The first time Colleen Gedrich attended a candlelight vigil for homeless animals was in 2004. The event, sponsored by the Pennsylvania-based International Society for Animal Rights (ISAR), was in its 12th year. Chains of paper collars, each representing a dog that had died at a local animal shelter that year, blew in the breeze, while speakers told personal stories about shelter animals that had touched their lives.
When Gedrich attends another Pennsylvania vigil on August 21, it will be the 19th recognition of International Homeless Animals’ Day. People around the globe will be observing along with her. Below, the ISAR weighs in on how you can help homeless dogs.
Host a Vigil
Organize your own recognition of International Homeless Animals’ Day to raise awareness of the dog overpopulation epidemic. Contact the ISAR by phone or through their website, IsarOnline.org, to order a vigil packet. The packet includes guidelines for choosing a site, suggestions for speakers and posters to advertise your event.
"Even on a modest budget, many shelters can hold successful observances with open houses, adopt-a-thons and information stalls," says Gedrich. "Some encourage the public to bring flashlights instead of spending their own money on candles. Just make sure to advertise!"
The ISAR can help you advertise by posting your vigil on their website and social networking pages.
Attend a Vigil
Every vigil has a personality of its own. Many include not only the candle-lighting ceremony in recognition of homeless dogs, but also dog adoption fairs, microchip clinics, raffles and blessings of the animals, among other things. You can find a vigil near you at the ISAR website. If there’s nothing in your area, light a virtual candle on ISAR’s website.
While the ISAR accepts donations, there are many animal shelters around the world that need help in order to maintain the homeless dogs they care for. When you make your donation on August 21, you can let your local shelter know that it’s in recognition of International Homeless Animals’ Day.
You can also donate supplies. "Dog food, dog toys and blankets are always welcome at facilities with overstretched budgets," says Gedrich.
The same shelters that need donations also often need volunteers to clean cages, work at adoption fairs and provide loving kindness to homeless dogs. Your local shelter should have information about opportunities to give your time in honor of International Homeless Animals’ Day.
"A rambunctious dog may be overlooked by a potential owner because of how active it is. I’d be rambunctious, too, if I were in a cage all day. You can really help a dog get the recreation it needs," says Gedrich. "Volunteers are the backbone of a shelter’s operation."
Spay or Neuter Your Own Furry Friend
According to the most recent statistics available from the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, 56 percent of dogs that enter shelters will ultimately be euthanized. The Humane Society notes that it is not just homeless dogs that breed homeless puppies. Many household pets have litters that will some day need shelter care. Spaying and neutering your beloved companion ensures that it won’t produce offspring that have nowhere to go. Be sure to find a reputable, licensed veterinarian.
While the mood at the vigils connected to International Homeless Animals’ Day is naturally somber, Gedrich has noted other emotions the events have brought out in her as well. "I always feel recharged at these events," she says. "They’re extremely inspirational." As the ISAR emphasizes, your participation in these events can let the world know that it is not okay to take the lives of innocent dogs, cats, puppies and kittens simply because there are not enough good homes for them.