Recently, PetSmart came to my community of Casper, Wyoming, the first in the state. I have shopped this big box store for pet supplies in many other towns, enjoying the vast array of food, toy, and treat selections for my animals. Therefore, I was happy to see PetSmart open in my community.
I attended the grand opening, as did many others. How wonderful to see the long lines of pet owners and their beloved animals and to visit with the local rescue groups with which the Casper PetSmart is partnering: cats on one side of the building brought in by Temporary Home Animal Rescue (they rescue cats from Metro, our town’s kill-shelter) and dogs from Black Dog Animal Rescue on the other side of the new store. Our town already had a PetCo, which has been part of the community for several years. I have shopped there also. One of the reasons I shop these stores is not just because of the great varieties of food, toys, and treats, but also because each store has a foundation that supports pet rescue and adoption. Unlike other big-box pet stores, PetCo and PetSmart do not sell dogs, cats, puppies or kittens – they promote adoption and partner with local groups that rescue, spay/neuter, and adopt. This helps in many ways: (1) helps decrease the number of puppy/kitten mills; (2) keeps pet overpopulation/breeding at bay; (3) promotes pet adoption.
The foundations of each of these stores assists rescues and shelters in many ways. PetSmart Charities, for example, promotes pet adoptions and spay/neuter, to save lives. Nearly three million dogs and cats are killed in shelters every year. Through PetSmart stores and the Charities program, adoption events are held several weekends every year; in fact, one is planned for this weekend (check the closest PetSmart store near you). The PetCo Foundation also supports and promotes pet adoption events; the organization also raises awareness about and contributes to finding a cure for cancer in pets. And, both organizations/businesses support disaster relief regarding displaced pets. These are reasons I am happy PetSmart and PetCo are in my community. I like supporting small businesses also; however, the impact of these larger stores not only helps the homeless animals in my town, but also reaches beyond my community, helping animals in need across the country.
Another wonderful organization is Petfinder.com – not only can a person find a new furry friend via the group’s online search of shelters and rescues, but they provide wonderful resources on pet care. Petfinder also has a foundation, the mission of which is to “help ensure that no adoptable pet is euthanized for lack of a good home.” The group also helps in times of natural disaster, including the recent raving wildfires that took place in California.
As I wrote in a blog post last year about “it takes a digital village” to reunite pets, it takes a village to help pets in general. People who work in animal shelters, volunteer or staff rescues, individuals who adopt and donate, and businesses and organizations who partner with those shelters and rescues, and those who donate and/or purchase through those organizations and businesses (like PetCo/Foundation, PetSmart/Charities, and Petfinder/Foundation) – we all work together to help pets in need. Whether they are in need of new homes, of shelter from storms, or medical attention from abuse or disaster, we, as individuals, groups, organizations, and businesses, work together for the betterment of animals.
He never knew the inside of a house. He rarely had opportunity to play with toys. He’s unfamiliar with leashes and walking the neighborhood, and his housetraining is limited. His name was Stormy.
One year ago, the then-three-year-old Shih Tzu was one of dozens of dogs rescued from the squalor of a puppy mill. Staff and volunteers at Hearts United for Animals have a mission – to rescue, work with, and re-home as many puppy mill dogs as they can. They also take in dogs and cats for other reasons, such as deaths in the family, and they help owners keep their pets who might have to give them up due to the animal’s medical condition. Nearly 400 animals reside at the rural Nebraska animal sanctuary, many of them small breeds like Stormy. But, there are also larger dogs, such as Hounds, Labs, and Shiba Inus. Other organizations, such as National Mill Dog Rescue in Colorado, have a similar mission: closing puppy mills by rescuing the oppressed, neglected animals and bringing new life and hope to those creatures.
What is a Puppy Mill?
