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Equine Shelters – How Can You Help

By: Dr. Andrew Hoffman

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

Shelters are important and they do important work. And they are always in need of help. There are many ways to offer assistance to shelters. Listed below are some opportunities, both paid and unpaid. Be creative. Identify your special skills, talents, areas of interest that may benefit others. Introduce yourself to a shelter and see where their needs and your skills may match.

Volunteering

Shelters need volunteers. They need your energy, your enthusiasm, your ideas and your commitment. On average, shelter owners that responded to a survey conducted at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine had one full-time employee, one part-time employee and nineteen volunteers per shelter. Only the very large shelters like the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah or Redwings in California were able to hire staff.

There are many ways to volunteer. Some shelters ask for a definite commitment; others can be less structured.

You can:

  • Volunteer for assisting in a one-time project, like a fundraiser or a mailing effort
  • Offer assistance accounting and taxes if you are an accountant
  • Offer to help unload hay when the delivery comes in
  • Help transport equines; perhaps the shelter could call you to help pick-up or drop-off a horse when the need arises
  • Help with your computer skills; perhaps you can offer instruction on a specific package or load software
  • Help write their newsletter
  • Muck stalls for an hour or so before heading off to work in the morning

    Round up a few friends ahead of time and have some fun working together. If you rarely get to visit because you are all busy, perhaps a planned, monthly Sunday afternoon get-together to polish tack, muck stalls or clean horses would be fun and helpful to the shelter; they would appreciate help of many hands.

    Shelters appreciate regular commitment, but some shelters' needs require as little as an hour per week commitment by you. Call your local shelter or visit their website and see what sorts of needs they have. Get creative and get involved at whatever level you can; it may benefit you as much as it does others.

    Offer Facilities or Donate Tack/Equipment

    Contact shelters to see if your extra stall might be able to house an equine waiting for adoption. Let the shelter know your special needs if you have any. Tack or other equine equipment that is in good condition would also be helpful to a shelter.

    Offer Finances

    Finances were the number one problem encountered by shelter owners, according to the Tufts 1999 survey of U.S. and Canadian shelters. One of the greatest needs of shelters is for private donations.

    You might be able to sponsor an equine by committing to regular contributions for its care and feeding. It might be as little as five dollars a month, as in the case of one Massachusetts shelter owner.

    The newer and/or smaller shelters often have the hardest time making ends meet, as they are ineligible for many of the grants that more established or larger organizations and universities benefit from regularly. Additionally, fund raising efforts may be less far-reaching for the newer/smaller shelters. Remember the needs of equines when you are asked to contribute to a large non-equine organization; your dollar may be crucial to the continuance of a shelter and perhaps not as vital for the organization that has other sources of financial support. If you are donating a dollar or two to a well-known charity, perhaps at a movie theater or a grocery store, consider putting aside a matching amount for an equine shelter.

    Become Informed

    The website for ERNet (www.equinenet.org/ernet) offers these suggestions for getting involved on the local and the state level.

    Talk to your local animal control agency or humane society.

  • Do they have a specific program that deals with equine welfare?
  • Is staff knowledgeable in equine care, investigation, and the prosecution of equine cases?
  • Is the facility equipped to house and care for an abused equine?
  • How many equines are they able to handle at one time?
  • Are they familiar with rehabilitation techniques?
  • Do they have an equine veterinarian?
  • Do they have protocol that places court-confiscated equines in homes, assuring that the animals are not being purchased for slaughter?
  • Do they have an equine education program?

    If the agency or society does not have equine programs or is not familiar with equine abuse and you are knowledgeable in these areas, volunteer to help organize a program. If you are not knowledgeable yourself, find an individual or group in your area that would be willing to help.

    Do you know what your local equine laws are?

  • Are they adequate for the community's needs?
  • Could they be improved?
  • Do they need to be changed?

    Do you know what your State laws are regarding equines?

  • Are they adequate for the community's needs?
  • Could they be improved?
  • Do they need to be changed?

    Write A Letter, Make a Phone Call

    Do you have ten minutes and a stamp? How about two minutes and a phone? Write. Call.

    Letters and phone calls can change legislation. For example, the governor of Virginia vetoed a bill putting a bounty on coyotes because he received so much mail against it.

    Go to these sites to contact your US Representatives and Senators on-line:
  • For your Representative, go to Write Your Representative (www.house.gov/writerep) via the US House of Representatives (www.house.gov) website. If your Representative has his/her own website, it will be listed here (www.house.gov/house/MemStateSearch.htm).

  • To contact your US Senators, see the state listings (at www.senate.gov/senators/senator_by_state.cfm) at the United States Senate website (www.senate.gov).

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