DO YOU WANT TO HELP HOMELESS ANIMALS IN YOUR COMMUNITY? Whether you wish to help on your own or you want to start a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in your city, you’ll be helping save lives in need with your efforts. After years of volunteering in animal shelters and pounds, I co-founded Advocates 4 Animals, Inc. to provide a new avenue for helping animals. We co-founded our organization back in 2002. We were following our hearts. After years of volunteer efforts in the American shelter system, we watched innocent animals left alone in cages without food and water, sometimes for days. Feral, shy, ill and scared cats and dogs weren’t even given a chance. In some shelters, the pets were never spayed or neutered. In many, the animals were not provided any medical care (and were therefore covered in fleas, parasites, etc.). All of the animals were trapped behind bars, receiving little to no attention, day after day. We knew there had to be a better way to help animals in need.
Princess was one of the first animals we saved as we began our rescue program. As a grown adult cat, her hair was falling out and she weighed less than 4 lbs. She wasn’t eating or drinking in the animal shelter and one of her eyes was covered in layers of pus. We begged for the shelter to provide medical care to her, but they said they “couldn’t” and so we saved her. When we brought her to the veterinarian that day, they assured us that Princess must be diseased. They ran tests, searching for a prognosis. But we knew in our hearts that Princess wasn’t diseased, she was starving and suffering from years of terrible neglect. Princess required extensive surgery to remove her badly infected eye, but the surgery had to wait until her health improved. The veterinarian was shocked to find Princess disease free. We were told Princess was a senior cat and probably didn’t have long to live. Despite how Princess looked and despite the grim prognosis we were given, we held onto hope that Princess would survive and thrive with love and care. We held onto hope that Princess would know what it was like to be happy, even if it would be for a short time.
With a lot of work and patience, Princess eventually began eating on her own and slowly gaining weight. Her hair began to grow and shine. She had a successful eye removal surgery – it required two separate surgeries over a period of time. Once healed, Princess was spayed and it was found that her uterus was falling apart. The veterinarian who performed the surgery was in awe that Princess had survived at all. Princess recovered from yet another surgery and now she was beginning to thrive. To our surprise her hair grew in long and full. She began to purr and snuggle. She had completely transformed, against all odds.
Princess thrived and lived for another blissful 10 years. Not only that, but she inspired our Advocates 4 Animals logo, too.
Helping homeless animals can be incredibly rewarding, but it’s important to note that it is also incredibly hard work. Amy Beatty and I recently wrote and published a book outlining the guidelines and sharing some of our experiences to starting an animal rescue, in hopes of helping others, across the globe, help homeless animals in need- whether that be helping on your own or starting your own non-profit endeavor. In our book, Covered in Pet Fur, we share what we’ve learned along the way. Everything from finding a great veterinarian to establishing rescue and adoption protocols. We share what we’ve found to be true, in our experience, as our aim is to help others learn from our journey. The more people and organizations that are helping animals in need, the more lives that can be saved- which is exactly why we wrote the book. To help save more lives.
Each chapter in the book shares stories and experiences from our journey of helping animals in need and starting a 501(c)3 non-profit animal rescue organization. In addition, at the end of each chapter, a list of questions is provided to help you organize your own action plan for helping animals in need in your city. Starting an animal rescue isn’t a Step 1 , Step 2, Step 3 process. Everyone finds their own unique path. There just simply isn’t an easy formula to starting a rescue or helping animals in need. But our hope is, through sharing what we’ve learned, we can help you avoid some of the common pitfalls and help you establish an action plan of you own- one that works for you. That being said, below are the 10 basic steps to starting an animal rescue:
1. Establish a relationship with a veterinarian(s): Find out fees, services, etc.
2. Establish relationships with trusted volunteer foster homes in your community and volunteers
3. What is your focus? Will you rescue stray animals or shelter animals? Cats? Dogs? What is the maximum number of pets you can help at one time?
4. Establish protocols (intake procedures, mission statement, adoption process, required vetting, etc.)
5. Plan annual fund raisers
6. Develop a Board of Directors (assign job roles, set hours for adoptions and for correspondence, etc.)
7. Create a website, join AdoptAPet and other similar adoption sites.
8. DO THE WORK! (this one is important…if you want to help homeless animals…go out and do it to the best of your ability!)
9. Become a 501(c)3 non-profit organization (begin the paperwork)
10. Rescue-Adopt and REPEAT!
In the world of animal rescue, you are certain to deal with the unexpected on a daily basis. Being prepared and planning ahead (by following the 10 steps above) will help smooth your path. However, it’s important to be prepared for bumps and hurdles along the way. Remember, we learn through experiences- experiences of others and of our own.
If you don’t want to start an official rescue organization, but you want to help animals who are in need in your city, many of the above steps still apply. You will need to establish a relationship with a trusted veterinarian. You will need to establish protocols for the intake of new animals, as well as adoption protocols (how will you find lifelong adopters?, etc.), and you will need to plan how to want to raise funding for each rescue project.
Starting an animal rescue takes more than checking items off a 10 item list and saying “done!” Starting an animal rescue takes hard work, dedication, loads of planning, passion, belief, faith and ongoing learning. Whether you hope to start an animal rescue, you want to help animals in your local city or you’re already operating an animal rescue but you want to continue learning from others, check out our latest book, Covered in Pet Fur: How to Start an Animal Rescue, The Right Way. Every book purchased benefits spay/neuter and rescue/adoption efforts, too.
Remember, if you want to help animals there is always something you can do. If you can’t adopt, consider fostering. If you can’t foster a pet, consider making a donation or sponsoring a special needs pet at a local rescue organization. If you can’t donate, volunteer your time to help with fundraiser or with transport drives. If you can’t volunteer, spread the word about the importance of pet adoption, life long commitment to our pets and spay/neuter. We can all do something and no action goes unnoticed. No action is too small. Every positive action is needed and helps save more lives- whether directly or indirectly. It all helps. You can help, right now.
In the United States, animal shelters are currently euthanizing 70% of cats and kittens who enter shelters (*source: Alley Cat Allies). Nearly 100% of feral, scared, shy, ill, injured and special needs pets are killed in those same animal shelters and pounds. Often mother cats and dogs and their newborn babies, and pregnant cats and dogs are also killed. We can do better. We can be the change we wish to see in the world. We can help.
Pick up your copy of Covered in Pet Fur today and get started!