There’s that time worn saying of “Put your money where your mouth is.” In this painful article, I want to address the very, very sad topic of dogs around the world, in your country, in your state, in your city, and possibly in your neighborhood that are abused, homeless, lonely, and suffering. WAIT! DON’T STOP READING! I have personally blocked people who feel it is their obligation to post Facebook photos of animals that have been tortured, abandoned, and left for dead. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to discuss graphic instances of the actions of sick people who for some reason believe that animals don’t deserve love and respect. I’m not going to subject you to what I would do if I ever came across someone doing vile things to a dog or any other animal which would likely land me in jail. What I am going to talk about is what YOU can do to make this world a better place for dogs. And it goes far beyond donating money.
Teach children about animals having a soul.
People who work with children will tell you that young children have a natural affinity to animals. EO Wilson (1984) stated that there is an innate biological drive that humans have to nurture other species. Children value animals just for being there, while adults may look at animals for what they provide. Children realize that animals are important just because they are alive. A growing body of research proposes that when children bond with pets, they develop a sensitivity and caring attitude toward people, too. This leads to deeper feelings of empathy toward others and improved social and emotional development.
There are so many ways to support a child in learning about how to love animals.
- Set up a bird feeder in the yard or by a window. Talk with the child about how birds are alive and live outside, but that they still need food, water, shelter, and have babies of their own.
- Take the child on walks. Point out birds, squirrels, rabbits, or other wildlife. Even insects such as ants or beetles should be included in respecting life! Children may not understand that squishing a bug kills it. Encourage questions and conversations about wildlife.
- Put the child in the place of the animal. “If you were a rabbit, how would you feel?” Expand from wildlife to domesticated animals. This can be outside or in the home when watching television or reading books.
- Set a good example. Don’t complain about animals that irritate you. For instance, my neighbor has Chihuahuas that bark DAY AND NIGHT! I would explain how the noise isn’t the fault of the dogs – they’re just being dogs! I would educate about the responsibility dog owners have to keep their dogs from barking.
- Take the child to a shelter. When I had my summer camps, we would go to the animal shelter and they were allowed to play with the cats and kittens. This socialized the animals to allow for better chances at adoption and the kids learned how to be gentle. Some children were also allowed to walk the dogs or give dogs a bath with an adult and they loved it.
- Visit a farm or a zoo. Discuss how even thought they are different, animals in zoos and farms are still animals that have all the needs of other animals and people, too.
- Of course, in my opinion the best way to teach a child to love an animal is to get a pet. Dogs are wonderful, but not always practical. Consider cats, birds, hamsters, gerbils, or even fish. Children need to learn responsibility and having a daily routine of caring for a pet, including cuddling, makes responsible pet owners, members of the world, and improves adult relationships.
Volunteer for rescue organizations.
There are loads of ways to help rescue organizations that don’t take any time or money. This is a great activity from any age, physical limitation, or time constraint. Remember how I used to take the summer camp kids to the shelter? I just called ahead to let them know when we were coming.
Shelter activities. Shelters always need help with bookkeeping, answering phones, sending out letters and forms, and other office work. Kennels need to be cleaned, dogs exercised and groomed, and care of the grounds. If you think you are up to it, ask for training to go out and work with the community to rescue animals that are homeless, neglected, or abused. Call and find out how you can get involved.
Fostering. Hondo was what the shelters call a “Foster Fail.” Fostering is when you open your home to a dog you do not intend to keep as a forever home. You are getting the animal out of the kennel and into an environment where he/she is socialized and maybe have some bad habits addressed. This can be a traumatized animal, one that doesn’t understand why he was given up or abandoned, or a stray. They range from puppies to seniors. They may have health problems. They can be easy or take a lot of care. Hondo is afraid of everything and is still getting used to being in a home, but I have all the time in the world for him to come around, if he ever does – and that would be fine, too. He seems to be contented. Anyway, you can foster for a predetermined amount of time or until he’s adopted. People see his picture on the website and ask to visit. It may be hard to let go, but this is so worth it. You can have other dogs or pets as long as the foster is adaptable. Hondo came back from a previous foster because he didn’t understand a miniature dog was not a toy. Fostering is good for the dogs, but also frees up more room at the shelter. Think about it.
