We have a couple of exciting announcements related to our volunteer program, including free admission to Chewacla State Park for volunteers to walk our shelter dogs, and a pet owner outreach program to provide information and resources to local pet owners.
Jog-a-Dog at Chewacla State Park
Chewacla State Park has generously agreed to waive the entrance fee for our jog-a-dog volunteers to bring shelter dogs for a hike at the park, free of charge. Chewacla provides a beautiful, natural setting that is ideal for giving our shelter dogs a break from the shelter. Our jog-a-dog candidates may also meet potential adopters who love the outdoors just as much as they do!
We have many compassionate people who donate their time to our animals' wellbeing and happiness during their stay with us. Our dog walkers find the program rewarding because it's great for our pups and is an excellent opportunity to exercise with a buddy. Longtime volunteer Krista Wignall shared that, "my favorite part of dog walking at the shelter is knowing that I'm giving a pup some additional time to run around outside and get love. I know the staff is busy everyday, so if I can give a dog some extra every day... I feel like its a win."
On jog-a-dog particular, Wignall said, "I like jog a dog for multiple reasons. It helps a dog become ok with new surroundings and strangers. It gets them additional exercise. It exposes them to potential adopters who see the yellow "adopt me" vest. It also helps ME get extra exercise! "
Volunteer Michelle Furney also enjoys spending time with our dogs and knowing the impact that walks have on their wellbeing, "I love how excited the dogs get when they know they get to go outside, "Furney said. One that she mentioned was Cooper, a former long-term resident who was adopted recently. "Cooper jumping high up cracks me up. You can tell they love to get out for a walk."
To participate in jog-a-dog, the first step is to become an LCHS volunteer. Prospective volunteers must first fill out a volunteer application on our website at leecountyhumane.org. Then, I send instructions to complete the volunteer orientation, which may be done at home by completing three video modules. Lastly, once the orientation is complete, I reach out to set up a time to complete the shelter tour, which is the last step to become a volunteer.
After becoming official volunteers, those who wish to participate in jog-a-dog or walk dogs at the shelter must complete a dog walker training program, which begins with a safety orientation with one of our managers, followed by six hours of shadowing. During the training process, volunteers become familiar with our kennel routines, which are essential for ensuring everyone's safety and training our dogs not to run out of open doors. Volunteers will also learn the loose-leash walking training that we use to train our dogs to walk well on a leash.
Pet Owner Outreach Program
We're also happy to announce a pet owner outreach program headed up by a team of experienced volunteers and me. To speak with our volunteer team, please email email@example.com. Through this program, we hope to reach pet owners who are experiencing pet problems early on, and before the issues become so severe that the pet owner faces the choice to surrender their animal to a shelter.
Ideally, we would like to help pets stay with their families, but we can also help with alternate rehoming options that are less stressful to the animal than entering a shelter. It also benefits us to hear from pet owners so that we can continue developing resources to help people with the most common problems in our local area.
A 2015 study entitled" Goodbye to a Good Friend: An Exploration of the Re-Homing of Cats and Dogs in the U.S." examined why pet owners rehome their animals, both directly into new homes and through surrendering them to shelters. Pet behavioral issues like aggression or destructive chewing/scratching are among the most common reasons cited for relinquishing an animal to a shelter.
Fortunately, most behavioral problems can be addressed through training and socialization, which pet owners can often complete on their own if given the resources to do so. By correcting problems early on, we hope to preserve the human-animal bond and promote harmonious relationships between pets and their people. The ASPCA website's pet care section and Best Friends Animal Society's website, along with the AVMA, provide helpful information on do-it-yourself pet training.
Pet health problems and the cost of pet ownership are other reasons animals are rehomed or surrendered to shelters. Many pet health problems can are preventable through practices such as staying current on routine vaccinations, providing parasite prevention, and spaying or neutering all pets. Also, many veterinary offices offer payment plans to assist with vet bills.
Personal problems such as health issues experienced by the pet owner and their family, financial difficulties, and housing problems, are also common causes of needing to rehome an animal. Because animals are often a critical source of support during difficult times, we would like to try to help connect the pet owner with resources to keep their beloved animal.
We would also love to hear from people who find strays and choose to search for their owners, or if unable to do so after seven days, find an adopter directly so that the animal doesn't have to experience the stress of entering a shelter. Additionally, we would love to hear from people who are carrying out trap-neuter-release for community cats and those looking to socialize and re-home community kittens on their own.
We appreciate our community's support and commitment to helping animals, whether by volunteering, fostering, or donating to us directly, working to reunite strays with their owners, or following responsible pet owner practices with owned pets. By working together, we can help to ensure happy, bright futures for companion animals and the people who love them as part of their family.