‘Tis the season for enjoying family, friends and holiday festivities! It’s also a fantastic opportunity to give back to our community – and there are few worthier causes than helping homeless pets.
During the holiday season, many homeless pets will find their forever homes, however, many more will still need help on their journey to a happy ending. With so many wonderful animal welfare organizations in the Richmond, VA area, there are plenty of ways for people of all ages, budgets, schedules and talents to help make that happen.
Can you spare some time?
Shelters and organizations are ALWAYS looking for volunteers. The time leading up to and during the holidays is no different. Often, organizations are stretched to their limits during this time of year simply due to the increased interest in adopting pets and/or accommodating their staff and/or volunteers’ holiday plans.
Different organizations have different opportunities and, whether you can make a long term commitment or only have a few hours, there is undoubtedly an opportunity to suit your availability. You can start by using a free online volunteer matching service like VolunteerMatch.org, where a variety of organizations post volunteer opportunities that you can browse. Or sign up to be matched with an organization on a website like AdoptaPet.com where you can create a profile including your interests and availability that will be shared with organizations with matching needs.
Have a specific organization you want to work with?
Many organizations list specific volunteer opportunities on their websites. If you an avid runner or just looking to burn some calories after indulging on holiday goodies, check out the Richmond SPCA’s Running Buddies Program that gets dogs out of the shelter and on walks or runs with volunteers.
More of a cuddler?
Consider donating your time and talents to an organization that houses adoptable cats and kittens in a shelter environment or at a local Petco or Petsmart store. Socializing with volunteers enriches the lives of the cats and kittens and helps them on the road to their forever homes.
Do you have some extra room in your home and love in your heart? Fostering is essential to animal welfare organizations, even those with shelters. Not only does it allow the organizations to save the lives of more homeless pets, but foster families can also provide valuable information on the personality and habits of the pet in their care. In most cases, the organization will provide all of the medical care, food and supplies – foster families provide the home, the love and sometimes transportation to/from medical appointments and/or adoption events.
The length of time a pet is in foster can vary based on the organization, but a great short-term opportunity for the holidays is Richmond Animal League’s Operation Silent Night. The goal is to get every animal out of the shelter for the holiday, which includes temporary fostering opportunities from December 23 through December 26, which gives adoptable pets a much needed break from the shelter. Additional details can be found on RAL’s website.
Tight on time or space, but still want to help?
Consider making a monetary donation, purchasing supplies for your favorite shelter or organization or show your appreciation for the staff and/or volunteers’ hard work by stopping by the shelter with some holiday goodies for people and/or pets. Many people give generously to national animal welfare organizations this time of year, but consider keeping your donations local to help animals in our area.
There are many ways to give – whether you decide to sponsor a specific pet, donate to a fund for sick, injured or elderly pets or simply make a general donation, no amount is too small and every gift is very much appreciated. Want to be sure you are donating to a reputable organization? Check out the organization’s profile at www.guidestar.org.
Love to shop?
Check out your favorite organization’s website for a list of needed items or participate in an animal “angel tree”-type drive. Many pet-related businesses such as supply stores, veterinarians and groomers partner with local organizations to host supply drives.
Or, better yet, talk to your favorite organization about organizing your own supply drive in your neighborhood, at your work place or with another community organization with which you are involved. Doing simple things like cleaning out your linen closet and donating used towels and blankets to the local shelter can enrich the lives of the animals in their care.
Homemade treats are always welcome!
And when you’re baking those holiday goodies for your family and friends, you could always make an extra batch to drop off at your local shelter for the staff and volunteers who invest so much time and effort in the animals. Homemade treats for the animals are also much appreciated. A quick search on Pinterest for dog treats or cat treats and you’re good to go. You might want to call the shelter you plan to donate homemade pet treats to just to be sure they’ll accept. You need to deliver in person for sure. Treats that are anonymously left = too risky to accept.
So, when you make your holiday to-do list, be sure to add a little something for homeless animals. They may not be able to say it, but your act of kindness is sure to be a highlight on their journey to a forever home.
Tracy has worked with Pet Pleasers since November 1999 — first as a pet sitter, then transitioning to the office in August 2002. She’s a life-long pet lover and rescuer, having done cat rescue on her own until June 2011, when she joined forces with St. Francis Humane Association (SFHA), an all-volunteer animal rescue, rehabilitation, adoption, education and advocacy organization. Tracy shares her home with a husband, two dogs and four cats and is proud to host foster cats and kittens while they await their forever homes.