It’s been 3 years now since the bad thing that shall not be named took over and changed just about everything in our lives. As much as we’ve all been more than ready to put that chapter behind us, its effects have lingered and have been wreaking havoc on shelters and rescuers nationwide.

In August 2022, the only no-kill shelter in my old home town declared it had to close its doors; in October a Bully Breed rescue had to make the same decision after 15 years of incredible efforts; and just recently this month, a rescue marked their 10 year anniversary in the same, ill-fated manner. Unfortunately, these stories are far from unique, but we’re helpless to stop it. Aren’t we?

What are some of the causes?

The biggest thing that changed for everyone at the start of 2020 was daily operations. Businesses were forced to scale back their in-office hours due to public safety, which forced some employees to seek work elsewhere. Additionally, some businesses were forced to let go of their employees just to maintain their overhead. If all of these employees were now finding new jobs or working two jobs to make ends meet, what time did they have left to pick up the mantle for animals? What money did they have to donate so that their local rescue hero could keep going? What resources could they provide for the animal they so desperately wanted to adopt?

Additionally, since lockdowns also affected vet clinics, we had a drastic decrease in spay/neuter surgeries that never quite bounced back to what they were. Research conducted by Frontiers in Veterinary Science in September of last year suggests a potential deficit of over 2 million surgeries that otherwise would have been performed. Add to that, they found some clinics chose to avoid closure by converting to a wellness only practice, and stopped performing spay/neuters all together.

How do we fix it?

We know how! It’s the same tried and true as before. Gather donations, encourage volunteers, raise awareness.

“But that’s what we’ve been doing!” Says everyone reading this right now.

I challenge you to think about that a little. Have you been doing the same thing again and again, hoping it just takes purr-sistence?

I’ve been reaching out to rescues across the US and one of the common problems I’ve been hearing is when new ideas come to the table, a majority of people vote “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well let me tell you, my friends, it’s broke.

So let’s fix it.

What’s the answer?

Innovation! Challenge the status quo and try something new.

Fundraising is one area where there is no limit to the imaginative ideas out there. Host a fun run, a color run, a walk-a-thon! There are apps to make organizing them a breeze. Reach out to your local Girl Scout or Boy Scout troops and see if you can get them involved. Are you a parent? Talk to your kids about involving the school to fundraise! Do you remember the fundraisers you did as a child? Smelly pencils, bake sales, car washes, those things were fun!

But kids aren’t the only ones. Those rescues I mentioned reaching out to before? They’ve got ideas too.

  • A calendar of pets rescued – with so many pictures to choose from, how do you narrow it down? By getting your community to cast their votes for their favorites! $1 per vote. The winning pictures make it into the calendar to be sold.
  • A memorial garden – donors can pay to have their gone but not fur-gotten pets memorialized. There are countless ways you can do this – a painted stone, a clay disk, a plant. Beautify your space with the generous contributions of people wanting to cherish animals.
  • Partner with a local artist – whether this means actual artwork or handcrafted art. Look to your community for underappreciated talent. Ask if they would be willing to donate any of their pieces to auction for a good cause and a percent share. Then also tag, link, and share the heck out of them!

Now granted, there’s not a lot we can do to directly help the vet situation, but I have to believe students are still one of the keys. Perhaps a campaign to bring the students off at UC-Davis and Cornell back to their hometowns to complete their preceptorships locally? Maybe they’ll be more likely to open their own clinics locally too. We also have to make people understand that being a non-profit is not the only legitimate way to help. Vets can still be paid while being affordable! One such program that offers online training courses to vets looking to be more accessible is Open Door Veterinary Collective, and if you’re a frequent flyer among the Maddie’s Pet Forum, you might even recognize some of their team members and advisors 😉.

At the end of the day, try to remember that life is an experiment, so why not make it a fun one? If I sleep a little longer, will I still make it to work on time? If I eat or drink this, will I have a better day? If I propose this new idea or give my support to someone else’s crazy idea, will it really help our cause?

Go find out! Make 2023 the year to explore.