Adoption events. Like any other event, you need to be organized. Anyone who goes to the Fair, to pet stores, or lots of other gatherings will have seen shelters there with sample dogs for prospective pet owners. These adoption events need volunteers! Check with your favorite shelter and ask how you can help. If you have the knack, work on social media and publicity releases. Man the tables for paperwork and information. Learn about the animals and their personalities beforehand. Don’t be afraid to talk about any potential problems because you want the dogs to be a good fit. They don’t see anything that twangs their heartstrings? Give them directions to the shelter! Distribute information about the shelter and ALWAYS ask for donations and inclusion on email lists!
Fundraising. You can work with a shelter to help with their fundraising efforts, or get together with your friends and family to host your own event! When I had my martial arts school, we did many fundraisers for organizations. If you want to use their logo though, you might call and get permission. There are loads of ways to raise money for an animal shelter.
- Partner with a restaurant or bar to host a “Yappy Hour”. Invite everyone you know to come out for socializing, food, and drink. Pass around a fun collection bowl periodically for donations of change. Raffle off pet-related prizes or services. Many establishments appreciate your bringing in your group and will donate back a percentage of the sales made when people say they are with your group.
- Have a joint Car-and-Dog wash. I have found banks are great for this after they have closed on Saturday. Lead up to the event with flyers and social media. Contact local television and radio stations for support. Have lots of people, especially kids, with signs for the street (not too close!) and enthusiastic encouragement. Have a set price, but also ask for donations. Have two stations: one for cars and one for dogs (here’s a tip: Use Dawn dish soap for washing both. It’s gentle, kills fleas on contact, and rinses off cars easily). Be sure and have lots of bills for change and plenty of clean towels!
- Partner with a coffee shop with outside seating for a Pooch Party! Invite friends and strangers both to bring their dogs to a canine fashion show, games, obedience contests, and whatever your imagination can come up with. Give funny prizes or even donated prizes from businesses (Just ask! You’d be surprised who would trade a dog toy for publicity!) Of course, ask for donations or have a $1 entry fee for each event. As always, promote it on city event websites, social media, and flyers at the coffee shop and the shelter you are sponsoring.
- Host a Howl-a-Ween Ball! Encourage dog owners to come dressed up in costumes with their pets (some people get SO creative!) and charge an entry fee of something like $3. Have prizes, food, drink, and games. Talk about your shelter and getting involved. Kids are welcome, too! Take lots of pictures, alert the media, send out emails and texts, and put up flyers. Like any party, the more the merrier, but allow room for the animals to move. Don’t forget water bowls for the pooches!
- Visit this site for lots more ideas!
Emergencies. Help during natural disasters. There is no one that does not know or been affected by the recent high numbers of hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires. These times are hard for people, but even harder for thousands of helpless animals at the mercy of nature. From birds, pets, and domesticated animals like livestock to wildlife, animal rescue organizations are at the forefront in times of need. Contact the SPCA or other national animal organizations for information on training. They will tell you where to go from there.
The importance of neutering and spaying. Think about it. If every dog that was not to be used for deliberate breeding for whatever reason (hunting/military/show quality) were to be sterilized, dogs would become something really special to own and people would value and protect them. Homelessness would be a thing of the past. It is interesting to note that Dr. Becker states there is a difference between sterilizing and de-sexing! Who knew! he says that there is this big rush to de-sex animals as young as possible through spaying and neutering when it isn’t necessary. In fact, Dr. Becker says that this can lead to endocrine problems later on. My Buddy wasn’t neutered and he was still trying to tear up every male dog we came near when he was a decade old. I wished all the time that his previous owners had neutered him. But the problem would also have been solved with simple sterilization.
Juvenile de-sexing causes an insufficiency in sex hormones. This results in hypothyroidism. A study in the United Kingdom has demonstrated that the idea that breast cancer in female dog is reduced with removal of the uterus is unfounded. For male dogs, Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine says that idea the prostate cancer is a reason for de-sexing is also incorrect. While there are still medical reasons for spaying and neutering, birth control is not one of them. Surgical techniques for sparing the ovaries need to be more widely spread at veterinary colleges.
