Have you ever been driving along when out of nowhere a dog or cat runs into the middle of the street? You stop your car and get out to help the dog or cat but there is no owner in sight and no tags on the animal.  What steps should you take to get the dog or cat help and to safety?
Confining the Animal
If the dog or cat is in the middle of the road, pull over to the side of the road so you are not blocking any oncoming traffic (this is the best way to avoid potential accidents, especially if you are in a blind spot). Once your car is safely parked, you can approach the animal.  Walk slowly towards them as they are often frightened or scared and in those moments can be easily spooked. If the animal looks sick or dangerous, return to your call immediately and call the Local Township or borough to report the situation.  If that is not the situation, see if the animal comes to you easily by holding and hand out and speaking calmly allowing them to sniff and get acquainted with you.  If you are successful, lead the animal to the side of the road by your car and confine her there.
Take the Animal to Safety
There are three choices you can make once you have animal in a controlled environment, call for assistance, take the animal to a local shelter or take the animal home. Transporting an animal in these situations can cause them to get scared and become aggressive. Be sure to analyze all of your options before you make this decision.
Calling for Assistance
Organizations that are good to call in these situations include animal control, police, and local townships or boroughs.  When help arrives, be sure to provide them with any details you witnessed in regards to the animals behavior, demeanor, etc so they are better prepared to assess the situation.
If you choose to take the animal to a local shelter, contact the shelter prior to leaving the site and determine what their requirements are for drop-offs.  This is a great option, because many shelters have veterinarians that volunteer their time and would be able to scan the animal for a microchip, making the reuniting process easier.
If you decide to take the animal home, you should still contact animal control or a local SPCA or animal shelter first.  This way you have reported the stray to the appropriate authorities. You can provide them with a description along with your name, address, and phone number in the event the owner contacts them to report the animal missing.  If you have other animals at home, be sure to keep them separate from your new four-legged friend to avoid any stress for all the animals. Facebook and other social media platforms are powerful ways to reach a lot of individuals in a short time. Post a picture of the animal with a description of where they were fond and ask others to share.  There are also a number of lost pet pages like “FIND TOBY in PA”, that you can send the picture and description to and they will share with their community of followers.

Abandoned Animals
If you have taken all of the steps above and have not successfully reunited the animal with their owner, they are not automatically yours to keep.  Check local laws by contacting a local shelter or SPCA to determine what steps should be taken next.  If you wish to adopt the animal, there are often times policies in place that must be met first.  Animal shelters, rescues, and SPCA’s are the best place to turn a lost or stray animal in to and the volunteers will help find their owners or place them with new owners who wish to adopt and add to their family.
Before you decide that you want to adopt the stray, be sure to answer these questions:
1. Can you commit the time necessary to caring for a new pet?
2. Is your home pet-friendly?
3. Are you willing to financially commit to helping the animal get any needed shots or veterinary care needed?
4. Are you willing to return the animal to its owner if they show up in a few months?
Adopting new animals into your family is big commitment and yes needs to be the answer to each of these questions. Contact your local animal shelter or rescue for more information on adoption possibilities in your area.

Promoting Adoptions

May 13, 2016

With the warmer weather finally arriving, now is the perfect time to get focused on adoption events and promoting adoption of the animals in your animal rescue or shelter.  Animal adoption events are typically the best way to promote adoptions from your shelter or rescue. These types of events paired with a social media marketing campaign and presence are extremely powerful in reaching a broader base of individuals.
Organizing an Adoption Event
The first steps in any successful adoption event are to schedule a goal, date, time, and location.  With this information you can then recruit volunteers and develop committees to focus on the most important aspect of events, including schedule of events, care of the animals involved, marketing, and volunteer schedule.  Each committee and its members can the focus on their section/responsibility to make it the best it can be.
Setting Goals
What is your goal for your non-profit animal shelter or rescue? What is your long-term and short-term goal? Do you have an influx of animals that you need to have adopted out?  Do you need to raise funds for new equipment or a new building? Having this information set it the beginning, gives you a numerical goal to promote and track throughout the event planning and event day.
Date, Time, Location
It may seem like easy information to decide on but often times there is more to consider than what days or times are available on your personal calendar.  It is best to start with two possible dates and times.  Once you have this information, check with local community organizations to see if there are any other events happening that you may be in competition with to decide on a date that offers the best opportunity for participants.  If you have a physical building, you can host your event at home. If you do not have a building, check with local parks or businesses for an opportunity to set up your event in an easy to reach venue.
Committees help to keep any event running smoothly and are comprised of volunteers from animal shelter or rescue.  Committees allow volunteers to focus on one area of the event and keep the planning organized and efficient.
There are multiple ways to advertise your event. You can contact a local radio station for some broadcasting, hang posters, or place an advertisement in the newspaper. The most cost-effective method is usually on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Snapchat, depending on who your target audience is.  To promote via facebook, you would first start by creating an event on your shelter or rescue page.  From the event you can then invite those that follow your page and encourage them to share and invite their family and friends. Be sure to create a daily post plan to keep potential attendees engaged and excited about what you are offering and promoting at the event.

