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!
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.
Springtime brings more people outdoors and thoughts about adding a pet to one’s life often occurs during better weather. Playing with a dog in the backyard, taking walks in the neighborhood and beyond, and opening windows to smell fresh air and hear birds sing conjure up ideas about sharing experiences – and life – with a four-footed friend.
Adopting a pet from a local shelter or rescue is a positive thing; oftentimes, adoption saves lives. The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), which promotes Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month during April, reports that nearly 6.5 million animals are brought into animal shelters across the nation each year, and about 1.5 are killed in those facilities, oftentimes due to lack of adoption and lack of space. Therefore, adoption does save lives.
However, before running out to your local animal shelter or pet rescue organization, there are five questions a person should honestly answer before bringing a pet home. They are:
Let’s take a quick look at each of these questions and hopefully, help you answer them.
Being ready for a pet means examining your lifestyle and family situation. Primarily, do you have enough time to devote to a pet? Is someone responsible enough to not just feed and water the animal, but also to spend quality time playing with and providing activity and companionship for the pet? How many hours do you and your family spend away from home, which would leave the pet alone, possibly bored which, in turn, could lead to destructive behaviors. Make sure you have time to spend with your adopted animal – before you adopt.
What pet best fits your lifestyle? If you are gone a lot, a cat would likely be better than a dog. Cats are often much more independent; not saying you should ignore your cat, but a kitty doesn’t require walking, running, or playing activities as much as a cat does. Still, all pets need friendship and companionship, no matter what type of animal you consider bringing home. Various breeds of dogs need more, or less, activity, so if you’re considering adopting a dog, research the breed’s activity level requirements as well as personality traits. A great place to go for such information is the American Kennel Club’s website:
Finding a place from which to adopt a pet is fairly easy. There are many organizations whose mission it is to help animals in need of new homes. Local animal shelters and humane societies, as well as a wide variety of rescue organizations make saving pets and re-homing them a priority. The best place to start is your local shelter or rescue. Petfinder.com is also a great resource and helps thousands of pets find new homes every year. At this website, you will find specific breeds and ages of animals simply by using the parameters, and your zip code, at the site.
Speaking of ages, does a puppy or kitten suit your lifestyle or is it best for you to adopt an older animal? Baby and teenaged pets often require much more attention, care, and training, whereas adults and seniors are likely to be already trained and able to spend more time alone without worry of soiled carpet or chewed/clawed up furniture. Carefully consider how much time you have with the pet before being swept away by puppy and kitten cuteness.
Another option for adoption is a pet with a disability. These are often the most overlooked, and therefore, most likely to die in shelters. Yet, they are loving, faithful friends when given the chance. Blind, deaf, three-legged, or diabetic, these animals need loving, dedicated homes, too, oftentimes more so than “normal” pets. Consider adopting a pet with a disability, but also carefully consider the pets needs and if you can meet those needs. Deaf animals can – and do – respond to training via hand signals, and blind pets need more safety measures in place. These things are doable, and not costly.
So, are you ready to adopt a pet? Find more information about pet adoption and pet care at https://www.aspca.org/adopt-pet/adoption-tips
You may have seen news clips or online photos of children reading to animals. Many libraries across the nation have implemented a “Read to the Dog” program, in which children and therapy dogs spend time together at the library, with the children reading to the dogs. But, did you know there are also programs in animal shelters in which children read to the shelter’s residents, cats or dogs? These programs have multiple benefits: helping children improve their reading skills, helping socialize shelter pets, and developing stronger human-animal bonds for both pets and people.
The Animal Rescue League of Berks County in Pennsylvania started a Book Buddies program in 2013. Through this endeavor, children in grades 1 through 8 who can read at any level can come to the shelter during regular business hours and read to the cats available for adoption. According to the organization’s website, “the program will help children improve their reading skills while also helping the shelter animals by providing socialization and human interaction. Cats find the rhythmic sound of a voice very comforting and soothing.”
Many literacy experts say children feel more relaxed and less self-conscious reading to animals than reading in front of their peers, to a teacher, or with their parents. Pets and children go together like peanut butter and jelly – mingling and mixing and enjoying one another, all the while improving kids’ reading skills and providing socialization and connection with animals.
In my state of Wyoming, the Sheridan County Library offers a Read-to-the-Dog program several days a week, and north in Montana, the Lewis and Clark Library in Helena also provides such a paw-some service. Children of different ages and reading levels can come and read to a certified therapy dog.
