Monday, November 4, 2013

Pets For Life

This weekend I volunteered for the Animal Rescue League of Iowa (ARL) at the their Pets for Life program (a program sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States and PetSmart Charities). It was an amazing experience and I met some great people throughout the day. The pet owners were very kind and appreciative and it was awesome to see how many people care about their animals and that they were willing to wait patiently in a long line to take care of them.

The line at the beginning of the day.

Engaging Communities

On Saturday we helped 228 pets in four hours. Isn't that amazing?!? We opened the Pets for Life event at 10:00 am, but we had people lining up starting at 9:00 am. We were able to help that many animals in such a short amount of time thanks to the great organization done ahead of time. 

One of the puppies at the event enjoys a treat.
Photo by Andrea Altman
There is an assembly approach employed to minimize wait time. The goal is to be as thorough as necessary with each client while also being as quick as possible. Not an easy feat as people love to talk about their pets :). I worked as a line manager - making sure dogs were behaving appropriately, that no budging occurred, and that everyone had tools to safely contain and control their animal (leashes, collars, carriers, etc.). We had also made a separate area for reactive/stressed dogs that might not be able to handle standing in line with all those other pets and peoples - that helped keep the rowdiness down immensely.

All of the people had access to:
  • Pet passports to safely hold all their vaccination records
  • Microchipping
  • Vaccinations
  • Nail trimming
  • Spay/Neuter Vouchers
  • Free toys, food, treats, collars, etc.

Pet owners pick out free toys, treats, collars, etc for their pets.
Photo by Andrea Altman

Building Relationships

In November 2012 the US Census Bureau said more than 16% of the population lived in poverty in the United States, and over the last few years shelters nationwide has seen a huge increase of owner-surrendered dogs and cats. For the most part, these animals are not unwanted, they are just too expensive for families to keep who are already struggling to keep themselves fed and healthy.

The Pets for Life program was created, not only to let people know that help is available, but to give access to it - warmly, easily, and without judgement. The program grew out of an increasing awareness that, because of economic, social, linguistic, or cultural factors, many communities don't have access to pet care information, resources, or veterinary and related services, despite an often great need. The goal is to keep pets in homes and healthy, and this program does just that by reaching out to the under-served communities.

An appreciative and satisfied pet owner with his dog.
Photo by Andrea Altman
These communities love their pets and want to make the healthiest decisions for them, and the Pets for Life program helps remove any barriers they have in doing so. The main goal of these kinds of events is to build trust with and be of service to communities that need help. Experience shows us that when we extend our compassion (without judgement!) to humans, as well as animals, and extend resources where needed, we can create long-term and meaningful social change. Not only do the animals benefit, but the people do as well.

A Min Pin enjoying the day.
Photo by Andrea Altman
I am very proud to have volunteered and I plan to continue volunteering for this program. Pets for Life is up and running in other large cities (Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Phoenix, Charlotte, Milwaukee, and five others) across the United States, if this is something that you would like to get involved in please check out the Humane Society's webpage to see how you can get signed up to volunteer.

Also check out this great video on YouTube about the program:


  1. I love events like this, because there's nothing like being surrounded by animal lovers - it's like we all "get" something that others don't. What I really love is when our individual passion even impacts people who aren't big into animals - they see our attachment and through that experience, their opinions change too.

    Well done!!!

    1. Thanks it was a great day!! And it's such a worthwhile event, so many pets were helped :).