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Welcome to the new Animal Sheltering online!

We have the power to change our communities

For decades, The HSUS and Animal Sheltering have worked hard to bring you the latest information, newest approaches, best practices and more from our field. With the launch of our newly improved site, animalsheltering.org, we’re thrilled to share a number of new features to help you in your quest to save lives and keep pets with their families. 

We now have Speak, where each week you’ll hear different voices from our team and colleagues reflecting on the most critical issues in our field. We also have a number of other new features such as our Shelter and Rescue Essentials, and the ability for you to interact with our content by providing comments on Speak and other articles. Check back often, as new features will continue to be added regularly.

With the new year, I want to pause and take stock of the tremendous progress our movement has made. Euthanasia rates continue to drop, more people than ever before look to adopt a pet instead of buying one, and pets are truly part of the family, with more than half sleeping in bed with their owners and billions of dollars spent on products and care to keep them happy and healthy. I’m thrilled to see how our movement has grown stronger and evolved to embrace our work with approaches based on facts, research and data—with dramatic results. More and more shelters, rescues and other organizations are working smarter and are closer to ending euthanasia as a result. 

But there is still work to be done! Even as we find success inside shelter walls, there are still animals we haven’t reached – the community cats who continue to reproduce, the pets in underserved areas who lack access to veterinary care, and the dogs whose owners can't find a place to live because of outdated housing policies that ban some of the most popular breeds in our communities.

As a movement, we need to look hard at solving the issues where they occur, not only to prevent animals from having to come to shelters and rescues in the first place, but because we know there is tremendous need still out there even if those animals never show up in shelter statistics. While ending euthanasia is a very important measure and milestone, it isn’t the only measure. An estimated 23 million pets are living with their loving families in poverty, but the vast majority will never see the inside of a shelter. These pets aren’t “counted,” yet they too need our support to thrive in their communities. Which is why we need to do even more to strategically bring services out into communities, through efforts like Pets for Life.  

We must tackle the big challenges that continue to cause hardships for people and their pets. Rather than looking disgustedly at the person surrendering a pet due to a move, mumbling to ourselves “I would live in my car before I gave up my pet”—let’s pause and look at what we can do to change it. Why did that person have to give up their pet? Perhaps big dogs are not allowed in the apartment building and renting is their only option? Moreover, what can we do to help them stay together? At The HSUS, we are firmly committed to using our unique position in the field to help drive transformational change that may be outside the scope of local organizations. That’s why we launched the Pets Are Welcome campaign last fall where we are working closely with the housing industry and housing providers to update outdated policies and restrictions that hurt animals, such as breed and size limits. Over and over the data shows that most folks do not want to give up their pets, and they are receptive if we offer an alternative. So, at the end of the day it’s up to us to change what opportunities exist in our communities.

My own thinking has evolved a lot over the last two decades in this movement. And I continue to learn something new every day that challenges me. The old adage “When you know better, you do better” comes to my mind daily … and I strive to grow and evolve too. We have to try new things, take risks, be uncomfortable. We can learn from each other and build upon each other’s successes. And when we do that, the future looks very bright. 

Animalsheltering.org is YOUR website. We have the comments open and we want to hear from you! And we look forward to an exciting and lifesaving 2016.

Thank you for all you do for pets and their people. 

About the Author

Betsy McFarland, CAWA, is the former Vice President of the Companion Animals section of The Humane Society of the United States, leading its mission to create a world in which people and pets live happy, healthy lives, thriving together.