According to the U.S. Humane Society up to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year, and another 3 to 4 million are adopted. Advocates who deplore this incredible annual carnage urge that more people who are seeking a dog or cat as a pet adopt from an animal shelter.
Unfortunately, there is a myth that is perpetuated that there aren’t enough homes for all the animals in shelters. That myth was probably started by pet stores and Internet sites who sell puppies that were born in puppy mills, and who have a financial stake in profiting from the sale of dogs and cats.
The truth is there are enough homes for all the animals in shelters. The problem is the Humane Society estimates only 20 percent of the 17 million homes that add a dog or cat each year to their households adopt from an animal shelter. The other 80 percent buy their new pooch or cat from pet stores, Internet sites and other sources.
Simple math shows if only an additional 20 percent of those 17 million households adopted their pet from a shelter, another 3.4 million cats and dogs would be saved from being put to an early death.
The problem is somehow convincing prospective pet owners that its worth their time to look for a cat or dog at an animal shelter.
Jackie Borchew, director of community outreach of Orphans of the Storm, a no-kill shelter located in the Chicago suburb of Riverwoods believes a good way to increase the number of adoptions of animals, “Is for a greater number of prospective owners to become exposed to animal shelters so they think of visiting shelters when they are looking for a new dog or cat.”
That is why Orphans of the Storm like most shelters has events at Farmers Markets, retail locations, festivals, etc where some of the animals from the shelter get to meet the public. The shelter has over 130 such events annually. Many people who adopt a cat or dog were first exposed to Orphans of the Storm and some of the amazing animals available for adoption at off-site events.
Borchew says, “With a capacity of 200 dogs and 350 cats Orphans of the Storm has a large selection of animals waiting for forever homes. There’s a good chance a visitor to Orphans will find the right dog or cat. So, from the point-of-view of increasing adoptions off-site exposure of the shelter really helps.”
It is also true that vistors to Chicago area shelters who are searching for a purebred have an excellent opportunity to find one. Many people don’t even think of looking in the shelters for a purebred of a specific breed of dog or cat.
Borchew claims, “Up up to 25 percent of the dogs at Orphans are purebred.” She continues by saying, “Another plus is that many of our dogs were relinquished by their owners for various reasons”, which according to Borchew means there may be a very good history of the animals.
Unlike pet stores that sell dogs and cats the only pressure to ‘move’ the animals at shelters such as Orphans of the Storm is for the benefit of the animals, not for the benefit of making a profit by selling a customer. That means at Orphans the dog or cat has a home for as long as it takes to be adopted. A dog named lady is a good example. She came to Orphans as a puppy and it wasn’t until 10 years later that she was adopted.
Those who visit shelters find the lack of sales pressure a benefit. At Orphans of the Storm On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays visitors are met by greeters who are volunteers who do far more than greet people at the door. These knowledgeable volunteers show the quests through the facility and answer questions about the animals they see. Again, the intent is to help match humans with the right dog or cat, not to sell a customer a pet that may or may not be a suitable match.
Another experience that is lacking at pet stores are the “Family Runs” that are found at Orphans of the Storm. These are large fenced in areas are where human and dog can become acquainted. The dog can be off leash and have plenty of room to run. There it can be allowed to act naturally and interact and socialize with the humans.
Borchew points one other good reason for adopting a dog or cat rather than buying one from a place like a pet store. She says, “When you adopt a dog or cat from a shelter you open up a place for another animal and save it from being euthanized.”
When you are about to go look for a doggy or kitty in the window, Borchew urges prospective pet owners to make animal shelters their first stop.
Orphans of the Storm is only a 20 mile drive from downtown Chicago. Visiting Orphans can provide a family with the opportunity of taking advantage of a local nature study site such as Ryerson Woods, or in October buy a pumpkin and go for a hayride at Didier Farms, making it a great week-end family event.
If you can’t drive to Orphans of the Storm here’s a website that will help you find a shelter no matter where you live in Chicago or the United States.