Did you know that there are about 70 million stray animals living in the streets of America? Out of this 70 million, only 6.5 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year and only 3.2 million of them go into homes—it’s absolutely heartbreaking. Fortunately, while it’s not an easy feat, this is a problem that can actually be solved. By working together and doing our part to help out, we can reduce—and hopefully, put an end to—animal homelessness.
Here are 7 ways you can start making a difference:
1. Spay or neuter your pets
Pet overpopulation is one of the biggest reasons for animal homelessness. By spaying or neutering your pet, you can help minimize the number of animals accidentally being born only to be brought to a shelter and ensure that every animal finds a loving home. If you’ve already had your pets spayed or neutered, encourage other pet owners that you know to do the same. You may also support local spay/neuter initiatives by volunteering or making a monetary donation.
2. Participate in TNR or Spay/Neuter projects
According to the ASPCA, only 10% of animals that go into shelters are spayed or neutered. Imagine how many litters of puppies and kittens are being produced or were left behind by the other 90%, and how many more litters those puppies and kittens are going to produce down the line if we don’t do anything about it.
By taking part in TNR or spay/neuter programs in our community, we can keep the numbers down and make sure that all adoptable animals can be placed into homes and those that aren’t—feral cats, in particular—can at least be cared and provided for by volunteers and good Samaritans.
3. Advocate for lost pets
If you find a lost pet or know someone that has, make an effort to help reunite the pet with its owner instead of taking it straight to the shelter and taking up a space that could be used to house an animal in need of a home.
Every year, shelters return over 710,000 lost pets to their owners, and while that’s great, you can help lessen their burden by finding the owner yourself. Ask around the neighborhood for anyone who has recently reported losing a pet, use online resources (like Petfinder, Pet FBI, or even Facebook groups), or print flyers out and post them around your neighborhood.
What’s amazing about fostering is that you’re not only helping to nurse and rehabilitate an animal, but you’re freeing up space in the shelter for another to be saved. That means, as you help one animal prepare for their future home, another gets a roof over their heads.
5. Adopt, don’t shop
If you’re looking to add a pet to the family, opt to open your home to a homeless animal from your local animal shelter rather than buying one from a pet store. While we recognize that there are reputable pet stores in the U.S., over 10,000 get their animals from puppy mills or backyard breeders, who are just in it for the profit. But even you get a pet from an honorable pet store, we can’t deny the fact that there are already millions of animals in need of homes. So, should we really be breeding more?
6. Raise awareness about mass-breeding facilities
One of the reasons why mass-breeding facilities, like puppy mills and backyard breeders, still exist is because of demand. Plenty of people are still unaware that by buying pets from pet stores, websites, and even classified ads, there’s a good chance that they’re supporting these inhumane establishments.
Life in a mass-breeding facility is not something that an animal should ever be subjected to. They’re often deprived of love, veterinary care, and at the very least, basic needs, like food, exercise, and a warm bed. They’re kept in cramped cages, together with their own excrement, and females are bred as frequently as possible to produce more litter to profit of off. And when they can no longer give birth, they’re often killed and thrown away like yesterday’s trash.
So let’s spread the word about the horrors of mass-breeding facilities and encourage people to open their homes (and hearts) to homeless animals, instead.
7. Become an animal transporter
Many, if not all, shelters and rescue organizations struggle with overcrowding on the daily, often leaving them with no other choice but to close their doors to a homeless animal. By becoming an animal transporter, not only will you be able to help organizations prevent overcrowding, but also give homeless animals a better chance of getting adopted by transferring them to an organization that has extra space and a greater demand for animals.