and rescues make sure to get cats and dogs that come in spayed and neutered to prevent these numbers from climbing. Many even run TNR (trap, neuter, release) programs to help control the local populations. This protects many local species, like the endangered bird, the Kirtland’s Warbler, from being hunted to extinction. That means more birds coming to your feeders, and more varieties of birds too!
Cats aren’t the only ones that pose a threat if left on the streets though. Dogs that are left on the streets can become aggressive or fearful, which poses a danger to anyone that tries to get too close. Shelters can take in these dogs with bad dispositions and rehabilitate them so they aren’t aggressive or fearful. Some dogs may even become loving family pets down the line. Dogs may attempt to cross busy roads, resulting in car accidents. Thankfully most instances don’t result in injuries, but the potential is still there. Removing dogs from the streets is safer for them and people.
Providing Veterinary Care
In addition to spaying and neutering animals, shelters and rescues also provide much needed veterinary care. Sick and injured animals are taken to the vet, where they receive necessary treatment in order to recover. Many pets’ lives have been saved by the generous care provided by vets, and the donations made to pay for that vet care. It is typical for dogs and cats that are taken in to get a health screening, which may show underlying conditions. It’s not at all uncommon to hear about a dog being brought in with heartworms, and this wouldn’t be known without the veterinary care provided by shelters and rescues. Knowing about any illnesses allows them to be treated, giving the dog or cat in question a much better chance at finding a home.
Providing a Safe Haven for Strays and Abandoned Pets
Let’s talk about the most obvious benefit of having rescues and shelters. They care for any unwanted or abandoned animals. They take in the strays, and we all love a good underdog story. It helps us sleep at night knowing that these animals are in a warm facility with food and water instead of roaming the streets and hoping for their next meal. It’s a classic feel-good story where everyone is happy in the end. And these animals often get a second chance to be loved again, as most shelters and rescues adopt out their animals to loving and caring homes.
Protecting Animals from Abuse
We talked about a feel-good aspect of shelters, and now it’s time to get into something a little darker. Animal abuse exists. It is heart wrenching to think about, but it still manages to lurk in the shadows. We try to spread awareness and stop it from happening, but we can only do so much. Thankfully, most shelters and rescues partner with law enforcement agencies to take animals that were rescued from abusive situations. These animals are taken in, cared for, and then turned over to people that will love and cherish them. Without shelters and rescues taking the time to rehabilitate these neglected and abused animals, they wouldn’t be able to experience a second chance at being loved.
Animal organizations aren’t just great because they take care of the animals within their facilities. They also work to actively educate people about the responsibilities of taking care of pets. From providing tips on how to correctly feed and water your pet to showing people how to groom their new pets, shelters and rescues do a lot more than you might think. Education is half the battle. Without well educated owners, we wouldn’t have well cared for pets, and shelters and rescues would have even more work cut out for them.
Some shelters even partner with local schools to begin teaching children about animals, including how to interact with them. This allows children to grow into educated, animal loving adults! And the more educated people we have, the more happy animals there will be.
Reconnecting Lost Pets
We’ve all had that paralyzing fear. One second you’re opening the door to accept your pizza delivery and the next second, your beloved pet, Fluffy, is gone. You frantically search day and night, but there’s no sign of Fluffy. You almost give up hope when your phone rings. It’s your local animal shelter, and they have Fluffy!
This isn’t an uncommon story. Pets are often unpredictable. They can bolt out the door at a moment's notice or slip out of their collar with ease. Thankfully we have microchip technology, which allows the shelters to quickly scan the animal and find their owner’s information. Even when a pet isn’t microchipped though, most shelters and rescues are active on social media and can quickly get the word out about a found pet. And before you know it, that pet is home safe and sound.
Bringing Communities Together
Pet parades, dog park play dates, and even dog days at the pool are all events that different shelters have organized for their communities. It brings people together in a way that only a good boy or girl can. Even the most socially averse person can warm up when around a loving dog, and begin to develop meaningful relationships with the other people in their community. This also helps raise funds for the local animal organizations, which allows them to continue to provide the care and support that they do for animals.
How You Can Get Involved
There are lots of ways to get involved with your local shelter or rescue. You could donate much needed supplies, like food, toys, treats, or bedding. Many organizations accept used items, so feel free to splurge on that new bed for Fluffy. You can donate the old one to a pet in need. Food is always in high demand. Dry food, canned food, it doesn’t matter. To a shelter pet, food is food! A bed is a bed, and a toy is a toy. They don’t care about the quality, only that they have one.
Don’t have the money to donate? Try volunteering! Dogs need walking, cat boxes need to be cleaned, laundry needs done, animals need to be fed, and so much more. The work of a shelter or rescue never ends. A volunteer or two can make a world of difference. Consider bringing the family along one weekend as a family trip. Animals in need get some extra love and your family gets a fun bonding experience. It’s a win-win!
Adopting a pet is always an option. Overcrowding is a common issue with a lot of shelters, and adopting a pet is a good way to guarantee that there will be room for the next unfortunate animal that needs a shelter’s help. Many shelters will know the general temperament of the animal you adopt, thanks in part to the staff that works there and the volunteers that spend time with them! This means you’re not getting a wild card animal, and you can help their personality thrive.
Fostering is also a great option! Many rescues, including PAWS, work on a foster system. Without an actual shelter, we rely on the help of animal fosters to keep the pets until they find a loving home. This means animals get the love and attention they need to flourish and be healthy, and you get a loving animal to spend time with. The more potential fosters we have, the more animals we can take in. Check with your local shelter or rescue about their requirements for becoming a foster.