One of the most well-known national animal sanctuaries, Best Friends Animal Society, located in southeastern Utah, is about a 13-hour drive from where I live in Wyoming. I have visited twice and volunteered once. What an amazing place!
For many years, Best Friends has been on the frontlines of the “No-Kill” movement, a vision of seeing that no healthy, adoptable animal is euthanized in America’s shelters. Recently, the non-profit organization turned up the volume, and the heat, to make no-kill a reality by 2025. Staff and volunteers believe that achievement is possible.
The main Best Friends sanctuary is located outside of the small town of Kanab, Utah, which itself is located within 20 miles of the Arizona border is southeastern Utah. The beautiful red sandstone rocks of that area, which includes Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, offers a dazzling, inspiring backdrop to the 200+ acre sanctuary. This special place provides a temporary (and sometimes permanent) home for dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, horses, and other animals. This group took in more than 20 of the Michael Vick dogs, several of which were later re-homed with loving families. Best Friends has done so much good around the country, including opening new adoption centers in places like Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and New York. Soon, a new Best Friends center will open in Houston. They partner with other animal welfare groups across the country, such as Austin Pets Alive! And most recently, a small Texas town that receives thousands of animals each year. Texas leads the nation in number of shelter animals killed each year, and Best Friends – among other groups – wants to make a positive impact for pets in that state.
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) estimates the number of dogs and cats that enter animal shelters in the United States to be around 6.5 million; 1.5 million of those, including healthy, adoptable animals, are killed. That doesn’t have to happen. If adoption rates would rise above the current 50 percent, more positive outcomes for more animals would result.
Can no-kill hapen in America during the next seven years? Best Friends envisions such a possibility. With organizations like Best Friends Animal Society and adoption supporters throughout the nation like you and me, it can be done. Let’s all do our part to educate people about the joy of pet adoption and raise the mantra of #AdoptDon’tShop in our own communities as well as via social media. There are two weeks left of October’s Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, and November brings Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month. Think about one thing you can do to make a positive impact on shelter animals these next several weeks, and let’s help Best Friends attain the goal of #NoKill2025 – for the sake – and the lives – of these animals.
Kitten season – the time of year where animal shelters and rescues are inundated with litters of felines … and it’s going on now.
What will happen to all of these little ones, and the ones that will be born later this year and the ones born to those youngsters also not spayed? Will each one find a special home? Doubtful.
More than one million dogs, cats, puppies and kittens are euthanized in animal shelters annually, according to the ASPCA. Between strays (especially stray cats and kittens) which aren’t reclaimed by owners and animals that aren’t adopted (only about half of the animals that go into shelters are adopted, the ASPCA notes), sadly many animals, especially cats and kittens, lose their lives. That would be less so if more were spayed/neutered, and therefore, not contributing to the population and to the numbers needing to be adopted.
An unspayed female cat and her offspring can contribute several thousand additional cats in a lifetime. Here are a few “cat facts” listed on Georgia’s Fayette Humane Society’s website:
Animal shelters and rescue organizations become overwhelmed with the number of kittens brought to them during “kitten season.” This makes for a very good reason to fix one’s pets/cats.
Many myths exist about spaying and neutering, and most are just that: myths. Here are some facts about pets that are fixed:
If you have concerns about the surgery and its effect on your pet (the animal does have to undergo anesthesia, discuss these with your vet. No one is more knowledgeable about surgical procedures and the pros and cons of spaying and neutering than your veterinarian.
To learn more about spaying and neutering myths and facts, visit
Lack of homes and pet overpopulation is a serious national, regional, state and community problem –so let’s fix the problem by fixing our pets – we can all help stop the “littering” problem and help our animal shelters and rescues better deal with “kitten season.”
Another way to help during kitten season? Adopt! With a few more days of June left, the month designated as Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat, you are likely to find a wonderful feline friend, whether kitten or adult cat – perhaps at for a discounted adoption fee. Visit your local animal shelter, humane society, or pet rescue organization, and add a purring, furry friend to your household!
Earlier this month, a day was dedicated to pets with special needs, also known as “specially-abled” pets. Once termed “disabled,” that label infused “not able,” and though pets that are blind, deaf, three-legged, diabetic, etc. may require additional care and patience, these animals are first and foremost dogs and cats, just like any other.
I lived with a blind dog for more than a decade. Her name was Sage, and she taught me many valuable life lessons. In fact, my authorship sprouted because of her. We visited schools, libraries, and bookstores, and she inspired many others with her abilities despite her disability. Other specially-abled pets do the same – they are amazing in how they adapt to their limitations. For example, given the opportunity to have a K-9 cart, pets with immobile back legs race around in play and fun just like an animal with all four functioning legs. I’ve even seen dogs with short front legs adapt to using their hind legs for propulsion, much like a kangaroo.
