Saving animal lives through community outreach

Saving animal lives through community outreach

Adoption, rescue, cruelty intervention – these are some of the most common ways people respond when we ask, “How does the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County help save animal lives?” But in reality, preventive community outreach is a critical component of our work that helps keep animals in homes and promotes positive animal-human relationships.

Community outreach is a broad term to describe the proactive efforts we take in the community to educate people, support pet parents and advocate for the ethical treatment of animals. At our organization, this work takes on different forms and can vary from season to season. Some programs are staples, while others are implemented and completed according to grant cycles or community trends. No matter the output, the programmatic goals remain the same – to save animal lives and enhance the human experience through animal companionship. Here are a few ways we work to achieve these goals:

Community education

Maya Angelou said it best, “When you know better, you do better.” If you’re an animal owner and advocate, it can be hard to imagine that people don’t know how to lovingly care for a pet. How to interact with animals is a learned skill, and if you were not around animals as a child or were around mistreated animals, you simply may not know how to be a responsible pet owner or animal companion.

To support our community and to raise the standards for animal companionship in Memphis and Shelby County, the Humane Society works actively to educate people about pet ownership, animal homelessness and ethical animal treatment. We work with many school groups to teach young children about the ways to safely interact with animals. This helps kids build healthy habits and a respect for dogs and cats that they will carry into adulthood, even if they don’t have pets at home.

Simultaneously, our adoption team works closely with potential adopters to discuss ethical animal ownership. We carefully explain the unique needs of each dog or cat they’re considering adopting to ensure they understand the commitment that is required as an animal parent. We also take time to answer common questions and dispel myths to empower adopters and keep animals safe and healthy. This makes our matching process especially thorough and effective.

Low-cost vet services

If you’re heading to a private vet for your dog or cat’s annual appointment and vaccinations, grab your checkbook! Animal owners are familiar with the expenses associated with routine, preventive veterinary care. But if you cannot afford these services, you’re more likely to let vet care slip to the wayside, which can negatively impact animal and community health.

By providing low-cost vet services to qualifying members in our community, we’re empowering pet owners to take responsibility for their animal’s health. In the process, we’re also educating them about the importance of routine animal care and are creating space for important conversations about the ethical treatment of animals. At the Humane Society, we believe that animal companionship is not a luxury that should be afforded to a wealthy few. Rather, it’s something that can benefit every member of our community. By providing access to low-cost veterinary care, we are making that possible for hundreds of Memphians.

Animal training

Sit, shake, rollover! Many of us teach our animals cute “tricks” that we love to pull out when company comes over. While there is nothing wrong with these learned behaviors, they are not a sufficient form of training. Behavioral training is a major component of our community outreach programming. Our training programming starts in the shelter environment. Our in-house animal behavioral specialists work with dogs and cats to assess their behavior and then create a training plan. This will help the animals adjust to both life in the shelter and life in their future home. These behavioral cues like sit, heel, stay and come are more than just ways to get your dog to do your bidding. They are a tool to keep you and your animal safe as you navigate the world together!

Our animal training will soon extend beyond the shelter. In the near future, we will reopen our facility for low-cost animal training. One of the main reasons dogs or cats are returned to the shelter is because their personality clashes with the family’s lifestyle. But oftentimes, with a little bit of training for both the animal and the owner, these issues can be resolved and animals can remain in the home.

Community outreach is a major piece of the work we do at the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County. If you want to learn more about these efforts and how you can get involved, we encourage you to contact Matt Womack at mwomack@memphishumane.org.

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