Promoting Adoptions with No Event
If your animal shelter or rescue is unable to organize or host an event, there is still a great opportunity for you to promote adoptions online.
1. Create a Facebook or Instagram Page. If you do not currently have a page, be sure to create one now.
2. Post pictures of Animals. You can post pictures of animals available for adoption in their current habitat.  Catch them playing, snoozing or cuddling with volunteers.  Be sure to include a summary of the animal’s background and best type of forever home when you post the pictures.
3. Post Videos.  Do you have certain animals that are just made for videos? You know the ones that are always playing around. Catch them live in these moments and share them with your followers who are sure to fall in love as they watch them.
Promoting and increasing adoptions can be accomplished through organized events as well as well as on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.  Once you have decided the path to take, be sure to follow these steps to help increase adoptions in your community.

Holiday Fundraising Ideas

November 20, 2015

  1. Jingle Bell Walk/Run: Organize a Jingle Bell Walk/Run where pets and pet owners don the jingling bells for the duration of the race. Funds can be raised through registration fees and sponsorships.
  2. Holiday Craft Bazaar: Sell table spaces for local artisans to sell handmade holiday décor and gifts.
  3. Hand-Painted Pet Bowls: This option offers multiple opportunities for an organization to raise funds. You can organize an event to paint-your-own doggie dish raising funds through registration fees. You can also have local volunteers create beautiful bowls and sell them for the proceeds.
  4. Pet Photos with Santa: Offer an opportunity for pet owners to bring in their pup or kitty to get a picture with Santa for a small fee or donation.
  5. Doggie Treat Bake Sale: Gather volunteers with baking skills and create some pet friendly goodies to sell for the proceeds.
  6. Furry Friend Holiday Card Sale: Capture the beauty of all of the animals from your rescue or shelter by having a local photographer donate their talents and turning them into adorable holiday cards to sell.
  7. Animal Calendar: Everyone will be needing a new calendar soon! Offer a compilation of your furry friends in calendar form for people to buy for themselves or as a gift.
  8. Christmas Ornament Design/Sale: Creating a special edition Christmas ornament to promote your organization allows you to revisit this fundraising idea yearly
  9. Gift Wrapping: Gather your craftiest volunteers and set-up a gift wrapping station outside of major stores. Offer some cute animal design papers and bows for a small fee or donation.
  10. New Year’s Eve Pet Party: Ring in the New Year by hosting a New Year’s Eve bash for pets and owners. All proceeds from the ticket sales will help boost your year-end donations.

A volunteer handbook is a key foundational risk management strategy. It will help to protect your volunteers, clients, and agency by providing guidelines for conduct, procedures, and policies. The handbook serves three major purposes: relaying crucial organizational information, establishing clear expectations, and emphasizing the importance of volunteers. By providing this information with your volunteers upfront, you welcome them to your agency and ensure that they understand their role and responsibilities.

Begin your handbook with a welcome letter. This is an opportunity to create an open environment and explain the essential role that your volunteers fulfill. Keep the letter brief and avoid using technical terminology, acronyms, or jargon. It is best to have the letter written by the Executive Director or a board member to relay how very important the volunteers are to your organization.

