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Friends ... with Benefits

Shelters and 'friends of' groups team up for success

  • Columbia Animal Services superintendent Marli Drum says her shelter’s partnership with the Animal Mission is working, as the shelter’s intake and euthanasia rates are on track to go down for the third year in a row. A Mardi Gras/Dog Parade event benefiting the Animal Mission took place in February. Marli Drum/Columbia Animal Services

You can't choose your family, the old saying goes, but you do get to choose your friends. In animal welfare work, as in life, it's good to choose carefully.

"Friends of the shelter" groups are common around the country, often founded by animal-loving citizens to raise money for municipal shelters, which have limited budgets and are typically prohibited from fundraising on their own. With the growing public expectation that even resource-strapped animal care and control agencies will save more animals' lives, “friends of” groups can be a godsend, helping shelters raise cash to treat special medical cases, providing foster care and volunteer labor, or taking shelter animals to off-site adoption events.

"When you're … doing animal control, you’re having to answer the phone, you're doing owner surrenders, you're doing adoptions—it becomes really hard to think about things like how to advertise the animals, or taking them off site to events," says Heather Bialy, director of shelter services for The HSUS. "And that's where these ‘friends of’ groups can really help, because they can organize those events, and fundraise, and take some of the burden off of the municipal shelter."

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