Q: I’ve read about pets left behind after foreclosures and people giving up their pets due to the economy. It breaks my heart and I want to help, but I just can’t take in another dog right now. What can I do to help pets in my community without taking in another animal?
A: It can be difficult to ignore emails or Facebook posts about cute little pups and kittens in need of forever homes. In this down economy, the number of pets in need seems to be rising steadily. Just as I shared tips to help your favorite charity without writing a big check, there are ways to help pets without taking in another animal.
When Ami Ciontos and her husband first laid eyes on their new home in southwest Atlanta, it was an instant love connection. The massive lot offered plenty of room for their dogs as well as any foster pets. Before they moved into the house, their space became rescue central for homeless dogs in a neighborhood under transition. But Ciontos knew that there would never be enough space to affect the number of strays, particularly pit bulls, roaming busy streets near her home.
“You are not going to solve the [pet overpopulation] problem with rescue; it’s mathematically impossible,” Ciontos says. “We have to educate people and help them do better.”
To improve the lives of pets and people in her community, Ciontos created a nonprofit called the Atlanta Underdog Initiative, which promotes responsible dog ownership, educates the public about pit bulls and mastiffs, and works to alleviate pet overpopulation. Sometimes that means driving to a single mother’s home to vaccinate a new litter of puppies after a busy work day; other times, it means driving teenaged neighbors to a nearby animal shelter so they can see the number of pit bulls in need of homes — and perhaps take steps to spay or neuter their young dogs.
“That’s how we make the impact,” says Ciontos. “We reach one person and they reach the next person.”
Some welcome the help. Others don’t. At times, even Ciontos can get overwhelmed by the sheer number of needy pets. On those days, she unplugs the electronic devices, reads a book or plays with her dogs.
Next: 5 ways to make an impact