On the other hand, there are a number of physical problems associated with de-sexing a dog. Dr. Jack Oliver, the head of the adrenal lab at the University of Tennessee, says that adrenal disease is occurring in epidemic proportions in the United States. The younger females are spayed, the shorter their lifespan. Atypical Cushing’s Syndrome results from a breakdown of the outside of the adrenal glands because they are working too hard to compensate for the missing gonads. Higher numbers of cases of tumors in the heart. More frequent cases of bone cancer. Higher numbers of abnormal bone development and hip dysplasia. More ruptured ligaments. Inability to hold their urine. Do I really need to go on?
Alternatives to spaying and neutering are hysterectomy, vasectomy, and tubal ligation. When you are taking your pet in for sterilization, ask what the procedure is going to be. If it isn’t one of these three, consider shopping around. If one of these options isn’t available, think about leaving your pet intact. It just takes a little more work and there are even doggie diapers for males and females to save your home. Your pet will thank you for it with a longer, healthier life.
The importance of vaccinations. Regular vaccinations help prevent diseases and let you keep your dog around longer. And don’t we all want that? The diseases include rabies, parvo, hepatitis, distemper and others. You are also protected from rabies and leptospirosis that may spread from them to you. For a more in-depth discussion of the types of vaccinations your dog should have a various stages of their growth, visit my blog posting “How Often Do I Really Need to Vaccinate My Dog?” under the category of Health.
The importance of microchipping. If you have ever lost your dog and been frantic with worry, I don’t really need to answer this. I also put ID tags on my animals with my phone number because your furbaby may not make it to a facility with a chip reader very quickly, if ever. Even if, God forbid, he/she is killed, isn’t it better to know rather than always wonder if someone took them in? Microchipping is so important that all shelters will not release an animal for adoption with installation of a microchip. They don’t want to see your new pet back in a kennel because it got away from you. I’ve seen YouTube videos of people finding their pet after over a year because he/she finally ended up in a shelter.
A microchip is so little that your vet just injects it under the skin. It only takes seconds (it’s like a shot) and about as uncomfortable. Truthfully, my Sally bled for a little while, but she never seemed to have any discomfort as I wiped off the site. It goes between the shoulder blades and you never think of it again until you need it. This is a simple device, though. It doesn’t have a power source and isn’t a GPS tracker. It’s just like an ID tag that your animal can’t lose and has a unique number that no other animal will have. Until I realized a Great Dane/Saluki mix may be big, but my Jax has a medium-sized neck and I lost three collars before I figured that out.
While the chip is permanent, your address probably won’t be. If you change your name and/o phone number, be sure to contact your registration company. If you don’t know how, it’s probably somewhere in that adoption paperwork or just call the shelter or breeder to get the phone number to contact them. If your pet needs to go to a new home, be sure and have the new parents contact the chip registry to change the information.
The cost of microchipping is about $30 and worth every penny. Only authorized organizations and vets can install a microchip and you should have it done before your new dog gets in the car. I am not lying when I tell you that I drove five hours to pick up a show quality beagle once and the instant we pulled in the driveway and opened the door, she escaped the crate, shot off over a field, and I never saw her again. I sincerely hope someone adopted that beautiful girl. That may not have happened if she’d been microchipped, but that was in the old days before the option was there.
The importance of containment. You know your dog wants to run free. I know my dogs want to run free. But we know our dogs cannot run free. Please. If you love your dog, contain him. When my Bruiser was killed by a car this year after getting away from me while playing in a puddle, I had a sort of breakdown. I relive over and over the sight of him rolling under that SUV. He died immediately, but I have never forgiven myself. True, now I let my dogs off leash at the park, but it’s before sunrise when no one else is there, it’s about 20 acres, and it’s all fenced. I’ve worked with my babies to come when I call, and they’ve learned to stay within sight of me. This is as close they’re ever going to get to “roaming free.”
If you live in an apartment or a house with a small yard, exercise your dogs every day, no matter how small they are. This is the highpoint of their day. They want to look around, smell stuff, and experience new sights. Even if you aren’t a jogger, take about thirty minutes to an hour and relax and walk your dog.
When you travel, have appropriate containment. Have a crate or strap holding your dog in the car until you’re ready to get out. Remember my beagle that I had for three hours? You don’t want them jumping out of the car until you’re ready for them too.
If you decide to leave your dog sexually intact, you have about four days per cycle when your female will need to stay inside and containment means an area that is gated or she has to be in a crate. Four days won’t kill her. My Sally was evidently still in heat after she was spayed and that’s how Bruiser came to us – repeatedly jumping my fence to get with his lady. When we went on our walks, at least four males would be trailing along with us. Ah, amore.
Speaking of fences, check often to look for dig spots and holes. Dogs are wily and can see worn areas you don’t notice. Bruiser was the only dog I had that could clear a five foot fence, but be sure you don’t have a part mountain goat that can climb or part kangaroo disguised as a dog.
Adopt rescue animals.
It goes beyond saying that I highly promote adopting rescue animals. I personally prefer seniors, but I’ve been very happy with adult dogs. I’m past the puppy phase with all that training, and hope Sally will be my last one. There are small ones, big ones, young ones, old ones, ones that don’t need much, and ones that need lots of attention. There are even sick ones and ugly ones and ones that need work. Open your heart to these the most. They need as much love as they can give and sometimes you know it’s just for a little while. In addition, push this option on friends and co-workers you know are considering getting a dog for a pet and use your know-how on picking the right breed, age, and size based on their needs. They’ll thank you for it!
Help promote legislation that severely punishes animal abusers.
Animal neglect, animal harm, and animal abuse are all deplorable conditions for dogs or any animal to endure. There are many, many ways to assist in the punishment of people who don’t deserve the air they are breathing. First, keep your eyes and ears open. I took my Sally from a neighbor who kept her outside in the rain and heat with no bed and no shelter, no water and little food. She lived on a two foot cord and no one paid attention to her. She cried all the time. I would take food and water over and rig her up shade. I finally told them that if they didn’t give her to me, I was calling Animal Protection.
They said they never wanted her anyway. The smallest of my dogs and by far the bossiest, Sally is now in her forever home. But it was a tough three months of her puppyhood. Don’t be afraid to say something to someone neglecting or mistreating an animal. Children can be particularly cruel if they haven’t been taught respect for animals. Call the police or animal protection. Get involved.
There are many state laws that involve protection of companion animals apart from farm animals and wildlife. Check out the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Annual Ranking Report on the best and worst states for animal protection laws. Laws regulate how long animal shelters have to hold apprehended pets before they are adopted or put down, how often the animals must be vaccinated, commercial pet breeding, how long pets can be tied up outside particularly in bad weather, and hot car laws. More than half the states in the US have laws that allow for pets to be included in domestic violence protective orders.
Next, support stronger punishment for people who mistreat animals. They figure that even if they’re caught, not much will happen. Slap these “people” with high fines and longer jail times to make them think twice about what they did. For instance, it can be a felony to kill a dog or cat intentionally in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Right here in my home town of San Antonio, Senator José Menéndez (D), authored the animal cruelty legislation passed in 2017 that increased the punishment for certain types of violent offenses — such as torturing, cruelly killing, poisoning, or causing serious bodily injury to an animal — to a third-degree felony with a penalty of two to 10 years in prison. You go, Senator! Now the judges have to enforce this law and not let these monsters off with parole! Put it on their permanent records! Write your senators and congressmen to up the ante on animal abusers!
Donate to rescue organizations.
You knew it was coming. Give generously to your favorite shelter. It costs a lot for vet fees and utilities and food and marketing and everything else that goes into operating animal rescue. I have my monthly donation taken out automatically every month and get a deduction at the end of the year. Got a bonus or other windfall? Pluck a portion out for your furry friends. Tax return? Same thing. Consider it thanks for everything that dogs in general give back to us.
And as the saying goes, “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?” Get involved in actions, activities, and organizations to stop atrocities against dogs and stop canine homelessness.