In Salt Lake City, Intermountain Therapy Animals offers a Reading Education Assistance Dogs program, also called R.E.A.D. This program uses already registered therapy dogs and their handlers and trains them to work as a team to improve child literacy. The human-dog teams can go into schools, be at libraries, and visit other settings to serve as reading companions for children.
My dog Mary and I have visited libraries in our area off and on for the past few years. Although we haven’t been part of a Read to the Dog program, we have conducted programs about pet adoption and rescue (my husband and I adopted Mary in 2013 from English Springer Spaniel Rescue), and I have read to children from my various books while Mary sat quietly near my audience and they petted and loved on her. I’m happy to share my sweet Mary with these little ones who hug her, pet her, and talk to her. And her wagging stub of a tail assures me she loves the attention lavished upon and by her!
March is Paws to Read Month, a reminder that children and pets share a special bond, and that implementing a library or shelter program by which children can read to animals either in school, at the library, or at the local animal shelter benefits both kids and pets. If your local library or animal shelter doesn’t have such a program, perhaps you can be the catalyst to help start one. Speak to your shelter’s director or board, speak to your children’s librarian or the library director. Tell them about some of these programs in place around the country. Be an advocate for children’s literacy, therapy animals, and shelter pets, helping benefit kids and animals simultaneously.
A little more than a year ago, my husband and I lost our nearly 18-year-old cocker spaniel named Cody. We had adopted him when he was almost 10 years of age. He had been used as a stud dog for a breeder and then basically tossed away like yesterday’s garbage. When we discovered him at our local humane society, his sad spaniel eyes ignited my heart. Even though he likely wouldn’t be with us but a few years, we determined to give him the best couple of years of his life. Two years turned into three, into five, into seven. At 17 ¾ years of age, Cody crossed the Rainbow Bridge, knowing he was loved, adored, and pampered to the very end.
Our hearts and home are more empty since his passing, but the nearly eight years we shared with Cody were filled with laughter, joy, and love.
We still have Mary, a springer-cocker mix we adopted four years ago this week. She was nearly seven when she came to live with us, and we credit Mary with helping keep Cody going as long as he did. They shared walks in the woods with us, trips to the dog park, and travels in the car, as well as cuddles on the couch and snuggles in bed. Their friendship was very special, especially considering they were not raised together.
Mary turns 11 next week. We’ve considered adopting another dog as she was raised with a smaller pup prior to her going into rescue at the death of her special person in 2012. She misses Cody; that was readily apparent in the early months after Cody’s passing. She is bonded to us, especially to my husband who often gets to work from home. When does a person know the right time to adopt a pet, whether one pet has passed or a person has never been the guardian of an animal before?
Just like with having kids, no time may be the actual “right time” to adopt, but one thing is for sure: a person must MAKE TIME to care for a pet properly. I would encourage anyone considering adopting a pet to make sure you have time to give, that your life is not so incredibly full that the animal will be left alone for countless hours and have little interaction with its human family. Too many animals are given up because of the excuse “I don’t have time for it.” Just as children need nurturing, attention, and care, so do our pets. They rely on us, they need us, and they want us to share time and activities with them.
So, if you’re thinking of adopting a pet, ensure you won’t change your mind in a month or so and say “I don’t have time.” First and foremost, make sure time is something you do have, or will make, before bringing a pet into your home.
And, if you think you can’t find the type of pet, the breed of dog or cat you want, think again: not all shelter pets are “mutts.” In fact, depending on where you live and what you’re looking for, 5 to 25 percent of shelter pets are purebred. Look on Petfinder.com for a specific breed, sex, and even whether they’re good with children or other animals. And, view this website for some of the types of dog breeds one is likely to find at shelters: https://mom.me/pets/19900-dog-breeds-commonly-found-animal-shelters/. Additionally, specific breed rescues can be found at this website: http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/rescue-network/contacts/.
Is it time for my husband and I to adopt another dog? Not yet, but likely by the end of the year. I do look, and I do consider. And perhaps we’ll change our minds mid-year and adopt again at that time. We’ll know when the time is right – I believe you will, too for you and your family.
Every year millions of dogs and cats go into animal shelters and pet rescues. “We’re moving,” is a primary reason given for leaving pets at animal shelters. Sometimes, however, when that move is due to a house foreclosure, the pets are simply left in the home and come to the attention of the bank or real estate broker when an inspection of the home is conducted.
