By Linda Cole
Most animal shelters are run by kind and responsible people who love the pets they care for in their facilities. Their main goal is finding the perfect owner for the pets. Without these caring individuals, dogs and cats would have no place to live while they wait for their forever home. However, some shelters are thinking outside the box to give pets a better environment to wait in.
Adopt-A-Dog animal shelter in Armonk, NY is manned by an army of dedicated and committed volunteers who help insure each pet living at the shelter receives all the love and attention they need. The animal shelter, sanctuary and rescue began in 1981, and sits on two acres of land. This shelter is unique in how it’s run, and proudly touts a 95 percent success rate in adoptions with practices that include educating potential pet owners about responsible pet ownership, how to properly care for pets, and making a lifetime commitment to adopted pets.
The shelter is run more like a sanctuary. Volunteers walk the dogs, take them for car rides, take them swimming, and play ball and other games with them in the exercise yard. During office hours, cats and dogs are allowed to wander in the office area where they get to spend time with the staff, sack out on a bed or watch TV. The office is in a house and has two people who live there, so someone is always available to tend to the needs of the pets. In order to give all of the dogs in the shelter access to the home, they are rotated on a daily basis.
The adoption process is taken slowly at the shelter. Their goal is to make sure a pet is a good match for someone’s lifestyle. Multiple home visits are made when there are children or other pets in a home. The first step for any shelter is to find someone to adopt a pet; making sure the pet remains in the home and isn’t returned to the shelter can be a harder task to accomplish. This is where Adopt-A-Dog stands out from other shelters by using a program they incorporated to educate potential adopters, and taking time to make sure a pet fits into a potential owner’s lifestyle.
Visitors interested in seeing dogs meet them in the exercise area or home instead of viewing pets behind closed doors in the kennel area. In most shelters, as soon as someone enters, a chorus of barking dogs creates excitement and stress for both canines and humans. Being able to meet a dog in a more relaxed atmosphere keeps them calmer, and their true personality is more likely to shine. This reduces stress levels of everyone involved.
Adopt-A-Dog is also a rescue. According to its president, Allyson Halm, finding puppies in the Northeast part of the country can be difficult, and some people are looking specifically for puppies to adopt. To help reduce the number of pups in high kill shelters in the southern part of the country, volunteers drive to these shelters and transport puppies to Adopt-A-Dog where they have a better chance of finding a home. They also have taken in Beagles rescued from a lab that shut down in their area.
With millions of dogs and cats living in shelters, sometimes it takes thinking outside the box to increase their chances of finding a home. Volunteers are the backbone of animal shelters, doing what they can to help care for homeless pets. Without them, most shelters would have a much harder time tending to the needs of the pets in their care.
What Adopt-A-Dog has been able to accomplish is a good model for any shelter to follow. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy to find enough funding to pay for expenses, let alone buy extra land that can be used for dogs to romp around in. Having the ability to let pets mingle with people working at the shelter, or going for walks, car rides and to the beach helps keep pets better socialized. Living in a home-like atmosphere is less stressful for them, too.
Even if you aren’t looking for a pet, visiting your local shelter to give pets much needed attention only takes a little bit of time, and most shelters appreciate an extra hand now and then. If you don’t have time to volunteer at a shelter, I don’t know any shelter that would turn down a donation. Making pet blankets, toys or beds is also a good way to help out. What a shelter pet needs more than anything else is the feeling that someone cares.
Photos by jeffreyw
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