Thanks to new and innovative approaches to modern sheltering, kill rates are declining across the country and adoption rates are on the rise.
Even cities with historically difficult animal welfare challenges are changing fortunes for pets – and their people, too.
Nipping problems in the bud
There is a saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Shelters – including rescues, SPCAs, humane societies, and municipal animal controls – often believe that their work begins once an animal comes through their doors.
But increasingly modern sheltering is about preventing animals from entering the shelter system in the first place.
Supporting owners in need and facilitating person-to-person adoptions are among the most effective approaches to reduce unnecessary shelter intake.
The availability of low-cost spay/neuter can reduce the population of unwanted pets substantially. Yet affordable services are lacking in many areas of the country where they are needed most.
According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), 87 percent of animals in underserved communities are not fixed. And 77 percent have never taken their pets to a veterinarian.
The challenge is both economic and educational, as well. Public education about the importance of spay/neuter goes hand-in-hand with making those services available.
Not every animal welfare organization has the capacity to offer spay/neuter or other basic, essential pet health services.
But every shelter can partner with local veterinary practices to make affordable spay/neuter more readily available. Some veterinarians have mobile spay/neuter vans to more easily serve communities in need and participate in on-site shelter events.
Petsmart Charities maintains an online searchable database of its clinics that offer spay/neuter services around the country.
And the HSUS has an online state-by-state listing of various organizations that assist pet guardians in need – including low-cost spay/neuter programs.
Modern sheltering: bypass the shelter altogether
Pets are often surrendered by people who did not know they had other options to find their beloved dog or cat a new home.
These animals wind up in shelters – straining facilities that were meant as a refuge for a community’s most vulnerable pets.
When shelters become overwhelmed with dogs and cats who have other options for rehoming it challenges their ability to help those pets who are in greatest need.
Adopt-a-Pet’s Rehome gives pet guardians a huge online platform to help find their pet a new home and bypass the shelter altogether. Creating a pet profile takes just a few minutes and, once live, will appear in searches for millions of potential adopters to see.
Get Your Pet is another, similar online community to pair people who need to rehome their pets with those seeking to adopt.
Temporary food support is another vital aspect of modern sheltering to keep people and pets together. However, not every shelter has the capacity to manage its own pet food bank.
Consider reaching out to local human pet food banks and work with them to include pet food.
Contact local houses of worship that operate food banks or donation drives. Encourage them to add pet food and basics to their inventory. You might even collaborate with them to drive pet-related donations to their coffers.
Best Friends Animal Society offers tips on how to organize a pet food drive. These activities can be done by your shelter on its own or collaboratively with other pet- and human-resource organizations in your community.
Rescue Bank grants pet food and supplies to qualified nonprofit animal shelters, with particular emphasis on smaller, under-resourced shelters.
What modern sheltering techniques are working in your animal welfare organization?