Their courage, perseverance, joy, and adaptability are inspiring. Sadly, many blind, deaf, two-legged and other specially-abled pets are euthanized because they are perceived as less adoptable; many consider it “more humane” to kill them. Do we perceive the same of people who are blind, deaf, or in wheelchairs?
A wonderful blog post at Pets for Patriots discusses the beauty and joy, as well as some of the challenges, of having a special needs pet. Here’s a link to the post – I hope you’ll take time to read the encouraging words and view photos of some veterans who have specially-abled pets sharing their lives. https://petsforpatriots.org/understanding-the-special-in-special-needs-pets/
Don’t be afraid to adopt a dog or cat with special needs. Not only will you likely be saving a life, but your own life will be enriched by the presence of these loving, fun animals who know no difference between themselves and other pets. Watch this delightful video of a blind and deaf puppy named Piglet, who has learned commands through touch and plays energetically with his canine siblings:
Below is a photo of Sage, my blind dog, navigating stairs. Blind, yes, capable, yes, inspiring, yes!
For centuries humans and dogs have been companions and for more than 100 years people have shown off their pedigreed pooches in a special show in New York City. The 131st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show began this week. During this annual event, the best in breeds compete for the best in their category, and then those seven dogs compete for Best in Show. The pups are pampered, groomed for local, regional, and (owners hope) national competitions. One can learn a lot about dog breeds watching the televised Kennel Club Dog Show, including any new breeds recognized by the AKC (American Kennel Club).
The AKC recognized two new breeds earlier this year: the Nederlandse Kooikerhondje, a spaniel-like canine, and the Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen (GBGV), classified in the Hound Group. The total number of AKC-recognized breeds is now 192. Read more about the newest types here: http://www.akc.org/content/news/articles/newest-akc-recognized-breeds-nederlandse-kooikerhondje-grand-basset-griffon/
The top dog in the country will be chosen tonight at Westminster, from all the pampered, primped, and perfect pets that have competed the past few days. But, for those of us who don’t show our dogs or maybe don’t even care to watch Westminster, is there a program to which we (and our canine companions) can better relate? YES!
On Monday evening, February 19 (next week) Hallmark Channel presents The American Rescue Dog Show. Categories include:
Who might win Best in Rescue? The choice is likely going to be difficult, but I’m rooting for the deaf Dalmatian who lived in several different homes until finding his “true love” (Valentine’s Day is tomorrow after all!) and is being certified as a therapy dog. We can all learn about perseverance, courage and trust from rescue dogs, especially those who have faced more challenging circumstances, like disability and rejection.
Before and during the show, we can tweet and share pictures of our own rescue dogs using the hashtag #BestinRescue and @Hallmark – the company plans to award someone $1,000! That would buy lots of dog biscuits!!
I love Hallmark Channel – many shows and movies are uplifting, funny, and family-friendly. And, I’m delighted at how they often incorporate animals into the programs, including upcoming movies. The company has also chosen to promote pet rescue and adoption, partnering with Adopt-a-Pet to help people look for the proper pet for their household: http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/2018-american-rescue-dog-show/adopt-a-pet-search.
They also provide a listing of the rescues from where the Rescue Dog Show contenders were adopted: http://www.hallmarkchannel.com/2018-american-rescue-dog-show/rescue-organizations.
Wyoming, the state in which I live, stepped into the rescue spotlight earlier this month. Governor Matt Mead signed a proclamation declaring February as Adopt a Rescue Pet Month. My state hasn’t been the best at protecting companion animals until recently. Because of many rescue organizations which have cropped up in the state, including Cheyenne-based Black Dog Animal Rescue, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year, more attention and compassion has been given toward pets by legislative measures and other means. We still have a long way to go in this state, but thanks to the governor’s recent action and the increasing number of people involved with and supporting rescue endeavors, I believe Wyoming may continue making positive strides.
Rescue Dogs Rock! I’m the guardian to two in my household, and we’re going to sit back and enjoy Hallmark Channel’s American Dog Rescue Show next Monday evening as well as many upcoming movies with pets as co-stars – I hope you and furry friends will do the same.
Do you know you can change a pet’s life? Wednesday, January 24, is designated Change a Pet’s Life Day, and you can help do that.
Change a Pet’s Life Day started in 2009 to draw attention to the many homeless pets and to encourage adoption, bring awareness to animal welfare issues, and, for many, to establish a time to celebrate shelter/rescue workers and volunteers, who make a difference in the lives of homeless animals every day. All of us can do something to positively change the lives of animals. One of those ways, and an important one, is to adopt.
Every year, millions of animals are brought into animal shelters and rescues. Although adoption rates have increased during the past two decades, there are still about 50 percent that are not. Therefore, as a society, we still have a long way to go and improvements to make regarding pet adoption.