Once you have welcomed your volunteers, create a section in your handbook to relay important organizational information. Utilize this segment to briefly explain the background and history of the organization and your plans for the future. Include your vision and mission statements so that your volunteers understand the core values of the agency. This will help your volunteers to take ownership of your mission and goals. It is also necessary to explain your expectations for your volunteers and what they can expect from their involvement with the organization. This is a great space to provide a list of the rights and responsibilities of a volunteer so that they are clear on what their involvement with your organization will entail.

No handbook would be complete without a section for policies and procedures. It can include everything from legal concerns to best practices. However, make certain that only those regulations and processes that have been approved and implemented by your organization are included. This area may contain different things for different agencies, but it is essential to utilize this section to explain things like eligibility requirements, background checks, confidentiality policy, codes of conduct, and any other policy that your organization has in place. Additional areas that you may want to cover in this section include safety and emergency procedures, media relation procedures, grievance or dispute procedures, attendance, dress code, conflicts of interest, photo release, and social media policies. A complete policy and procedures section allows your organization to lay out the expectations for your volunteers, as well as, manage your risk by having your volunteers sign an acknowledgement of receipt of these policies.

Volunteer handbooks relay all the information that your helpers will need to be successful. So if you have additional information such as a glossary of terms, commonly used acronyms, contact information, maps, calendar of events, and answers to frequently asked question consider adding these as well. Make the handbook your own by including whatever information is important to your organization and your volunteers. As long as you have covered the information that was mentioned above, you will have a functional guide for how to successfully volunteer in your organization.

As an animal rescue and/or shelter, fundraisers and adoption events are paramount to your success. The appropriate marketing for these occasions can raise funds, increase volunteerism, and help your furry friends find a forever home. Whether through media, print, or social marketing, utilizing the following elements in your campaign will bring increased visibility to your cause.

Mission Tagline

It is essential to make your mission clear in your advertising. Create a mission tagline that succinctly expresses your purpose to use in brochures, pamphlets, media ads, and/or on your website. You may already have a broader vision statement that addresses the overall goals of your organization from which to gather inspiration. Narrow in on the mission of your organization by addressing what your rescue and/or shelter wants to achieve, how you will accomplish these goals, and for whom. The best mission taglines are concise, memorable, and evoke a call to action.

Contact Information

No matter the promotion platform that you have chosen to get the word out, clearly displaying the ways that your target audience can get in contact with your organization is key. All marketing materials should contain your address, phone number(s), e-mail address, website, and social media information. The more options of communication that you offer, the more likely you are to be in contact with a broad range of supporters.

Event Details

The purpose of your marketing campaign is to garner support and increase attendance at your fundraisers and adoption events. Therefore, it is crucial to include the details of your gathering in all of your advertising. Provide the what, where, when, and how in your print, media, and social marketing materials. Explain the purpose of the event, the location where it will be held, and the date(s) and times. You also have a great opportunity within this element to explain how the community can get involved by donating or volunteering.

Animal Specifics

Your furry friends are the reason that you are holding a fundraiser or adoption event. So it is logical that information about these animals be a vital element of your campaign. Fundraising promotions need to focus on the animals that will benefit from the money raised, and how your organization has made a difference with previous events. Testimonials from volunteers, donors, and success stories can provide potential donors and volunteers with the information they need to decide to contribute. When it comes to adoption, pictures will draw attention and create interest, but a well written biography can greatly increase the chances of partnering your cats and/or dogs with the perfect pet parent. Include information about personality, activity level, medical concerns, and compatibility with other pets and children with your photographs. There is no need to explain the back story of each animal unless it is something that will increase appeal, such as a retired police dog. Focus on the positive aspects of each pet, but be honest. For example, do not make claims that a cat is sociable with other animals when she really prefers not to share the spotlight with other four-legged friends. This will not serve your animals or your prospective pet parents. If you are using multi-media marketing, videos of your adoptees interacting with volunteers or other animals can also help to demonstrate a pet’s personality. Whether you use print, media or both, make your message about the animals that you serve.

When developing your strategy for promoting your fundraising and adoption events, keep these key elements of a successful campaign in mind. They will provide your target audience with all of the information they need to understand your organization’s mission, how to contact you, where and when you will be hosting events, and introduce them to the animals that you love and serve every day.

