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As we usher in a new year, it’s a time to reflect on our progress and look to the challenges ahead. While we work to enhance and deepen the engagement of our adherents and supporters, it’s also critical that we draw in new supporters and invite people of conscience to make the right choices and join our vital cause.
At The Humane Society of the United States, we’re always working to find innovative and better ways to help dogs and cats and the people who care about them. I’m excited to share with you our priorities for companion animals in 2015:
Reaching underserved communities. There are 23 million pet cats and dogs living in poverty in America, with perhaps 85 percent of them unsterilized. Traditionally, the animal welfare movement has often been too quick to condemn the caregivers, treating them as indifferent or even callous to their pets’ needs. Our Pets for Life program takes a different approach, recognizing that most people love their pets and that the issue is often a lack of resources—not a lack of compassion. Our program meets people where they are, bringing free spay/neuter and other lifesaving programs to animal services resource deserts. We’re now in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, with mentorship programs from Louisiana to Michigan. In the coming year, we’ll be ramping up our mentorship program to bring the Pets for Life approach to more communities in need.
Keeping pets in homes. Most cats and some dogs who enter shelters will never be reunited with their owners, and many will be euthanized. So it’s crucial that we focus on keeping pets in homes and out of shelters in the first place. This year, we’ll redouble our efforts to eliminate barriers to keeping pets, including fighting breed-specific legislation and anti-pet housing policies. Our online Cat Answer Tool makes it easier to understand and modify feline behavior, and we are training hundreds of advocates to provide effective cat behavior support in their communities. We’ll work to secure more funding for low-cost spay/neuter and extend other free and low-cost animal care services—so that we reduce the number of pets relinquished because of financial hardship.
Finding homes for pets in need. While we work to prevent pets from entering shelters, we also need to help the pets already in shelters and rescues find homes. This year we’ll be expanding our partnership with the Ad Council and Maddie’s Fund on the Shelter Pet Project, which has already secured over $170 million in donated advertising space to promote pet adoption. Our ads will continue to break down negative stereotypes about shelter pets and drive people to local shelters and rescue groups. With the right marketing, and with great rescues and shelters using all the tools available to them, we can drive euthanasia rates for healthy and treatable animals down to zero.
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Humanely managing cat populations.For too long, cat advocates and bird lovers have been at odds over the impact that ferals and other outdoor cats have on wildlife. This year we’ll continue to push for humane solutions to cat-wildlife conflicts. We’ll promote trap-neuter-return programs for the estimated 30-40 million American cats living outdoors—of whom only 2 percent are currently sterilized. And we’ll empower more cat owners to keep their pets safely inside by providing ideas for home enrichment and safe, secure outdoor enclosures like catios.
I hope that you share my excitement about these programs, which are all designed to save more lives. And I hope that reading this issue will lead you to set priorities for your group to make 2015 a landmark year for companion animals.