National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week

The first week of November is known as National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week.  When we think of animal shelters, we frequently think of adopting animals that need homes.  However, shelters do so much more for our communities.

Dog having playtime at an animal shelter.We already mentioned adoption, but let’s focus on the specifics just a little more.  Most shelters utilize temperament testing of the dogs that come through their doors.  This is a type of behavior test that helps staff and volunteers match the appropriate dog with the right family.  Families with young children need a more tolerant dog than those with an adult-only home.  Older dogs may be a good match for senior citizens due to their lower energy level and exercise requirements, and many shelters offer discounted adoption fees to seniors.  Also, more shelters are offering programs for military veterans.  The Plaquemines Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) offers discounted adoption fees to veterans.  Some go so far as pairing up specific dogs with veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.

Another critical function of an animal shelter is serving as animal control.  Trained officers pick up stray and unwanted animals throughout the community.  This keeps stray animals on the streets from breeding and creating more homeless animals.  Many of these strays are brought to the local animal shelter for adoption.  It is also a matter of safety, as unneutered strays are the number one culprit in dog attacks.  Animal control officers also oversee the enforcement of animal-related ordinances, like making sure dogs aren’t chained out, are either spayed or neutered unless licensed, and are humanely cared for.  To review a list of animal ordinances for Jefferson Parish, click here.  For Orleans Parish animal ordinances, click here.

Many shelters also provide low cost medical care for pets in the community.  Reduced price spay/neuter services and vaccinations are provided at a minimum.  Several shelter-run clinics have “community cat” programs, where people can bring in feral cats to have them either spayed or neutered before re-releasing into their regular environment.  This helps to keep the population numbers under control while allowing them to feed on pests like rats and mice.  Finally, some clinics offer medical services for adopted pets with special needs, like those who suffer from heartworm disease.

Community outreach and education is also an important function of an animal shelter.  Teaching the importance of responsible pet ownership to children at a young age helps to ensure the next generation of caretakers have the skills and knowledge to care for the ever-growing pet population.  Some shelters and animal welfare organizations participate in programs that take pets to schools and nursing homes.  Research has shown the power of pet companionship on reducing stress, improving learning, and speeding up the healing process.  Finally, some shelters offer training programs for people and pets.  Classes like Pet CPR/First Aid and obedience training are offered by the Louisiana SPCA.

Animal shelters and rescues rely on hard-working, dedicated staff and volunteers to run these programs.  Shelters receive varying amounts of local government assistance depending upon how they are set up; however, all rely heavily on fundraising efforts.  If their mission is something that is important to you, think about helping out!  Monetary donations, volunteer time, and adoptive/foster homes are always needed.  Check out New Orleans’ local animal shelters: