I grew up as a stray puppy on the streets of New Mexico. I was hungry, cold, and afraid. Some people captured me and took me to a shelter. Those were sad times because I didn't belong to anyone.
I was one of the few lucky ones because I was saved by a rescue group before Kill Day, and eventually I found a family to love me. It makes me very sad that thousands of perfectly good animals are euthanized in shelters every day. When my mom volunteered at a shelter, a man surrendered his loyal family dog because he was 'too old.' A woman left her dog there because he 'didn't match the furniture.'
Each of us has a responsibility to do our part to make the world a kinder place for animals. Here are five ways you can help:
1. Spay or neuter your pet. One of the main reasons why millions of adoptable animals are killed in shelters every year is because people don't spay (female) or neuter (male) their pet. Some people don't get their pet spayed because they don't think he'll escape from his house/yard. The truth is that 1 in 3 pets goes missing in his lifetime. It only takes a minute for a male dog to get a female dog pregnant, and that can lead to a litter of unwanted puppies that are put to sleep at a shelter. For more myths and facts about spaying and neutering, see humanesociety.org.
2. If you see a stray animal, call his owner immediately. If you can't do that, call animal control so he doesn't get hit by a car or starve/freeze to death. Make sure your own pet is microchipped and wearing readable tags that show a current phone number. My mom is always sad when she tries to help a lost dog but his ID tags are too scratched up to read.
3. Adopt from a shelter or rescue group. Please don't breed or buy while shelter animals die! Instead of spending a fortune on a fancy breed, I hope you'll focus more on choosing a fantastic animal whose time is running out at the shelter. Did you know that mixed breeds tend to have fewer genetic problems than purebreds? Visit www.Petfinder.com to find animals that are waiting in shelters (or foster homes) for a family to call their own. You can search by location, gender, age, and breed. Many times a description of a pet will let you know if he is already house trained and good with children.
4. If adoption isn't a good option for you, consider fostering. Gobs of animals could be saved if more people would volunteer to take in a furry houseguest for a little while. My family has fostered almost 200 shelter puppies until they found their forever homes. I myself would have been euthanized at a shelter if it hadn't been for a kind woman who let me stay at her house until destiny popped me to my new family. Saving one animal won't change the world, but it will change the world for that animal.
5. If can't foster, contact a local rescue group or shelter to find out what they need. Maybe you can volunteer to transport a pet from a shelter to a foster home. You might be needed to help out at an adoption event. Perhaps you can take cute photos of shelter animals to increase their chances of getting adopted. Maybe you can donate money or items on their wish list.
I think Spider-man's Uncle said it best: 'With great power comes great responsibility.' You have the power to make the world a kinder place for animals. I hope you'll be a superhero for a furry friend today!
Chipper is a therapy dog dropout and author who lives in Bailey, Colorado. Her autobiDOGraphy, which teaches that you don't have to be perfect to make a difference, has been featured in Denver Dog Magazine and Mile High Dog. To learn more about Chipper, visit www.ChippersFriends.com and follow her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChippersFriends.