Thursday, March 24, 2016

My Favorite Animal Non-Profit Organizations and Why You Should Donate to Them TODAY!

Local Rescue Groups

Whether human, environmental, or animal-based - you should support local! My favorite local groups are (I have included their web links):

  • The Way Home, Inc. - A cat rescue group that works with foster homes to help find homes for many cats and kittens who find themselves dumped, homeless, or at Orange County Animal Services. You can visit their adoptable cats and kittens every Saturday at Pookie's Pet Nutrition and Bow Wow Bakery in Winter Park, or visit their website.
  • Polka Dogz Pet Rescue - A small dog rescue dedicated to pulling Chihuahuas, Min Pins, Rat Terriers, Dachsunds, Shih Tzus, and others from kill shelters throughout Florida. You can meet their adoptable dogs every Sunday morning at the West Orange Dog Park, located in Winter Garden off of Marshall Farms Road.
  • Candy's Cats - A no-kill cat rescue based in Central Florida with foster homes across four counties. You can visit their adoptable cats and kittens on Saturdays at the Winter Garden PetSmart or visit their website.
  • A Forever Home Animal Rescue - A place for homeless dogs to go and be loved, cared for, and trained in hopes of finding their forever homes. Their dogs come from shelters, stray situations, or owners who can no longer care for them.
  • Rooterville A Sanctuary, Inc. - Provides a safe and compassionate refuge to hundreds of rescued farm animals. Located in Melrose, FL and founded in 2004, Rooterville is home to over 300 rescued animals, which include: pot-bellied pigs, farm pigs, cows, turkeys, chickens, goats, horses, and honey bees. You should drop what you are doing immediately and call them to set up a date to visit - you will not be disappointed!!
Non-Local, Larger Rescue Groups

If you decide to donate to a larger cause, these are my three, all-time faves:

Paws and Stripes - Paws and Stripes is a non-profit organization providing service dogs for wounded military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury through integrating service dog training and education with mental health support. And the BEST part...their dogs come only from local rescues and teaches the dogs and veterans as a team! How amazing is that?

2nd Chance 4 Pets - If anything happened to you, what would happen to your pets? Did you know that thousands of companion animals are surrendered to shelters and euthanized each year because their human caregivers died or became too ill to care for them? These animals became homeless because their caregivers made no plans for their continued care. 2nd Chance 4 Pets is a unique organization that provides the tools to help you plan for the lifetime care for your pets as well estate planning as a means to effectively plan for your pets' future. They also work with a meals on wheels program called "We All Love Our Pets" that distributes free pet food in all 50 states to elderly pet owners. Pretty cool, right?!

And happy place - the place that changed my life when I visited. It even made me want to move just to be closer - my family wouldn't allow it. :)

Best Friends - I will try not to gush too much about this place, but if you are an animal lover and ever went, you would understand how I feel. 

Thirty years ago, a group of friends decided to take a leap of faith and created a sanctuary for abandoned and abused animals of all kinds. Little did they know that this endeavor would put them at the forefront of what is now known as the "Save Them All" movement to end the killing of 17 million dogs and cats who were dying in our nation's shelters at that time.

To date, Best Friends is the LARGEST no-kill animal sanctuary IN THE WORLD! With their help, the number of animals killed in our shelters is down to about 4 million. WOW! 

While the main sanctuary is located in Kanab, UT in a magical place known as Angel Canyon, Best Friends has several pet adoption centers, spay/neuter clinics and no-kill initiatives in Los Angeles, New York City, and Salt Lake City, as well as a No More Homeless Pets Network of animal rescue groups in every corner of the nation.

Their main focus groups are: 
  • Puppy mill initiatives
  • Pit Bull Terrier initiatives
  • Cat initiatives
  • Spay and neuter education
  • Promoting adoption vs. buying
  • Animal advocacy
Best Friends is, perhaps, most known for taking in 22 of the 47 dogs rescued from Michael Vick's Bad Newz Kennels dog fighting ring. You can't walk into the main building of Dog Town without being reminded of the horrors these innocent beings suffered at his hands...more, you can't help but be reminded of how resilient, forgiving, and trusting these dogs are after reading their stories and meeting them. 