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a puppy mill is “a large-scale commercial dog breeding facility where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate veterinary care, food, water or socialization. In order to maximize profits, female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little-to-no recovery time between litters.” The pups are sold in pet stores, over the Internet, through newspaper ads, and at swap meets and flea markets. Because millers focus on making money, the dogs are often bred with little regard for genetic quality, and therefore, the puppies are often ill or have significant health issues. There is no oversight to this industry, and though there is no real data to know the number of millers in the U.S., the ASPCA estimates there are about 10,000 puppy mills in America.
The Humane Society of the United States also rescues and shuts down puppy mills. Learn more about their operations at http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/campaigns/stop_puppy_mills/?credit=web_id93480558.
Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 is Puppy Mill Awareness Day. Take time to learn more about puppy mills and then educate your family and friends. Do what you can to help bring an end to this terrible life thousands of dogs endure!
New Life, New Hope
Stormy now has a new life – and a new name. Jeremiah Story Irwin is the new four-footed family member in my house. He, and other puppy mill survivors (and their rescuers) have a story, and I write stories, therefore, his middle name. A few weeks before his first anniversary with HUA, Jeremiah now lives in a house for the first time in his life, has other animal friends (although the original Irwin resident pets are still getting used to the idea of a new housemate!), and has a large backyard to explore. The first time he accepted a toy and trotted around the house with it brought tears to my eyes. There are challenges, such as housetraining, but he’s catching on quickly, and he’s already learned the commands of sit and come – in less than a week. He’s a smart, loving, happy boy, and I’m thankful we found each other! I am also thankful to the heroes who help puppy mill dogs escape the horrors of their previous lives!
Adopt, Don’t Shop! And encourage your friends and family to do so. By those actions, you, too, can impact (and change) the lives of puppy mill dogs, giving them hope, love, and joy.
April is known as Volunteer Appreciation Month. Animal welfare organizations, from local shelters and rescues to larger, nation-wide groups depend upon volunteers. In fact, many rescue organizations are strictly volunteer-based. If not for the dedication of volunteers and their love for pets, most companion animal groups would not function well or even exist.
Volunteers help pets in need in many ways. Whether walking dogs, brushing and socializing cats, or assisting with transports and fundraisers, volunteers are vital to the health, welfare, and adoption of pets. Most rescue organizations, like Black Dog Animal Rescue in Cheyenne, Wyoming, depend on volunteers to foster animals in their care as these pets await adoptive families. Other groups, like MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue and Big Dogs Huge Paws rely upon people to transport dogs either into rescue or to their adoptive families, as oftentimes the distance the animal needs to travel is quite long. This is a role I enjoy fulfilling – transporting a dog into rescue or to its new adoptive family. Several times a year I’m called upon to help transport dogs through my state, usually up or down Interstate 25. Wyoming is a large state and there are great distances between towns; there aren’t a lot of people in the state (at least in the area where I live) who transport. Therefore, whenever I’m available during a time of need, I heed the call. I’ve transported Boston Terriers, Great Danes, English Springer Spaniels, even a Newfoundland for rescue groups in my region. I love every trip, for I know I’m helping a pet in need – it’s an amazing, humbling feeling!
I’ve also traveled to Utah’s Best Friends Animal Sanctuary where I volunteered with the cats. Spending time in their enclosures, playing with them, petting them, as well as taking them outdoors on leashes and in baby buggies, my heart has been filled by knowing I’ve assisted those kitties be more social and therefore, more adoptable. I’m hoping to return to that marvelous place again this year to once again volunteer.
There are many ways a person can volunteer with local, regional, even national animal welfare groups. Some of the endeavors take time, others just a few hours a week, and some just a few hours every few months (like transporting). Here are 10 ways in which you can help animal rescue organizations as a volunteer:
You’ll be amazed at the difference you can make in the lives of pets who need help by volunteering. Take this special time of Volunteer Appreciation Month and consider how you might be helpful to organizations that help pets in need – your service is greatly needed and will be genuinely appreciated!
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.