An animal shelter is a temporary home for animals of all shapes and sizes; a haven where they can find safety, nourishment and kindness when they really need it. Creating a shelter is not a responsibility to enter into lightly. It’s a huge undertaking involving a lot of research and education, as well as the heart-wrenching task of euthanizing animals. It can also be an extremely valuable and rewarding journey.
People in Britain fleeing from situations of domestic violence and worrying about their pets can turn to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) for help. Instead of leaving their beloved pets behind in a dangerous situation, they can make a phone call, and the RSPCA will arrange safe, temporary shelter for the animals while their human companions find a safe place to stay. The RSPCA’s Pet Retreat Program is a great example of a shelter filling a void; one that people frequently forget about.
If you want to create a shelter that fits your group and the community you live in, you’ll need to source out funding, shelter space, bylaws and insurance. This will require much more than good intentions. With careful planning and patience, however, opening a shelter can become a reality.
1. Assess your community’s needs. Are there other animal welfare organizations or shelters in your community? If so, will your shelter complement existing services or be a drain on resources for both? Will your community be supportive of an animal shelter?
2. Think twice about the enormity of your endeavor. Assess your resources and be sure you’re up to it. If you have doubts, your efforts might be better spent assisting an existing shelter.
3. Get experience by volunteering in a shelter—it’s the best training you can have.
4. Form a team of knowledgeable allies. This might include veterinarians, a lawyer, local business people and potential sponsors.
5. Hit the road, go on a tour and visit as many shelters in as many regions as you can. Ask lots of questions.
6. Decide what type of shelter you want. Learn about the services of different shelters that offer varying levels of service and care for animals.
7. Create a mission statement and a plan. This is the foundation of your shelter; make sure it’s a strong one.
8. Look into fund-raising and get a clear picture of your required budget. Develop relationships with as many fund-raising sources as possible and plan fund-raising events.
9. Spread the word far and wide about what you’re planning. Network: Let everyone know what you’re up to.
10. Remember the animals you want to help—keep them in mind at all times.
SOME USEFUL RESOURCES
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has several useful publications, including Keys to a Great Shelter; 101 Great Shelter ideas; and 101 More Great Shelter ideas. Here are some other resources:
Adapted from Building an Ark: 101 Solutions to Animal Suffering by Ethan Smith with Guy Dauncey (New Society Publishers, 2007).