What Is "National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week"
The first full week in November each year is designated as National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week and, like so many other “national something” weeks, it goes largely unnoticed. That’s a shame because shelters provide a hugely valuable service and, for the most part, for free; thanks to a corps of dedicated, hard-working and generous volunteers.
The event was started in 1996 by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), based on an idea that originated with the Capital Humane Society in Lincoln, Nebraska, to acknowledge and promote the invaluable role shelters play in our communities, and to increase public awareness of shelter services and animal welfare issues. It also serves to recognize the shelter volunteers. Without them, communities would be overrun with homeless animals.
A generation or so ago shelters were known as dog pounds, and dogs and cats were routinely euthanized if their owners didn't claim them after a minimum amount of time. Thanks to the unselfish hard-work of volunteers, the situation has changed dramatically.
Around the country, animal lovers have convinced municipal and state officials to allow them to provide volunteer services to the shelters so that animals can be adopted into new homes instead of being put to sleep. And they've proven that the arrangement works. An ever-increasing number of shelters nowadays proudly proclaim themselves to be "No-Kill" shelters.
While awaiting adoption, dogs and cats are lovingly cared for by volunteers who bathe and groom them, play with them, socialize them, and raise the funds necessary to attend to their health needs. When the shelter is at capacity, volunteers rely on their network of foster homes.
Volunteers conduct screenings to make sure that a pet and the potential adoptive families are compatible, and they network with other shelters in trying to find a suitable match. Sometimes they even take an animal home with them because it requires round-the-clock care.
What can you do to support your area shelters? Where do I begin? Volunteer your time. Shelters need folks to bathe, groom and walk dogs, or play with cats. If you're more of a "behind the scenes" type, you can stuff envelopes for a mailing or help publicize an event.
There are posters to create and distribute, phone calls to be made, phones to be manned for inquiries about adoptions, cleaning and disinfecting chores, pets to be driven to and from the vet clinic, and any number of other duties that need to be done.
Some animals need to be treated for wounds and injuries, which involves cleaning, applying ointments and dressings, or giving oral medications. Sometimes they just need their ears cleaned or their nails clipped.
Shelters can always use supplies such as linens, blankets, towels, cleaning supplies, pet toys and treats, and donations of food. Check with the shelter about food, though. Some shelters feed a limited variety of brands (so as not to upset digestive tracts), others take donations of any brand, but most of them must decline open bags of food.
If they’re forced to, they’ll take cash donations :) No matter how much fundraising they do, there’s never enough cash for medications, vet bills, food, toys, treats, and other shelter expenses.
Words of praise, thanks and encouragement are always appreciated. The shelter volunteers devote their time for the love of the animals, not for the glory, but everyone likes to know they’re appreciated. And you don’t have to do it just during Shelter Appreciation Week.
All year long shelters conduct fund-raisers that take many interesting forms. In my area we have such events as the annual Strut Your Mutt walk, Paws For The Cause, Annual Furr Ball, and Yappy Hour to name a few.
Even if you don’t own a pet, you can show your support. Buy a ticket, even if you can’t make it that day. If you can make it, buy the T-shirts, mugs, and other items they have for sale, and use the opportunity to express your appreciation for all that the volunteers do.
Here’s another great idea; join them! There’s always room for one more volunteer.