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Animal Shelter Appreciation Week

Animal shelters, humane societies and other animal welfare organizations have come a long way in this country. Gone are the days of the town dog-catcher rounding up stray pets, bringing them to a concrete room with steel bars, to await an inhumane death in the gas chamber.

Countless organizations are taking a stand to make the world a better place for animals, and to save as many pets as possible from homelessness and needless suffering. Here are just a few of the ways these organizations are improving the lives of pets everywhere.

Increasing chances of adoption for homeless pets is using the power of the internet to find homes for countless shelter pets. Their unique service enables pets in shelters to be entered into a nationwide database, exposing them to many more potential adopters. Individual shelters can place a Petfinder widget on their own website, which allows all the pets in their shelter to be found by visitors not only to their particular website, but by all the visitors to

Purina, Petco and other large companies have implemented fundraisers, adoption events, and countless other programs to aid shelters in their communities, and increase the visibility of adoptable pets. Research by similar companies has resulted in improvements in shelter design and environmental enrichment for their resident animals. These techniques reduce overall stress in the shelter environment, subsequently increasing these pets’ chances for adoption.

No-kill movement

There has been an amazing shift in the outlook for pets in shelters in recent years. Many shelters have become low-kill, meaning that only very sick, debilitated pets are euthanized; or no-kill, meaning every pet that comes through the door is nursed back to health, regardless of cost.

The North Shore Animal League, one of the pioneers of the no-kill movement in the United States, has saved over 1 million pets from euthanasia. They have also initiated mobile pet adoptions, increasing the exposure of adoptable pets, and have the largest referral network of no- or low-cost spay/neuter services in order to help reduce the unwanted pet population.

Fighting back against dog-fighters and other animal abusers

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States are two organizations at the forefront of the fight against animal abuse and neglect.

Both are instrumental in educating the public on the humane treatment of animals and the importance of recognizing and reporting signs of abuse, neglect and dog fighting. Their efforts have resulted in important legislation that enables the prosecution of countless dog-fighting organizers, and other animal abusers. They are also significant in the fight for humane treatment of wildlife and livestock. They have done important research showing the link between animal abuse and domestic abuse, which has also saved countless humans from abuse and even death.

Ending pit bull and other breed discrimination

In a misguided effort to reduce dog bites and attacks, certain dogs are discriminated against based on their breed alone. The most commonly discriminated against breed is the pit bull terrier, but breeds such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, mastiffs and Chow Chows are often included in these legislations. These breeds can be banned as pets in certain cities, apartment complexes and housing associations. Higher home insurance premiums for owners of these breeds are often imposed.

Countless organizations try to convey that it is not the breed that is to blame, but the irresponsible owners who train the dogs to fight, or do not take the time to properly socialize or train them as house-pets.

Best Friends Animal Society, who is widely known for rehabilitating pit bulls seized from NFL-star Michael Vick’s home, has been instrumental in developing initiatives to stop breed-discriminating legislation, especially against pit bull terriers. They are spreading the word that these dogs make great pets in the hands of responsible pet owners. They are also working hard to make Utah and other states into ‘no-kill’ shelter states.

We still have a long way to go in this country to educate people on humane treatment of animals, to end pet homelessness, and change the minds of people who discriminate against certain dog breeds, but we are getting there with the help of these organizations and others like it.

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