Like many of you, I follow many animal welfare groups and animal shelters on social media. Over the past couple of weeks, I was simply amazed at the number of shelters that sent out notifications of being closed for the holidays. And these shelters weren't just closed on Christmas;, they were closed on the day after Christmas, New Years, the day after New Years and many for Christmas Eve and New Years Eve also.
So, during an 11 day stretch, many shelters were closed at least 4 days, and many up to 6 during that time.
What a missed opportunity.
We talk a lot in sheltering about the need to keep adopter-friendly adoption hours. Being open on weekends, and in the evenings, when most people off work is a great way to attract more adopters. If a shelter is not open when it is convenient for them to come, potential adopters likely won't be adopting from you.
This same philosophy applies to holidays - -when families are off work and together for the holidays. Since they aren't at work, they have time to come adopt a pet. And they do adopt with a lot of regularity on holidays.
This applies to many different holidays -- especially ones like Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, but also applies to holidays like New Years Day, and Christmas Eve -- days when many shelters choose to be closed. For years, many of KC Pet Project's highest adoption days have been on the 4th of July.
And further, animals arrive in open admission shelters every single day - even holidays. So if shelters (and rescues that support those shelters) aren't trying to get animals out safely every single day, they are falling behind. I know at KCPP, we anticipate receiving 27 animals into the shelter every day....so if we aren't getting them back out, we get backed up very quickly. And even if your shelter isn't open admission, the shelters you pull animals from are getting equally backed up if animals aren't getting out of the shelter -- either through their work, or yours.
Plus, shelter staff has to be there anyway to provide care for the animals -- why not let them get to experience the best part of their job while they're there -- which is pets finding homes?
And being open works.
The Nevada Humane Society, was open until 6:30 on New Years Eve and from 11- 5 on New Years Day - and on January 2nd, the shelters staff posted the pics of all the empty kennels on their social media pages.
In Springfield, MO, the folks at the Southwest Missouri Humane Society chose to do fee-waived adoptions on adult cats for New Years Day. 74 cats found homes in just four hours that day -- including 21 that were over the age of four and 16 that had been at the shelter for more than three months.
Meanwhile, KC Pet Project opened on Christmas Eve with a Kittens for Kristmas promotion -- and adopted out 54 pets on Christmas Eve, including 31 kittens, that got to wake up Christmas day in a new home.
At Metro Nashville Animal Care & Control, their "Silent Night" promotion got 90 pets adopted (and another 20 into foster homes) for the holidays -- leaving room for an impressive video of their "silent" kennels at the shelter.
And at Austin Animal Center, they invited the public to come out and spend Christmas Day with their pets -- and more than 200 people took them up on the invitation. The influx of volunteer support -- many who were first time volunteers - ensured that all of the dogs got multiple walks and dogs were left with refrigerators full of peanut-butter filled treats for days to come.
Saving lives requires embracing your community. A shelter cannot become no kill without the support of its community. It is this community that will be your adopters, volunteers and donors. But this also means that successful shelters will need to embrace the community when it is convenient for them to be embraced -- which is when they're not working their jobs --- which often means being available to them on weekends and holidays.
And being available to the public on holidays works incredibly for embracing your community - -and the community will respond positively, and lives will be saved.