1. ID your Pets! On the off chance that you lose your pet during the festivities, having your pet properly identified with an ID-tag, collar, and/or Micro-chip will make it much easier to reunite you and your furry friend.
2. Keep Pets Indoors. Loud noises and strange visitors can be very stressful for pets. Keep your pet in a quiet room away from noisy trick-or-treaters.
3. Candy is not for Pets! Chocolate and the artificial sweetener Xylitol can cause serious health problems for your pets. Keep candy away from cats and dogs.
4. Raisins are risky, too! Raisins and grapes can lead to kidney failure in dogs, and potentially other pets as well. Keep raisin packs away from your pets.
5. Guard your Gourds! Jack-o-lanterns are a tempting fire hazard for curious cats. Keep lit pumpkins out of reach of pets.
6. Hide Cords and Wires. Many Halloween decorations use extension cords and wires. Keep these cords out of pets reach to reduce fire hazard risk.
7. Glow Sticks are not Chew toys! Although they are non-toxic, the liquid inside of a glow stick can cause excessive salivation and discomfort for your pet. Make sure to properly dispose of glow sticks.
8. Candy Wrappers are not just a Nuisance. Watch out for discarded candy wrappers when taking your dog out for a walk in the days following Halloween. When swallowed, cellophane, foil, and plastic wrappers can cause bowel blockage.
9. Don’t Over Do the Disguise. Many pet owners like to dress-up their dog and/or cat in a cute pet costume for Halloween. Make sure that the outfit does not cause your pet to overheat, or present your pet with choking hazards from accessories.
10. Monitor your Pet’s Stress Level. If you have chosen to include your furry friend in the festivities, make sure to watch for signs of irritation or over-stimulation. If your dog or cat is showing signs of stress, get them to a safe, quiet location where they can relax.

Weight Control In Pets

September 23, 2015

Approximately 54 percent of cats and dogs in America are obese. Animal obesity tends to be a major problem for pet owners as it is important to watch what your pet eats just as you monitor what you eat on a daily basis. There are several ways that you can control the weight in your pet by simply making sure they get enough activity throughout the day and monitoring what they eat.

First determine if your dog or cat is overweight. This can be done by looking at them and noticing that they have a sagging stomach, no waistline, and/or a broad flat back. See if you can grab a handful of fat. This will help you recognize there must be something done immediately to help your pet lose weight. Obesity can shorten your pet’s life and excess fat will impair its health and quality of life.

Indoor cats of 10 to 15 pounds should not eat more than 200 to 220 calories a day and dogs at 10 to 15 pounds shouldn’t eat more than 275 calories a day. Check the food you’re giving them and determine if it’s right for them. The more organic and healthier the food is the more chances your pet will live longer without gaining much weight. Knowing how many calories your pet takes in a day is vital to preventing animal obesity.

The following steps will help decrease their chances of gaining weight.

  • Neutered/spayed pets tend to gain weight easier. Be prepared to monitor what your cat or dog eats regularly to avoid obesity.
  • Decrease food intake and increase activity level. Take dogs on longer walks and provide cats with more toys and things to climb on including cat trees.
  • Feed twice a day in smaller amounts than usual. Avoid any table food. Give fewer treats and offer them in the middle of the day so that they can burn it off before dinner.

Try playing with your pet. Dogs can go for a run in the park while cats can have an activity time in the morning or evening for chasing rope, lasers, or balls.

Pets like to spend time with their owners and if you’re active they will want to be active with you. It’s more than just petting or feeding time to your pets, it’s sharing moments with you that help them bond with you and live longer lives.

Snow Emergency Preparedness

September 14, 2015

When winter temperatures plummet, it is important for animal rescue organizations to have solid plans in place.  Disaster preparedness for animals is just as important as the preparations that are made for humans. In fact, these plans feature many of the same elements. Taking the time to make ready for unexpected events in advance of their occurrence can save lives, prevent illness and ensure continued comfort.  It can also help animal welfare organizations avoid a host of wholly preventable, financial problems.

Access To Water

Water is always a critical element for survival and thus, when it comes to disaster preparedness for animals, it is important to have adequate water supplies for each animal and person who will be present in the facility throughout any major storm.  The general recommendation is to have between one and two gallons per person, per day along with one gallon per animal, per day.  As an alternative to investing in costly, bottled water supplies, animal rescuers can sterilize empty, reusable water bottles with modest amounts of bleach and sufficient rinsing.  These can then be filled with clean, potable water and stored.  Water that has been stored in reusable containers for disaster events should be changed out once every six months.

