(This article was originally published in June 2002 and has been updated.)
It started out simple enough. I wanted to help animals in need; animals waiting for adoption at the local shelter. Short on time but wanting to do something, I decided to donate some pet food to my local shelter. I have to be honest... I was a little intimidated by the thought. I have, of course, worked with shelters and rescue animals over the years, and quite frankly, it can be depressing. Too many animals. Too few homes.
I wasn't sure if I could resist all of those faces in need of a home. We already have many pets and a very busy home life, so I wasn't exactly looking for another pet to add to the bunch.
Thinking ahead, I decided that my husband would be a good person for this effort. He would donate the food, go about his other errands, and a good deed would be accomplished. I would continue to work on getting more involved. Start with food.
He dropped the food off. No problem. Mission accomplished. Or was it?
Yes, he donated the food. Then he proceeded to tell me about a very sweet dog; tail wagging, calm, looking up so earnestly at him... she was elderly and wouldn't stand a chance of being adopted.
That was all I needed to hear. We went to the shelter. I was pleasantly surprised by the shelter. Yes, it was still full of pets that needed homes. However, it was very clean, well lit, and the staff seemed genuinely concerned about the animal's welfare and eventual adoptions. The facility had a large fenced area with grass, trees and a picnic table so that families can meet prospective pets in a more natural environment.
We adopted "Sophie" that day. She was not elderly. She had just lost her last canine baby tooth! But by then we were attached. She was a stray found running the streets, not spayed, and about six months old. Very sweet. Excellent with our small kids. She had that "I'm so grateful" look that rippled all through her body.
The shelter used to have a spay/neuter policy whereby the person adopting the pet would pre-pay for the surgery, then get a voucher to schedule an appointment at participating veterinary clinics to perform the surgery. Sadly (and amazingly), only 49% of the people ever followed through and scheduled the surgery! This was for a pre-paid surgery, too!
The current policy is strict. All animals "of age" (4-6 months for most participating veterinary clinics) cannot leave the shelter until spayed or neutered. Period. The person adopting can select from a list of veterinarians, and the shelter staff will make the appointment and transport the pet directly to the clinic. The adopter will then pick up the new pet from the assigned veterinary clinic.
Animals that are too young for the surgery will be given a voucher and the shelter will follow-up when the animal reaches the appropriate age. Because of these tough spay/neuter policies and lots of hard work getting pet photos up online at PetShelter Network, this shelter has greatly increased the number of adoptions and reduced the number of animals euthanized for lack of a home.
Adoption Resources > Online Pet Adoption Guide