We very rarely talk about nonprofits across the country who focus on animal welfare. Noticing this oversite, this blog could not let 2017 slip by without taking a look at the ongoing dedication and renewed focus that has been displayed by animal welfare nonprofits throughout the year.
Let’s begin by looking at the size of the challenge facing animal welfare groups. The most popular pets by far are, of course, dogs and cats. Back in 2000, there was an astounding 68 million dogs in the United States. In 2017, you’ll be shocked to know, the population of dogs was counted at 89.7 million!
Hold on to your hat. That’s nothing. There are 95.6 million cats in America! This is not commercial livestock we’re measuring. These are household pets. That’s a combined total of 185.3 million individual animals who must be cared for every day (68% of all American households own pets). To put this number in perspective, there are only 74.2 million children (under the age of 18) in the United States. Now you can see the scope of the task confronting our nonprofit animal welfare colleagues.
Rising to the Challenge
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the American Humane Society are the two largest of over 100 various animal welfare and animal rights groups operating in every state in the nation. Animal welfare organizations tend to focus on the care of individual animals while animal rights groups focus on advocating for the whole group.
European settlers introduced a number of domesticated species to America and adopted the first known animal welfare laws between 1500 and 1800. In 1824, Richard Martin, Arthur Broome, and William Wilberforce found the first SPCA in England, followed by the founding of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1866. Concern for animal welfare resurged in the 1950s, resulting in the first federal Animal Welfare Act. Animal welfare blossomed in the sixties, and nonprofits sprung up in response to the growing problem of too many pets and too few homes.
What Are They Up to?
“I think sometimes people think of animal shelters as places where there’s sort of second-class animals, or you know, sort of damaged goods,” Lorie Chortyk, general manager of community relations for the B.C. SPCA remarked in an interview.
- IMAGE - The SPCA has initiated a new program to convert old-fashioned animal shelters to destinations for pet lovers and shed the outdated image as miserable holding cells for homeless pets awaiting euthanasia. It is now about celebrating the animals they have for adoption.
- EDUCATION - And since the image of shelters is shifting, it is worth noting that the animal welfare workforce has quietly undergone a dramatic shift itself. The sector has been scaling up in knowledge and training, leading the way to a dramatic rise in save rates. Last week, mega-funder family foundation Maddie’s Fund announced they were plunking down $4 million to Austin Pets Alive in Central Texas to fund master classes and training workshops expected to teach over 2,000 animal welfare workers best practices in shelter operations, utilizing foster homes, fundraising, and marketing. By raising professional standards, the animal welfare field is now attracting qualified talent from both the private and nonprofit sectors.
- TRANSPORTATION – Rescues have begun an initiative to purchase appropriate vehicles and develop relationships to move animals from areas where they are overpopulated to areas where they are highly desirable. Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue in New York recently received funding from The Grey Muzzle Organization to support their efforts to transport dogs from rural county shelters in the South to the East Coast where the census of adoptable dogs is lower.
- PET RETENTION – Detroit Dog Aid is chugging along with their community-based efforts to support owner retention, intervening to assist owners and their pets with the little things – like behavior challenges, pet care items, or routine vet needs – that can escalate quickly into big issues, leading pets to be surrendered to the shelter.
To Sum It Up
The President of PetSmart Charities, the leading funder of animal welfare in America donating more than $37 million in 2016 to directly help pets, summed up the brave new world of animal welfare like this:
“Under a newly refined mission, in addition to supporting the quality care of pets in need, we also hope to better leverage the power of pets and bring more people and pets together – enhancing the quality of life for both. We’re excited to expand our funding support to help even more pets and people with new grant opportunities like those that keep pets and their families together during difficult times and support animal-assisted therapy programs – just to name a few.”