We’ve all seen them. Cue Sarah Mclachlan’s melancholy music while heartbreaking faces of abandoned animals dance across your TV screen. When seeing those commercials, what do you do? Immediately change the channel before it has a chance to upset you? Wonder how one person can really make a difference in the overall issue of animal abuse, neglect and overpopulation? Even if you can’t donate monetary amounts to help shelters and rescues, there are many ways that animal lovers can make a difference. Social networking by cross-posting lost and adoptable pets, donating old toys and beds that your pets no longer need and simply being a voice for homeless animals are just a few ways you can help without necessarily spending funds you may not have to spare.
Ways to Help Animals in Your Community (source: www.aspca.com)
Learn how to report animal cruelty. One of the best things you can do to help animals in your community is to keep a list of people, including a humane law enforcement officer, a teacher or your veterinarian, who can help you report animal cruelty. Every state is different. In some areas, the police department investigates animal cruelty; in others, that job falls to local animal control or another municipal agency.
Start a neighborhood watch program. Get to know the animals in your neighborhood and invite your friends and neighbors to do the same. Together you can keep an eye out for any suspicious behaviors—abuse and neglect of companion animals, the mistreatment of local wildlife, dogs left in hot cars, etc.
Volunteer at your local shelter or animal rescue organization. Volunteering at your local shelter is a great way to make a difference in the lives of many animals. From walking dogs and organizing fundraising events to fostering abused or frightened animals, shelters across the country are in desperate need of volunteers.
Become an animal activist. Call or write your local law enforcement officials. Let them know that animal cruelty is a crime and investigating these cases should be a priority.
Help your neighbors help their animals. Companion animals play significant roles in the lives of the people who love them—but sometimes the elderly or ill have trouble providing essential pet care. If you see a neighbor in need, offer to assist—walk his dog, help with feeding, clean litter boxes, groom animals, pick up pet food and other supplies, drive him to the veterinarian, etc.
Start a pet food bank. See if there is a pet food pantry in your area and volunteer your time to help distribute the much-needed pet food. If there isn’t, consider starting one up. Host pet food drives, similar to canned food drives, in central locations of your community such as shopping centers and schools.
Promote spaying and neutering. Millions of adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters every year. By spaying and neutering your animals, you’ll make sure you are not contributing to the problem. You can also take this a step further by developing a spay/neuter outreach program in your community. Create flyers promoting the organizations that offer discounts in your area and pass them out at central locations in your community.
As a professional pet photographer, I help the rescue community by capturing these innocent, furry souls on camera. It is truly amazing to know that a photo really can make the difference in the life a homeless animal. People who are looking for a pet usually search online (especially Facebook) before even stepping foot into a shelter or rescue. I feel adoptable pets need to be displayed at their very best, because what if you overlooked a potential pooch just because of a poor photo and missed out on your new best friend?
In addition, I am partnered with Kyndra Jade of LIKS, LLC, who donates handmade bowtie and flower collar accessories that give adoptable pets a touch of class to help them shine. Before and after photos below show the importance of those minor details. You can CLICK HERE to read a previous blog post with tips and tricks to photograph dogs in a shelter environment. Even if you can ‘t afford a DSLR camera, there are still great compact digital cameras like the COOLPIX L820 for around $279 new on the market by Nikon. So, grab a friend and visit your local shelter or rescue. Before you determine that volunteering around homeless animals is too heartbreaking – give it a chance. You may be surprised how warm your heart feels after making such an impact.