Sometimes the biggest differences we make in dogs' lives begin in our own backyards. One of the most effective ways is through adoption, but some cities need a bit of help promoting this cornerstone. You can take both big and small steps to help your city become more adoption-friendly, thereby giving homeless dogs a better chance of finding loving, permanent homes.
Your efforts can be as simple as encouraging your friends and neighbors to visit a local shelter or rescue, or as monumental as meeting with your mayor to discuss funding issues. Every bit helps, and every effort you make will take you one step closer to a dog-friendlier community.
Here are some tips and ideas to get you started in making your town more adoption-friendly:
- Encourage city officials to invite one shelter dog to each city council meeting, and introduce her to attendees. This is a double perk if the meetings are televised. Cities that do this regularly claim a nearly 100 percent adoption rate of these dogs.
- Dogs are often relinquished to shelters when owners are not allowed to take them to new housing complexes. This keeps shelters crowded and holding periods short. If you live in a city with many non-pet-friendly apartments, contact your local officials to inspire changes. "Start talking to ... the mayor and council people to pass laws to encourage landlords to allow dogs," says Toni Bodon, co-founder and executive director of Stray from the Heart, a New York rescue group that has found homes for more than 1,500 dogs.
- Advocate for shelter reform, and support lawmakers who wish to allocate city funds for shelter improvements, Bodon says. The more attractive and visitorfriendly the shelter is, the more people will stop by, and the more dogs will be adopted, she says.
- Brainstorm ideas on how to make the shelter more welcoming, such as converting an old storage area behind the kennels into a grassy playground. Research what it takes to turn those ideas into a reality.
- Volunteer to take photos for a "pet of the week" column in your local newspaper. Work with the shelter manager to choose a dog who needs exposure, and snap her picture. Include a description of the dog and shelter contact information.
- Contact your city's public access channel about using free airtime to broadcast a slide show of shelter dogs' photos and information on whom to contact. This can be a way to fill dead space during televised council meeting intermissions.
- If you work locally, spearhead a donation drive with co-workers to fulfill shelters' wish lists, or gather volunteers to help out a rescue group's adoption fair.
- Offer to host a fundraiser for your favorite rescue group, and publicize it around town.
- Volunteer at a school to speak about the perks of adoption, Bodon suggests. Kids sold on the idea of adoption will hopefully encourage their parents to visit the shelter first when it comes time to get a new dog.
Kyra Kirkwood is a DOG FANCY contributing editor who lives in Fullerton, Calif. She adopted both of her dogs from local shelters and volunteers with rescue groups.