11 VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES FOR ANIMAL LOVERS
By Kim Campbell Thornton
As part of our New Year's resolutions, many of us vow to do more to help others. For pet owners, that can include helping animals and their people.
Volunteering at a shelter or fostering a homeless pet are common ways to contribute to animal welfare, but there are a number of other ways to help. Time, goods and money are all valuable contributions, whether it's a little or a lot. If you've committed to help make the world a better place for pets this year, here are 11 ways to get started: 1. Donate pet food to your local Meals on Wheels program to help ensure that seniors' pets eat well, too. 2. Keep a supply of gift cards to pet supply stores on hand to give to homeless people with pets.
3. Transport animals from shelters to rescue groups or foster homes. This can be especially helpful if you have a van. "We once loaded up my van with six crates of dogs going to four different rescues," says Susan Fox of McKinleyville, California. "For rural shelters like ours, someone who can move a bunch of dogs at once would be welcomed with open arms."
4. Got a neighbor who's having difficulty getting around because of an illness or injury? Ask if you can help out by walking, playing with or grooming their dog. "Elderly people may have a hard time lifting medium-size or large dogs," says Tiffany Gere of Butler, New Jersey. "Offering to help with vet visits or being their driver in an emergency would go a long way toward giving them peace of mind."
5. Do your online shopping through AmazonSmile or AdoptAShelter.com. Register your local shelter or other pet-related organization, and a portion of your purchases will help to support them.
6. Your local shelter or rescue group just received an influx of animals and likely needs money -- fast! Help out by running a yard sale or an online fundraiser auction.
You'll need to get individuals and businesses to donate items to sell, publicize the fundraiser and follow up to make sure all the payments come in, the items get sent out to the winning bidders, and the money gets to the rescue in a timely manner. (Get your animal-loving friends to help.)
These types of events can also help to support a shelter's emergency medical fund. "Our shelter has a $250 limit imposed by the county on what can be spent on medical care for one dog or cat," Fox says. "The fund covers the difference between that and what is needed."
7. Share your skills. Shelters and rescue groups need volunteers who can write grant proposals, design or manage websites, do accounting, photograph animals available for adoption, make home visits and more.
8. Hand out fliers for an adoption campaign or other event. "I had posters donated for a white rabbit adoption program and someone distributed them to vet offices and groomers," says Mary Cvetan of Pittsburgh. "It was a huge help."
9. Help newcomers to your town or new pet owners by making a list you can hand out that includes businesses and organizations such as local veterinarians, emergency veterinary clinics, pet sitters, pet supply stores and low-cost or free spay/neuter services.
10. Take blankets, towels, gently used (or new) dog toys and other supplies to shelters.
11. Got a big heart and a healthy wallet? Help with someone's veterinary bills. Pam Becker, executive director of the Animal Health Foundation of California, recently received an email from a woman looking for information on low-cost spay/neuter services so she can help a homeless woman get her dog spayed. "She sees the woman every day and wants to help her," Becker says.
To find other volunteer opportunities, visit the website VolunteerMatch.org.
Early access key to
bunny litter box use
Q: One of my friends has two pet bunnies. They have the run of her apartment when she's home, and she says they use a litter box like a cat. Is that true? -- via email
A: For the most part, yes. While many rabbits will use a litter box, they don't use them in the same way cats do. Rabbits typically don't cover their waste, and they aren't into "go and go" -- they like to spend a great deal of time in their boxes. And rabbit owners don't scoop the litter: A rabbit's entire box needs to be changed daily. (Unlike a cat's waste, what a rabbit leaves behind is a safe addition to any compost pile, and the composted waste is a wonderful organic fertilizer.)
Not all rabbits will use a box. Older, sexually intact rabbits who have not had prior access to a box will be less likely to use one. Young rabbits who have been spayed or neutered prior to hormones kicking in (at about four months) are more likely to use a litter box and less likely to mark territory.
The best filler for a rabbit's box is a layer of fresh hay over litter made from recycled paper or compressed sawdust (sold as pellets for wood stoves). Avoid clumping litters, crystal litters or products that contain deodorizing or scented pellets, or those with strong odors, such as pine or cedar. Litters made from corn or wheat may lead to problems with blockages or obesity.
You don't really "train" a rabbit to use a box. You provide the opportunity by setting up an inviting box -- large, comfortable, safe and with a layer of fresh hay to munch -- and limiting other choices by keeping the pet's territory relatively small, expanding it gradually.
Even rabbits who use boxes reliably may leave "pellets" now and then. Fortunately, rabbit pellets are easy to clean up with a hand vacuum, or a broom and dust pan. It's a small price to pay for the companionship of a rabbit, as people who enjoy these wonderful pets will tell you. -- Kim Campbell Thornton
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Pets help children with
autism be more social
-- Children with autism can benefit from living with pets, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Living with pets can help to develop and improve the children's social skills, says Dr. Gretchen Carlisle, research fellow in the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine's Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction. If they have a relationship with the pet, they are more likely to respond when asked about the animal. Any kind of pet in the home can be helpful, Dr. Carlisle found in a survey of 70 families.
-- The polar vortex is back! Protect your pet from frostbite by keeping him indoors. Limit the length of walks in below-zero weather, and protect him from the elements with an insulated coat that covers his torso. Wipe off his feet when you get home to remove road salt. Check for antifreeze drips in the garage or on the driveway and clean them up so your dog or cat doesn't ingest the deadly liquid. And always knock on the hood before you start your car to make sure any cats who decided to nestle in the warm engine can escape before you start the car.
-- As they age, pets are more likely to develop some type of cancer. Signs of cancer include lumps or bumps that grow or change; wounds that don't heal; persistent or recurrent lameness; unexplained weight loss; lack of appetite; difficulty eating or swallowing; bleeding from the mouth, nose or rectum; difficulty breathing or straining to urinate or defecate; and lack of energy. If your pet shows any of these signs, take him to the veterinarian right away. Cancer is treatable with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other techniques, especially when caught in the early stages. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: Seniors or people who are ill or injured may welcome help caring for their pets. Position: Main Story
Caption 02: Booties can protect pets' feet from ice balls and road salts. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 2