However, for some, adoption isn’t always possible. If that is you, what are other ways you can change a pet’s life? Here are a few ideas:
If you do decide to adopt another pet, it’s important to choose the animal that’s right for your lifestyle. Learn about the variety of dog and cat breeds, including their personalities and needs, from these sources:
American Kennel Club -- http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/?_ga=2.126130569.505065269.1516415304-2085044977.1514578697
Dogtime -- http://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/profiles
Jen’s Reviews -- https://www.jenreviews.com/dog-breeds/
Cattime -- http://cattime.com/cat-breeds
Purina -- https://www.purina.com/cats/cat-breeds
Petfinder -- https://www.petfinder.com/cat-breeds/
What will you do this week to change a pet’s life?
This is not the only special pet day this week, this month, or this year. There are many special pet holidays, including yesterday’s National Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. For a run-down of the rest of 2018’s special days honoring animals, visit this site: https://www.dogtipper.com/fun/pet-holidays.
Living in the 21st century has many perks, from technological gadgets to how, as a society, we view animals. According to the American Pet Products Association, 68 percent of people living in the United States own a pet, with the majority (60.2 million) having dogs and 47.1 million having cats. The organization estimates that nearly $70 billion was spent on pets by pet owners in 2017, up from 66.75 billion in 2016. Americans certainly seem to love their pets!
Still, improvements are greatly needed, especially in the areas of animal adoption and pet ownership responsibility.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), nearly 6.5 million animals enter shelters and rescues every year; they are comprised of owner surrenders, strays, and animals rescued from hoarding, dog fighting, and puppy/kitty mill operations. Only about half are adopted. More than 700,000 strays are reunited with their owners; sadly, less than five percent of the cats that come in as strays are reclaimed, and many of the animals brought in are not spayed or neutered.
Pet ownership responsibility includes caring for one’s animal, providing food, water, shelter, and medical treatment. In addition to vaccinations and teeth cleaning, medical care should include spaying and neutering. Such procedures curb the number of litters born, and therefore, helps cut down on the number of animals needing homes, either through the owner giving/selling the youngsters or taking them to rescues and shelters. Cats and dogs can breed two to three times a year, having an average of six babies per litter. Multiple that out over the course of five to seven years, and you have thousands more animals per unsprayed female. For every kitten or puppy sold or given away by owners, that’s one less adopted and therefore, one more possibly euthanized.
Until there are less strays, less owner relinquishment, more adoptions, and more spaying and neutering, no more animal hoarding or puppy/kitten mills, there will be the need for animal shelters and rescues.
We all can do our part to positively impact responsibility and rescue. Here are some suggestions:
Although America has come a long way since the 1970s when 12 to 20 million pets were killed in animal shelters across the country, there a great need still exists for pet ownership responsibility and, therefore, for animal rescues and shelters. Let’s all do something to help continue the downward trend of euthanasia rates and increase pet ownership responsibility. Maybe one we will realize the #NoKill dream many animal welfare organizations envision – that no healthy, adoptable animal is euthanized – but it takes responsible pet owners to get there.
The pictures we saw appalled and enraged many. Photos of a dog’s mouth wrapped in electrical tape circulated the internet in 2015. A dog named Diamond was found by her previous owner with physical and emotional injuries, and the abuse led authorities to the dog’s then-owner. Charges were filed and the case was soon to come to court. However, according to a recent article by The Doggington Post, the man, 43-year-old William Leonard Dodson was sentence to 15 years in prison on unrelated charges. He may still receive additional time for the abuse afflicted on Caitlyn, who continues to recover in a foster home. Read the full article here: http://www.dogingtonpost.com/caitlyn-the-dogs-abuser-sentenced-to-15-years-prison-on-unrelated-charges/
April is just around the corner, and with it, in addition to the rain showers that can bring May flowers, is the month to bring greater awareness to animal abuse. Known as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, many animal shelters and humane organizations use this month to educate and inform people that animal abuse is, sadly, still alive and well. Many such cases remind us of that sad fact.
For example, the dog fighting operations led by football great Michael Vick made significant headlines and shown a light on this dark, disgusting trade; a small terrier mix, later named Hazel Grace by her rescuers, was burned with a blow torch – the miracle survivor often acts as a poster child for abuse cases in the Midwest; in Utah, family’s beloved pet cat was tortured to death; and in my state of Wyoming, a dog with broken toes and other injuries was rescued by and received veterinary care by a Cheyenne animal welfare organization.
Experts contend that animal abuse often escalates to violence against people, including domestic violence, homicide, and mass murder.
According to the ASPCA, every 60 seconds an animal is abused. What can you do to help fight animal cruelty? Here are a few ways:
Read more about helping prevent cruelty to animals by visiting this website: https://www.americanhumane.org/fact-sheet/animal-abuse/
Many people stood up for and continue to stand up for Caitlyn. See the inspiring video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTvC1ntqCpI
Be a voice for the voiceless and be a hero to animals like Caitlyn. The more heroes and concerned citizens there are, the more we’ll stop such torture.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.