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What Is "National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week"

Updated on October 14, 2017
Bob Bamberg profile image

With 30 years in the pet supply industry, Bob's newspaper column deals with animal health, nutrition, behavior, regulation, and advocacy.

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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, at low or no cost, 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.

The intent was 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. That means that even if the dog or cat never gets adopted, it will die at the shelter of natural causes, surrounded by loving shelter volunteers.

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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.

"How in the world did I get myself into this predicament!"
"How in the world did I get myself into this predicament!" | Source

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.

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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.

© 2012 Bob Bamberg

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    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Lucky Cats,

      I find no discouragement or insult in your words and am glad you commented. You brought up some good points.

      This is the first I've heard that there are criticisms of no-kill shelters, but I guess I can see the point of those who feel that way. I put that in the "no good deed goes unpunished" column.

      I thoroughly disagree as well. No-kill means that the animal finds a forever home. If not, it dies of natural causes in the arms of a heartbroken shelter volunteer.

      I am aware that there are shelters that still euthanize...thankfully none of the shelters in my area are among them, however. I hope those shelters that do euthanize routinely consider achieving no-kill status a worthy goal.

      But you're right. Neuter and spay is truly the way. And it's becoming more affordable as low cost spay-neuter programs emerge. There's a mobile spay/neuter clinic that visits our city a few times a year.

      I believe they perform the surgery, update shots, check teeth and clip nails, all for under $100. I may not have all those facts straight, however.

      Thanks for visiting, the votes, and for all you do to improve the lives of needy animals. Warmest regards, Bob.

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Hi Bob Bamberg. I appreciate your effort to share National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week. This is a worthy cause and will, hopefully, contribute an awareness in our communities regarding the value of having a no kill shelter. There are some who disagree with the concept of "no kill shelters," as they believe that these contribute to 'pet overpopulation.'

      I thoroughly disagree. We, through our irresponsibility, are the primary reason that there are so many homeless and unwanted animals. We must spay / neuter thus, lessening the numbers of unwanted puppies and kittens.

      I think it very very important to underscore that NOT ALL SHELTERS ARE NO KILL and, I believe, a large % of shelters still euthanize due to overcrowding, lack of funds, food, volunteer help, etc. This is why YOUR HUB is so very IMPORTANT as you stress the value and necessity of volunteer help in many forms...physical pressence, cleaning, contributing items and or funds. THANK YOU for this.

      I do wish to encourage anyone and everyone to CHECK first (if they intend to leave an animal ; aka "surrender" an animal to a shelter) to see if your local shelter does not resort to euthanization for cavalier reasons.

      I hope I have not discouraged or insulted your beautiful heart and intent here, Bob...this is a wonderful hub packed with excellent suggestions and information...I just want to remind people that there still are old fashioned shelters which do not try enough to save lives.

      Hopefully, through your kind and caring words; people will become involved and this will result in fewer and fewer 'kill' shelters.

      With all respect and appreciation to you, Bob!

      T'hank you so much. UP Useful Awesome and Interesting.