One of the most incredible groups working for the humane treatment of companion animals is Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah. You may be familiar with the organization through the TV show Dogtown on the National Geographic Channel. (If you’re not, you don’t know what you’re missing!) Word Forge Books, our publishing house, is a member of Best Friends and supports the work of this incredible group of dedicated professionals and volunteers.
I especially like the organization because, unlike many rescue operations, not only does Best Friends NOT discriminate against special needs animals, it actually welcomes them. After all, Best Friends is what’s known as a shelter of last resort, meaning they take the most difficult-to-place animals no one else wants and everyone else has given up on. (However, I want to make clear that not every person or group who sends animals to Best Friends wants to do so; often, they simply don’t have the resources to deal with such demanding cases.)
Still, that means Best Friends often takes in disabled, neglected and abused pets…and that makes them some of our…best friends.
Recently, in the March/April 2009 issue of their magazine (a beautifully produced member benefit), Best Friends featured a story called Going the Extra Mile: Transporting pets out-of-state for adoption is a growing trend, in the “No More Homeless Pets” section. It’s about the increasing movement to enable homeless pet adoption by transporting them from areas of high concentration with few adopters to areas where people looking to adopt are more plentiful but have fewer animals from which to choose. I think of it as the “bringing the mountain to Mohammed” approach, and it’s just brilliant. I guess it’s only become feasible recently to do such transport; otherwise, why didn’t someone think of this before? It’s such an obvious no-brainer!
Anyway, I’ll leave the whole story for you to enjoy at their website, but I wanted to feature here some information from this article’s sidebar. It’s great stuff, very actionable on both an immediate and an extended basis, and it’s something you can print out or bookmark to use later and to refer friends to, who seem interested in helping but don’t know where to start:
How You Can Help
Here are just a few ways you can help transport animals to their forever homes:
• Find out which animal shelters and rescue groups are in your area. Ask around, do an Internet search or try the phone book. Most of the groups will need volunteers for various aspects of transporting animals, including scheduling volunteers and driving “legs” of a journey. Contact them.
• Help spread the word about transport needs. Social networking sites are loaded with animal lovers. Working with the shelter or rescue group, post messages on the Best Friends Network, Twitter.com, Facebook.com, LinkedIn.com, MySpace.com, Craigslist.org or online forums. Send text messages to your animal-loving friends by cell phone.
• Know who wants to help, and stay in touch. Many transport requests are urgent, so it’s important, in advance, to build a list of volunteers that includes basic contact information such as e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Keep e-mail alerts short and to the point, and write in all pertinent information, including necessary contact phone numbers and addresses and photos of animals needing transport.
• Provide temporary lodging or transportation. Rescuers often seek overnight foster homes for pets on the way to their destinations. Also, they may need someone to take them to and from a foster home or a veterinary clinic.
• Volunteer to drive or to be a passenger. You can also donate the use of your own van or SUV.
• Donate pet carriers, fluffy pads for carriers, pet food, and cash toward fuel costs.
• Walk the dogs before a trip or help load the vehicle.
See? So much of this is stuff you can do easily, on an irregular basis, or just when you have the time (I know you’re busy). None of it is glamorous, showy work — leave that to the celebrities — but it’s all necessary, and it’s all appreciated by and tremendously helpful to those who spend most of their time doing this work on behalf of our fellow species.
So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by the apparent inability of one or two folks to do anything positive about the problem of unwanted pets, think again: There’s lots you can do, and all of it matters. I’ll leave you with the immortal wisdom of cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Rock on, Marg.