Leaving a pet behind is morally, and often legally, wrong, and can leave a pet not just confused and lonely, but also create behavior problems for it, making it less adoptable. If you must move and can’t take your pet, please contact your local animal shelter or pet rescue organization as soon as possible. Give your beloved, faithful furry companion the opportunity to find a new, loving home by trusting those organizations and people who give of themselves to find homes for needy animals.
If you are facing foreclosure or need to move for another reason, before leaving your animal behind or even with a rescue organization, read this informational guide produced by StopForeclosuresHelp.com – it provides tips and statistics helpful for people who are facing this problem and have animals that will need care. It also provides information for people who want to help abandoned animals. Visit the site for help and information: http://www.stopforeclosureshelp.com/how-to-help-abandoned-pets/.
Guest Post by Kelly Wright, Rover.com
Those of us who have had the honor of adding a rescue pet to our families know what incredible creatures they are — and so do the amazing people working in animal rescue who make these connections possible!
Through our conversations with rescue volunteers for our latest feature, Real-life Heroes: Animal Rescue Volunteers Share How They Keep Fighting the Good Fight, the Rover.com team learned that although there are many of us who are advocates of adopting, rescue pets are still often misunderstood. And unfortunately, these misconceptions often prevent loving animals from finding their forever homes.
Here are a few falsehoods rescuers want to clear up about the animals they save:
All kinds of breeds need to be rescued — even purebreds
It is a flat-out myth that there are only mixed or large breeds available for adoption. No matter what kind of critter your heart desires, you’re likely to find one in your local shelter or rescue.
“What we get a lot of is that people want a purebred, or they need a hypoallergenic dog for allergies. We have those in rescues,” said Lisa Jensen, a Board Member of Safe Haven Animal Rescue in Oklahoma City. “In Oklahoma, we have a problem with puppy mills, and we often get the rejects from the mills. Those kids are great dogs, and purebred!”
And if your local rescue doesn’t have what you’re looking for, Lisa said you can still opt to adopt: “Even in the shelters, we have so many purebreds!”
You’re also not limited to rescuing an adult if you have hopes of bringing a puppy or kitten into your home.
“If you are looking for a younger animal, shelters often have puppies and kittens,” said Jessi Burns, Marketing and Communications Manager of Foothills Animal Shelter in Colorado.
They come with ‘built-in’ benefits
Of course, if you are open to adopting an adult or even a senior pet, there are plenty in need of a good home — and it turns out, there are a lot of perks to picking a pet with a little experience under his belt!
“A lot of shelter animals are adults, so what you see is what you get,” Jessi explained. “When you meet them, you can get an idea about their personality, size, and energy level.”
And this can be especially helpful for parents with younger children, and aren’t looking for another “kid” to raise.
“In addition, most have already lived in a home environment, so they know how to behave appropriately and won’t chew on your furniture or go to the bathroom indoors,” Jessi went on.
They’re truly good pets — the rescues do their homework!
It is true that tragically, many of the animals that wind up in shelters or in rescues have had a rough start, and some are a bit more timid than others due to past neglect or even abuse.
But don’t let that stop you from adoption — the volunteers who work in animal rescue put every effort into rehabilitating animals physically and emotionally, and don’t adopt them out until they’re confident they’re ready for their new family.
“Yes, animals with behavior issues do come into rescue, but those animals are placed in experienced foster homes,” Marina Hebert, a volunteer with Small Animal Rescue Society of BC in Vancouver, pointed out.
Many people who foster have years of experience working with special-needs pets, and work with rescues time and again to make sure that these creatures get the time and attention they need before going off to their forever homes.
“The ones rescues put up for adoption have been carefully screened,” explained Marina.
The close relationship fosterers and rescuers share with the pets they care for not only helps ensure that they’re ready to live with a new family, but also that they’ll end up with the perfect people.
“They’ve spent time with volunteers who know all their needs and quirks, and actually know them so they can match them to the right people,” Marina said.
The truth is, every animal deserves a happy life, no matter how they got their start. If you’re interested in adding a new furry — or feather, or scaly, or even hairless! — family member to your brood, consider visiting your local shelter or rescue.
As Jessi told us, not only will you save a life, but you’ll also make an irreplaceable friend. “I truly believe that shelter animals make the most amazing pets and companions!”
Kelly Wright explores and celebrates the magical and mysterious bond between pets and people for Rover.com’s Animal Heroes section. If you have an amazing story about how an animal has brought joy and wonder to your life, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.