By Jim Tedford, Director of Animal Welfare Initiatives and Alliances
We are in the midst of a very important week. By the time you are reading this post, the US presidential election will be in the history books. Hope things went your way! And, I hope our country can come together in support of whomever we chose to lead us into this exciting, uncertain future.
But, I’m not here to talk politics. I’m here to talk APPRECIATION. You see, this is also National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week. Established by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)in 1996, this week has been set aside to pay tribute to the multitude of contributions made by animal shelters in communities all over the country.
Most of the work done by our shelters is done quietly and with little or no fanfare. But, the work is profound and critically important nonetheless. The people who work day in and day out on behalf of the voiceless deserve so much praise. They don’t necessarily want the praise…they just want to save lives. But, they are more than worthy of our gratitude.
Imagine your community without shelters and animal rescue groups. Imagine the millions of animals cared for in our shelters each year instead being abandoned to lives on the street. The picture is not pretty and the ripple effect would be huge. The impacts on public health and safety would be immeasurable. And the impact on the welfare of our beloved companions would be devastating.
There are many reasons we should appreciate (and support) animal shelters and the people who work in them. The following represent just a few:
1. Not all dogs and cats are “man’s best friend.” While most are great companions, some can be dangerous to people, wildlife, other companion animals and property. Animal care and control officers take those dangerous animals off the streets to protect our safety.
2. Shelters give us places to learn and grow. Many shelters have solid public education programs for kids and adults alike. Like in all other areas of our lives, knowledge is power…the more we know the better equipped we can be to help animals and people in our communities.
3. Shelters make love connections and supply us with best friends! There are not too many places one can go and walk out with a lifetime supply of unconditional love. Shelters do a great job of helping adopters make decisions that are in the best interest of the pet and the family.
4. Shelters build floodgates to stem the rising tide of unwanted puppies and kittens. Through aggressive spay and neuter efforts –low cost voucher programs, in-house clinics, partnerships with community veterinarians—shelters address the root causes of overpopulation and homelessness rather than simply dealing with the aftermath.
5. Shelters improve the overall health and well-being of companion animals in the communities they serve. By ensuring that all sheltered animals receive optimal veterinary care and are referred to a private veterinary clinic once adopted, shelters make sure that overall populations are healthier and that the spread of disease is slowed significantly. They also are on the front line in the battle against diseases that can spread from animal populations to humans, so our health is better, as well.
There are undoubtedly dozens of other reasons we should appreciate the work being done in animal shelters everywhere. I’ll bet you could help us build this list- comment on this blog and tell us why you appreciate your local animal shelter and rescue groups.
Pause for just a moment this week to think about how much your community animal shelters and animal rescue groups mean to you personally. And, better yet, translate those thoughts into actions by thanking your shelter in some tangible way. Many rely on private contributions to keep the doors open and to perform their lifesaving work. So, make a donation in honor of the men and women who work so hard every day to make your community a safer place for people and animals alike.
Jim Tedford serves as PetSafe’s Director of Animal Welfare Initiatives and Alliances. Working on the front line of animal welfare for over 20 years, Jim has served as CEO for organizations in New York, Louisiana and Tennessee. Prior to joining PetSafe, Jim provided marketing and fundraising services to animal welfare organizations nationwide. Jim holds a degree in animal science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Jim and his wife Ann share their “empty nest” in the Smoky Mountains with adopted dogs Bodie, Sam, and Lila and a formerly homeless macaw, Gipper.