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February 06, 2013

Lifting Our Field, Finding New Ways to Help

At The Humane Society of the United States, we take a comprehensive approach to animal protection. We come to the aid of animals in crisis and we focus on preventing cruelty. In addition, a critical part of our mission is to enable individuals and organizations to do their work better, since we are all part of one great cause.

When it comes to companion animals, two of our programs – Pets for Life and Rescue Central – reflect these multiple approaches. We conduct dozens of programs to drive down euthanasia of healthy and adoptable pets, the latest of which is Rescue Central – Resources to Help Rescue Groups Save More Lives. Rescue Central is the first ever national initiative devoted exclusively to supporting the estimated 10,000 rescue groups in North America – including all-breed and purebred rescue groups, foster-based groups, transport groups and sanctuaries – all organizations that are critical partners to traditional shelters in their lifesaving work. Rescue Central has four primary components: comprehensive web resources designed to help rescues operate at optimal effectiveness; a new Animal Care EXPO track providing educational opportunities for rescue groups; fun and informative content for rescues in our award-winning Animal Sheltering magazine; and social media resources, including a Facebook group that provides unique opportunities for rescues all over the nation to interact with and learn from each other. The HSUS has always provided resources to help shelters reach new levels of professionalism and effectiveness, and that’s our goal now with the vast number of rescue groups that do life-saving work.

Atlanta graduation
Ralph Hawthorne/The HSUS
A family graduates from the Pets for Life dog
training class in Atlanta

A separate program, Pets for Life, fills a void in the world of companion animal welfare. We go outside the shelter walls and meet people in their communities through direct outreach. Our work extends services, resources and information to people and pets in under-served communities, allowing for a full expression of the human-animal bond, providing veterinary and other basic animal care that would otherwise not be an option, and keeping dogs and cats in their homes instead of abandoned on the street or relinquished to shelters. Many communities are food deserts where people do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and we are finding “animal care deserts” where there is a love for pets but a lack of access to veterinary care, pet food and supplies, and other services.

Removing barriers and building trusting relationships allows us the opportunity to reach a new and often overlooked segment of pet owners. We‘re there to provide free training when a dog is at risk of being surrendered for behavior issues, or to supply a scratching post and litter box to help transition a cat indoors. We’re there to offer free vaccinations and spay-and-neuter services, and free pet food with help from Freekibble.com and their donation of Halo Spot’s Stew. Often, however, just being available to listen, provide a hug for support, and let pet owners know we are there is all that is needed. 

Not only is The HSUS running this innovative program in four cities – Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles – but we are also changing the landscape for companion animals by training and mentoring other organizations across the country on how to implement this type of targeted outreach and animal-care program. Through our partnerships with PetSmart Charities and other national organizations we are currently working in over a dozen other cities, extending our reach to tens of thousands of pets and people.

These two programs provide fundamental support for organizations and individuals who can turn these resources into action. By engaging with communities across the nation, we are able to effectively decrease the number of animals that suffer needlessly, and support the self-sacrificing people who devote their lives to animals.

Please watch our new Pets for Life video

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