When dogs come into animal shelters, they are often tied up, fearful and feeling awful -- in short, not looking their best. But professional pet photographer Seth Casteel is one of many volunteers across the country who come to the rescue of such homeless dogs. At the West Los Angeles Animal Care Center, he plays with the skittish dogs, gets to know their unique personalities and captures their happy moments. The resulting memorable photographs are later featured on websites, newspapers and other places advertising dogs up for adoption.
Casteel’s talent happens to be photography, but you can use your own particular skills to help shelter dogs. Jennifer Lu, communications manager at the San Francisco SPCA, says, “Our goal is to place animals in caring homes, but there are many ways in which people can support the process leading up to this end goal.”
The Obvious One: Donate Money
As is the case with many facilities, the San Francisco SPCA is funded solely by donations. But do you know how your money actually helps out the animals? Lu broke down some typical donation amounts, and how the money can be used:
- $15: a flea treatment for a puppy or adult dog
- $50: heartworm test for dogs
- $60: full medical exam for an incoming new dog
- $90: microchip identification insertion and vaccinations
- $350: dog spay or neuter surgery
Inga Fricke, director of Shelter Initiatives for the Humane Society of the United States, says she was recently touched by stories of young students who instead of accepting birthday or holiday gifts, requested money to help their local animal shelter. Once the money is donated, sometimes shelters will offer personal tours or other fun rewards for students.
Donate Services to Animal Shelters
As Casteel proves, all sorts of services can be useful to shelters. Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Cypress, Texas, for example, is now seeking these donated services: printing, advertising, general contracting, electrical, plumbing, septic, concrete and brick work, landscaping and lawn service. The San Francisco SPCA is even looking for volunteers to staff the windows at Macy’s during the shelter’s big winter holiday adoption drive at the popular department store.
If you cannot adopt a dog but still enjoy spending time with canines, consider offering to exercise a bit with dogs, an activity that Fricke said really assists many shelters. Just an hour of your time each day can work wonders -- and whittle down your waistline too. “For dog lovers, our volunteers take our dogs on daily walks to get them much-needed physical and mental exercise,” explains Lu.
Foster a Dog
If you cannot take on the commitment of a full-time adoption, think about fostering a puppy or adult dog for a limited period of time. Says Lu: “Nearly 1,000 animals a year who are too young or ill to be immediately adopted are cared for by foster volunteers who nurse them and prepare them for adoption.”
Contact Local Veterinarians
Yet another way to help reduce the number of homeless dogs is “to prevent them from winding up in shelters in the first place,” according to Fricke. Encourage local veterinarians to offer low-cost spaying and neutering and to collaborate with neighborhood shelters. Fricke says that “some veterinarians participate in free vaccination clinics or refer animal behaviorists that can help socialize pets that are up for adoption.”
If You Are Allergic to Dogs …
If you love animals but are allergic to dogs, you can still help reduce the number of homeless dogs and improve the lives of those already in shelters. Fricke suggests organizing a food and blanket drive to obtain items desperately needed by animal care staff.
Noah’s Ark Animal Shelter in Houston, for example, needs everyday items like soap and newspapers. But medical and office supplies are also on its “wish list,” along with a van equipped with air-conditioning. A representative mentions that “the animals cannot be transported in Houston’s sweltering heat without risking heatstroke. We really need another van to safely transport the animals.”
One of the easiest, most effortless ways to help is to do just what you are doing now: Go online. Lu explains that “we and other shelters are embracing social media as a way to promote both programs as a whole and specific animals.” She asks that you look for your local shelter on Facebook and Twitter. With a simple mouse click, you can help share information about events, fundraising and adoptable animals.