Overcrowding, tight budgets and supply shortages come nose-to-nose with creative answers
With dogs living in over half of all American households, chances are you’ve been to your local dog shelter at least once. You’ve probably been hit up for a donation, asked to become a volunteer, and of course, been tempted to take home a four-footed pal.
But shelters can no longer rely solely on the stream of nice local people who happen to wander in. Now that the internet has expanded our local neighborhood to a global neighborhood, animal shelters are joining the pack in some clever ways. But before we look at those answers, let’s look in depth at the issues dog shelters are facing.
Always Room for One More?
Overcrowding is the beginning of a whole pack of problems facing dog shelters. Private shelters have the option of turning away elderly, sick or aggressive dogs, but state and municipal shelters are often required to accept every canine dropped at their door. If adoption rates don’t keep up with in-takes the shelter can become overcrowded, and that spirals to other problems such as socialization issues, overburdened budgets, high staff turnover, lack of space for families to meet with their new pets, the spread of disease, and overall stressed living conditions for the animals. Unadoptable pets can meet with some nasty fates, such as inhumane euthanization by drowning or gassing. Some could even end up as test animals for research experiments in what is known as pound seizure. Aggressive dogs can end up “adopted” as guard dogs and never return to a normal family life.
Long Way from Home
Most stray dogs had owners at one time; they end up the street when they can’t get shelter space. No-kill shelters sound humane on the surface, but because they do have the option of refusing unadoptable dogs, they often do. Or, they may charge a surrender fee of $50-$200 that some owners can’t afford or aren’t willing to pay. Either way, owners who don’t have the option of surrendering their pets may leave them to fend for themselves. As you can imagine, lacking survival skills these poor pooches face starvation, painful mange, frostbite, heat stroke, dehydration, injuries, and exacerbation of existing medical conditions, not to mention the emotional toll of being abandoned. If pets are finally taken to a shelter after being abandoned their condition can be much worse. Rehabilitating them physically and emotionally is much more expensive, and in an overcrowded shelter, increases their chances of being euthanized.
Cash donations are always welcome. Dog shelter budgets have to cover everything from dog food to administrative costs to cleaning supplies, and many times there is more need than there is budget. Many shelters rely on donations from the public, but not everyone knows if you don’t have cash, you can donate goods. Check out the list of 15 things dog shelters need.
The Ingenious Fixes
Dogs are worth fighting for, of course, and good people who manage and volunteer at dog shelters have mobilized modern resources in clever, creative ways that wouldn’t have been available before COVID ignited the internet.
National Shelter Pet Adoption Day
If donuts and putting on your own shoes can have their national day, so can dog shelters! Starting in 2006, April 30 was dedicated as National Shelter Pet Adoption Day. With the 2020 explosion of the internet audience, the national day helps dog shelters create unprecedented online momentum around dog adoption. Shelters partner with pet shops, local festivals, and other outreach events to put adorably adoptable dogs front and center of the public eye on April 30. The day even has its own hashtag, #AdoptAShelterPetDay. Check it out to see proud new forever families celebrating April 30. Like your local shelter’s Facebook page and keep your eyes peeled for updates.
What better way to spark interest in a new dog than to make it a trending vlog star? The Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter in Ohio takes viewers on a weekly virtual visit to each furry friend, where you can learn their cute names, watch them gobble treats, and see their personalities in action. Stardom is paying off–by the time dogs are eligible to be adopted, many of them have eager families on wait lists.
Often pets are slow to be adopted because no one knows about them. DoSomething.org, a youth-sponsored nonprofit volunteer hub, recruits volunteer pet-publicists to get the word out. You don’t have to be a kid to participate. Just snap pics of waiting dogs and post on social media.
Looking to adopt a particular breed but don’t see it at your local shelter? AdoptAPet.com matches shelter dogs with prospective new families across the United States. Here in Colorado, my housemate found a Himalayan terrier mutt, Heath, in a Louisiana dog shelter. Heath and about a dozen of his shelter mates of various breeds were shipped to Colorado Springs, where new owners from as far as Grand Junction (about 4 hours) waited to take them to forever homes. The program is proving popular as shelters in southern states, where pet adoptions are traditionally low, transport adoptees to western and northern states where pet adoptions are more common.
Are these solutions working? Yes. Pet adoptions were up 250% in 2019, and while the steep rise in adoptions is COVID-related, the upward trend of pet adoption has been pretty solid since 2016. With nearly 70,000 unwanted puppies and kittens born every day, they have a bright future in the hands of the warm, loving folks who get creative to get them adopted.
Get Dog is Love Pet Shampoo free with any gallon purchase through May 24. Use it for your dog, or donate it to your local pet shelter!
Did you know? Pro-Tek donates a portion of every purchase to our local dog shelter in Glenns Ferry, ID.