Helping companion animals isn‚Äôt limited to cleaning cages or adopting a furry friend. There are other ways you can give back to animals. If you‚Äôre not ready for a forever pet, here are five things you can do to celebrate the human-animal bond without making that lifetime commitment.
Many shelters and rescues need fosters to take on animals on a short-term basis, opening space at the shelter for other animals and to get the animal in a family environment. This way you provide direct care for the pet, but are not obligated to forever ownership. Some shelters provide food and medical care, plus are available to help you with behavior issues. This generous act has a tremendous impact on the lives of animals and gives you the opportunity to get acquainted with different types of animals to better determine what companion is right for your family.
2. Dog Walking and Cat Socialization
At many shelters, the time out of the kennel may be limited because of the influx of animals and busy staff. Volunteers are essential to help alleviate behavior issues resulting from a kennel environment. The animals need the exercise and the one-on-one time gives pets‚Äô much-needed affection, socialization and exercise. Most shelters require an animal handling class and may have special requirements for collars and leashes. This can better prepare you for future employment working in direct care, or if you are interested in becoming a professional dog walker.
3. Special Events Planning
Shelters hold dog walks, fundraisers, yard sales, picnics, game days and other activities to build community ties. If you enjoy helping set up events, a busy shelter staff is grateful for the detailed planning skills you may have. Often, there are marketing opportunities, coordination phone calls and other administration tasks when planning and executing a major event. This is a great opportunity for those with an eye for detail and some of these tasks give you the chance to work remotely from the home via your computer.
Want to learn how policy gets made for animals? This is where your voice and words can lead to better animal protection laws. Each state has bills moving through the legislature affecting animals. Citizens are encouraged to testify on these bills, in person or by submitting testimony online. A visit to the Hawaii State Legislature to let them know your positions on bills makes a difference. A good place to learn about the bills is to talk to the shelter contracted to enforce animal law. A staff member is sometimes assigned to represent the shelter at hearings and can let you know what bills they are supporting. The city councils and neighborhood boards are a great venue to advocate for animals, as many have pet policies too. Peaceful and lawful educational rallies help too, demonstrating to the public and government leaders that animal protection is a priority.
Many community groups request tours of animal shelters. Some shelters hold camps for children to educate on compassionate care. If you are interested in education and have strong public speaking skills, this is an ideal volunteer position. You may be asked to visit schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other venues educating the public on the work of the shelter. This position is perfect for extroverts who love working with people and being an ambassador to animals.
There are many more ways to help animals, and I encourage you to research the shelters in at your duty station, read the volunteer position descriptions and then decide which one best suits your personality and interests. The animals and staff at the shelter will be grateful for your generosity and knowing you made a difference in the lives of animals is immensely rewarding.
Theresa Donnelly is an active-duty Navy Lieutenant with 16 years of military service, having done 10 years enlisted with multiple overseas deployments. She is the owner of Hawaii Military Pets, an online pet resource for military families living in Hawaii. The blog and Facebook page provide information on moving with pets in the military, boarding information, pet policies in state and federal governments, and overall ways to celebrate the human-animal bond. She routinely partners with local and national animal nonprofits that place special emphasis on military and their companion animals, such as Dogs on Deployment and Pets for Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @tdonnelly76.