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From 22 August 2004 Issue

What Can I Do?
by JJswans@aol.com 

Here at Animal Rights Online, we are frequently asked by subscribers and website visitors, the following question...... "What can I do?" It often seems that the level of abuse, neglect, and apathy are overwhelming, and those that care about the animals are at a loss for what they can do to help.

One of the first things we tell them is that the most important thing they can do is to go vegan, and that life change will help the animals, and the earth. We also advise compassionate living in general, including compassionate shopping, thereby casting activist votes with the buying dollar. And of course a statement can also be made by boycotting events that cause pain and distress to animals, like rodeos, circuses, aquaparks, and the like.

But all that often seems like inaction and activists rarely see the results of what they have achieved with their lifestyle changes. And sometimes, it's really empowering to witness the results of what we do. This is one of the reasons that many animal rights groups are considering the welfare of animals in their own neighborhoods. Peta, for instance, among other groups, is building and distributing dog houses in their neighborhood for dogs that will never have the chance to be inside with their families, and would otherwise be miserable in inclement weather. Such a simple thing really, but for the dog in question, a life-changing chance for a little comfort - something they never experienced before.

Recently, while doing a little research on the web, I happened on a community group who decided that instead of complaining about their local animal shelter, they chipped in and started a campaign to make the animals more adoptable. This particular shelter, because of nominal municipal funding, had installed gates once used in a prison, on each shelter run, and because of the way these gates were constructed, it was almost impossible to see the adoptable dog behind the gate. The smaller the dog, the less it could be seen, and the less chance it would be adopted. Such a simple problem, but with no funding, the dogs never had a chance at a forever home. How chilling that animals were dying because the public couldn't see them clearly.

That is, they never had a chance until the Friends of Placer County Animal Shelter pitched in and started a fundraising campaign to replace the prison doors with gates that gave a clear view of the shelter dogs. For more information about this group, and their wonderful achievement for their shelter, go to: Friends of Placer County Animal Shelters (www.whpoa.com/kennel.htm

So the question is, what does your community shelter need? Do they need foster homes for mama dogs or cats that are nursing kittens? Are you aware that many shelters will euthanize these animals without giving them any chance at all, because they are not set up to house the mama and her litter for 8 weeks until all can be adopted? Most are not even able to keep them for a week, and since unweaned infants can't be separated from their mother, all will be destroyed.

Even youngsters can help the shelters by asking neighbors to donate old towels or blankets, cleaning products, and even the cardboard tube inside of bathroom tissue rolls -- which bunnies love to chew and play with. Some groups even help to pay for extra adoption days at the shelter, veterinary funding for orthopedic surgeries, newspaper ads, and even temporary outside boarding when the shelter becomes too crowded.

We all know that spaying and neutering is the most important way to stop the killing, but it's the extra problems that most shelters have no funding for that can make the difference between life and death -- and YOU can help to solve those problems.

Ask your local shelter what it needs. Ask your local rescue group what problems it's seeing at the shelter. Pitch in. Save lives directly. And of course, if there is room in your home and in your heart for a companion animal, please adopt a shelter or rescue dog, cat, or bunny - or even companion animals you'd never expect to find there. Visit your local shelter today, and don't let the fear of wanting to take them all home, stop you from visiting. Apathy and inaction will never save lives.

Go on to Hurricane Charley
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