Shelter In Place Supplies

A snowstorm can make it necessary for all team members to shelter in place.  For volunteers and all other facility personnel, it is important to have a comprehensive first aid kit, adequate blankets, high-protein, high energy foods, back-up supplies of any personal medications and sufficient water.  Animals will need a supply of kitty litter, bags for storing other solid animal waste for preservation of the shelter in place environment, dry food stores, blankets for additional warmth as necessary and back-up supplies of all veterinarian-issued medicines.  It is also important to have a first-aid kit that is specific to the needs of the animals that are housed.

Coverage For Protecting The Facility And All That It Contains

One of the most important elements of your plan for snow emergency preparedness is sufficient coverage for the shelter facility and all of the items that it contains.  In addition to presenting a number of challenging, shelter in place events, seasons of heavy snowfall can also wreak havoc on physical building structures and their contents.  With comprehensive commercial property insurance, animal welfare organizations can limit the financial impact that severe weather has on their facilities.

The very first thing that you have to take into consideration when you are formulating a press release is your audience.  For large corporations, the format is going to be quite different than for smaller groups.  The big companies are generally well known, so it doesn’t take much to grab the public’s eye, and for the most part it isn’t necessary for them to have to give the public an overview of the things that they do.

For smaller organizations, it can sometimes be necessary to get some information about the things that you do out to the public within the body of the piece, and not just focus on the specific topic of what the press release is based on.  You have to make sure that people know what it is they are donating their time or money to, because there is such a plethora of smaller organizations, that it can become very overwhelming for the common person to really have a solid idea of what the goals of each one are.

Once you get past that back story, what your organization does on a daily basis, and you move into the press release itself, you want to approach it almost like an advertisement.  It is always going to fall back onto how large and how well known the organization is when you are deciding how to address the target audience, but the absolute best advice is, the smaller the organization, the more personal you want the release to be.  You want to feel like you are selling yourself to the audience, because you are.

When you are reaching out to people about the fundraisers, or pet adoption events that you are hosting, you have to make them feel like they are a part of it before they even arrive.  For most pet parents and possible adopters, animal rescue is more than just a charity, it’s something that strikes them closest to home.  When a person not only believes in the cause, but knows that it is something that has effected them personally, their response to your organization will be much greater.  Your press release should not only educate, it should also welcome the reader in as a friend and an ally to the cause.

Fostering an animal who needs guidance and love is rewarding. You’re literally saving a life when you offer support and structure for an animal in need.  Volunteer foster parents need to have the desire, of course, but should also consider the responsibilities that come with the rewards.

Before you decide to foster, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your home need any modification?  Think about what needs your chosen animal may have.  Is there enough space?  Do your family members or other pets have any allergies or intolerances that may be an issue?  Is your home safe for a healthy animal of your choice?
  • What kind of foster do you want?  Some people are amazing at behavioral training, some do better with older or physically diminished animals, and some would be best at just offering love and shelter.  Be honest with yourself about what you and your family can handle.
  • Will your insurance cover it?  In the case of large dogs, for instance, an extra insurance rider may be required to protect you from liability, even if the dog hasn’t been a behavioral risk previously.  Double-check your homeowner’s policy.
  • How much financial risk can you assume?  How much you’re responsible for is largely up to the organization through which you’re fostering.  Items like vet bills and ID tags are sometimes covered; additional food or litter may not.  Find out ahead of time what you may have to cover to avoid any surprises.
  • Do you have the time?  Because many fosters have special needs, they can require a bit more love and attention than other pets.  Give some thought to how much time you have for training and other needs before you decide.
  • How good are you at letting go?  Often, the hardest part of being a foster family is having to say goodbye when an adoption goes through.  The beautiful thing about fostering is that it’s temporary.  The worst thing about it is also that it’s temporary.  Make sure you and your family are able to let go when the time comes.

When you’re comfortable with your answers, the application process for fostering is outlined on most organizations’ websites or can be explained by staff volunteer coordinators.  There’s generally a home visit, a check of your references, and an agreement to be signed.

Once approved, it’s just a matter of waiting for an animal that needs your love and care.