Animals have heart; however they do not have a voice. Most animals don’t even have a home. 5 to 7 million companion animals enter shelters nationwide every year. 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are killed every year because shelters are too full and there aren’t enough adoptive homes. This is where I come in. I want to speak for these animals and help to decrease the amount of homelessness and raise the number of forever homes.They are just animals – there are tons of homeless people and people that die every day, what about them? That is a true and significant point; however animals should not be discounted or viewed as a lesser cause. In many homes animals are considered to be family and carry the same value within people’s hearts. My roommate’s cat was adopted from a friend who found him stranded at a construction site. I can honestly say that that cat has been there for me in ways that humans have not been. The unconditional love and endless supply of cuddles have never been on short supply for me after long and tiresome days. They saved him but I believe that he has saved me as well. It breaks my heart to have to wonder what may have happened to him if he was never found and rescued. This is the sad reality of some animals at this very moment.
My goal was to help those animals in any way that I could. I planned to volunteer my time and help out a local animal shelter. The requirements included that the volunteers donate 8 hours per month for 6 months and that is what I intended to do. I chose to apply to the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter. More than 11,000 unwanted, abused and stray animals enter the doors of BARCS each year. BARCS is working to improve the lives of Baltimore’s homeless animals. In just over a year, between 2004 and 2005, adoptions rose from just 90 animals to 738. By 2012, that number was around 4,696.
I applied to volunteer with an animal control last year because this is a cause that I feel passionately about, however due to a conflict between my schedule and their work requirements it was not going to work out. I gravitated to working with BARCS this time around due to how accommodating they seem to be for volunteers. Instead of committing to donate the 8 hours per month for at least 6 months they do also say that short-term volunteering and one-day service projects are acceptable. That option does come with a restriction that animal handling is not permitted in those instances, which I find to be completely understandable. Those who are between 16-17 years of age are also permitted to volunteer (norm. being 18) but may be restricted to certain tasks, 13-15 must be accompanied by an adult, anyone under 13 cannot volunteer in the shelter, but can still help BARCS through at-home tasks. They also don’t have one set “type” of volunteer – you can be an animal care volunteer, customer service volunteer, community programs volunteer or deal with other odds and ends that are required to keep the shelter running at top notch quality. Not only do they have choices of volunteer categories but each branch has their selection of duties you can select from. Animal care entails cat enrichment, dog enrichment, laundry, dishes, transportation, caretaking, training, play group assistance or surgery assistance. Customer service includes greeting guests, intake, matchmaking, adoption counseling and office assistance. You can help with education, the vaccination clinic, events, fundraising and marketing with the community programs option. For those who don’t want to work directly with the animals but do want to help they do have other tasks that can be done such as decorating, writing, graphic design, painting and landscaping. I’m personally astounded by all the choices and opportunities available to the volunteers that work with BARCS – every bit of help seems to truly matter there. However unfortunately like last year I am still waiting to get the green light on my application because they seem to have enough volunteers at the moment which is wonderful and once they are able to accept in more help I intend to volunteer even after this project has “ended”.
My backup plan still included working for animals but more geared to general animal awareness/rights. The plan was to spread the word about the issues animals are facing locally and globally and what we as people can do to help. The resource used for this approach was social media. I created a Tumblr page One Voice For Animals that is dedicated to sharing information about adoption be it through quotes, pictures, articles or stories. By searching for content I have stumbled across a lot of facts and news that not even I knew about animal adoptions and the ways others have been helping. As a matter of fact I wanted to always help take the photos of the animals for the websites and media outlets. By taking good quality and well composed/thought out photographs you can significantly increase the chances of adoption – no one wants to see a sad dog behind a cage but instead a happy dog who is outside enjoying the nice weather. Through my page I was able to see artists who have taken this approach one step further; one designer add the stats of the animal onto an image of it in a poster setup and another took the images of the animals in shelters and photoshopped them into whimsical surreal worlds. Now when I am able to volunteer I have wonderful and creative ideas to help contribute and I get to put my photography associates degree to some good use.
This project has made me really think through the financial and responsibility aspects of adopting and how this would be a long term commitment. I can safely say that once I am settled in my new place that I will be making it a home with a furever friend. The goal of helping to safe even just one life may be achieved just by convincing myself to make the choice and if I can persuade, teach or foster that idea within someone else that would just be icing on the cake. The success of this project isn’t based upon how big of an audience I can reach or the amount of hours I log or the donations I help receive – if just one life is changed in a positive way and an animal gets a second chance at love then I have done what I set out to do and will continue on to do so many times over. The only steps that remain are just dependent upon time. When I am able to volunteer I will carry it over way after this assignment is completed and once I am in a stable environment I will be adopting all while keeping my Tumblr going so that I can learn/teach more about animal adoptions!
– Hope Berger