While so much of what we do is focusing on animals that have already become homeless, spending a small amount of your annual time and budget on community programs can greatly decrease your intake over time. In this article we will cover common myths of community programs, which programs to prioritize, and how to implement these programs to start helping animals in your community.
Types of Community Programs
When creating a community program, we must first consider the need of our community. If you keep track of intake, look at why animals are entering your shelter. According to Open Journal of Animal Sciences, the top 4 reasons animals are surrendered are:
- Problematic behaviors: aggressive behaviors, grew larger than expected, health problems owner couldn’t handle
- Family related: personal or family health troubles, allergies to [animal], divorce or separation, new person in the household who did not like [animal], death in the family, a new baby in the household, lack of time to care for [animal]
- Housing related: landlord did not allow [animals], didn’t have enough space for [animals]
- Resource related: could not afford the costs involved in having a [animal]
Let’s address solutions to each of these options one by one.
“Problematic behavior” – This is often the result of trainable behaviors or avoidable situations if families have access to proper training. Consider working with local trainers to offer reduced or free training sessions for community members. If you have the funds, create a “voucher program where your organization pays for training fees for families in need. If the cost of a training session is $100 but the cost of intaking an animal is $500, you have already saved money.
“Family related” – Of course we can’t control every situation that families may face and sometimes surrender is the only option. However, situations like welcoming a new baby into the family is something we can prepare for. Consider offering a monthly virtual course that teaches expecting parents how to prepare interactions with their animals and their baby.
“Housing related” – It can be difficult to find animal-friendly housing and renters are often faced with surrendering their animal to find an apartment in their budget. There are great resources like My Pitbull is Family but you can start by offering to pay the pet deposit for apartments, making more locations accessible to families on a budget. Take it a step further and work with local landlords to create more animal-friendly housing in your community.
“Resource related” – This is a large area of need. Resources covers everything from food and supplies to vet care and medication. The best way to approach all of these needs is by starting an animal food pantry. Collect donations from the community and set up a “voucher” program with a local vet to pay for annual exams for certain families. To get started on an animal food pantry, email us for getting started templates. For an example of how easy it is to get started, check out linktr.ee/wilmingtonanimalfoodpantry
Myths of Community Programs
“We need a physical building. “
While you do need a space to store physical items such as food and supplies, this doesn’t have to be a designated space! You can have volunteers store items in their homes, rent a storage unit, or ask a local business to donate some extra storage space.
“We don’t have the budget to start a new program.”
Start small! Open it up to the public and ask for donations of unopened and unexpired animal food and supplies. Scour “free” facebook pages for people giving away supplies. Set up a donation bin at local businesses or farmers market. As awareness for your program grows, so will the support from your community.
“We don’t have the staff.”
Recruit a volunteer program manager! If you start small, it’s a role that can be primarily or entirely done from home and gives you flexibility on who helps. You can scale up or down as needed.
“People who can’t afford their animals shouldn’t have animals.”
First, there are a million reasons why someone may no longer be able to afford necessities. These reasons can range from unexpected medical bills, a death in the family, or change of employment. Second, it is almost always better for the animal to stay in the home they know and are comfortable in.
Many people surrendering their animals don’t know they can ask for temporary relief. Providing these options can help keep animals in their loving homes and out of your shelter.
Why these programs help your organization
There’s an old saying that “it’s cheaper to keep a customer than to get a new one”. Well, it’s cheaper to keep an animal in their home than to find a new one. It’s also greatly beneficial for the animal and the humans of the family. This of course does not apply to homes an animal is not safe in or is intentionally not being properly cared for. However, these programs give you the space to help the animals that really need you.
As always, we’re here to help you get started. Send us a message and let’s save some lives!