I had the life-changing opportunity to visit Best Friends Sanctuary in Kanab two years ago with my good friends, Kelli and Carolyn (fellow animal-obsessed peeps). We rented a cottage right on the property, next to a cliff where we were greeted each morning and evening by deer, coyotes, and other wildlife. Our cottage overlooked Horse Haven and Marshall's Piggy Paradise. We spent the week volunteering in different areas of the sanctuary including: Dog Town (the filming location of Animal Planet's "DogTown" TV show), Cat World, Piggy Paradise, Bunny House, Parrot Garden, and Wild Friends. 

I learned so much and got to do things I never thought I would do like: 
  • Take a cat for a walk on a leash and in a stroller
  • Prepared lunch for 20 or so hungry piggies
  • Cleaned parrot enclosures
  • Strolled through the beautiful Angel's Rest cemetery where many of the sanctuary's residents as well as volunteer's pets are buried
  • Played with bunnies
  • Learned about the local, wild animals who call Angel Canyon their home - crows (known as ravens in UT), minks who escaped a local mink fur farm and now safely live at the sanctuary, a tortoise, a guinea foul, and countless others
  • Observe and even help in the socialization of extremely terrified and aggressive dogs who are trying to overcome their insecurities
  • Participated in a puppy socialization class
  • Rolled around in the mud with pigs
  • Hiked up the rock formation where the Lone Ranger exclaimed, "Hi Ho, Silver!" (this is just outside the Welcome Center at the sanctuary)
  • Saw original hieroglyphics left behind on the rocks
  • Saw where Jackson Galaxy got married
  • Hiked Zion National Park (which is just a short drive from Best Friends)
  • Had lunch and froze my booty off on the edge of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (on our drive back to Vegas, which is where you fly in/out of to get to Best Friends)
  • Explored Las Vegas for one night
  • Had slumber parties with dogs who are waiting for their forever family to adopt them and cats who were rescued after being left in a suitcase to die - they are now known as the "Suitcase Kids." 
  • Drove the sanctuary at night and saw the Milky Way lights and so many stars that we were speechless
  • Had happy hour every night with wine and lavish cheese plates...ok, mostly I had the wine...
It was absolutely incredible and I plan to go back next year and continue to donate money and sponsor different animals at the sanctuary. In fact, Mom's birthday gift this year was the gift of sponsoring Chauncy - a special needs kitty who lives in one of the cat houses at Best Friends.

Ok, ok, so maybe I should have dedicated an entirely separate post to Best Friends, but my point is...pick a cause that is important to you - find groups of like-minded people and volunteer, donate, learn, advocate! You may start out doing it to help others, but you will quickly find that you get WAY more out of it than you could have ever imagined.

If you would like to learn more about any of the organizations I have included in this post, please feel free to contact me via my website below or comment. I hope you enjoy the included photos from my trip - they are some of my favorites!

 Our Cottage and home for the week!

Angel's Rest Cemetary

 Lucas' grave stone - Lucas was the last dog of Michael Vick's dogs who passed away while living at Best Friends

 Morning dog walks

 Dog Town resident

 Bruno - a Dog Town resident who got to have a slumber party with us!

 Slumber party time!

 Blackjack enjoying a walk around the sanctuary - he had to stop to enjoy the view


 Parrot Garden resident

 The Suitcase Kids all settled in for their slumber party with us

 Meow - the resident kitty at Piggy Paradise

 Piggy lovin'

 Bounced Bruno out of Dog Town for a slumber party

 Sweet Bruno all tucked in for the night!

 Vegas, baby! This is me ordering a $24 martini at the Monte Carlo

 Kelli and Bruno

 Puppy socialization class


 Time for a hike with this buddy!

 Me, Carolyn and Kelli at Angel's Rest

 One of the many beautiful views at the sanctuary


 Piggy lunch prep

Post by: Allison Otero, owner of AlleyCat's Pet Service