Bianca (my fiancee) and I are interested in adopting a dog and, as many perspective dog owners are wont to do, we’ve visited more than our fair share of adoption websites and shelters. Throughout the process I’ve noted several things. First, there are (obviously) far more dogs than there are people to adopt them. No surprise there. But second, I’ve been blown away by how many nonprofits exist to help animals: each shelter is full of volunteers and and veterinarians and computerized systems for keeping records on the animals. And lastly, the more I pay attention to dog owners walking their dogs, the more I see that pets immediately bring smiles to strangers, passers-by, children, the elderly…pretty much anyone and everyone.
So what does all this have to do with Capital Good Fund and The Nonprofit Life? Well, it seems to me that whenever there is an excess supply of something that brings people joy (adoptable dogs) and a lot of people in need of that joy (ex-offenders, the homeless, the elderly), you have the opportunity to put two-and-two together and solve a problem.
Not surprisingly, a lot of smart people have figured this out. There are programs aplenty that, for instance, allow prisoners to train therapy dogs; give puppies to the formerly homeless (the program is called “WOOF,” or Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos); train dogs to support the mentally ill; and connect seniors with older animals. These programs are, across the board, successful and fall into the “no brainer” category: shelter animals aren’t needlessly killed and those in need experience joy, comfort and a sense of meaning and purpose.
Until I started the adoption process I hadn’t thought about how great the potential is to vastly expand programs that use animals to promote happiness and welfare. To be honest, I’d often felt that we as Americans spend way too much time, energy and money on our pets, to the detriment of human needs. And while that may be case the case, I think that by re-directing some of those resources we can leverage our love of animals to make the country a far better place. Why doesn’t every nursing home and assistant facility, every homeless shelter and minimum security prison have an animal program? I’d be willing to bet that seniors’ quality of life would improve; prisoners would have a greatest sense of purpose, fewer infractions and perhaps even lower rates of recidivism; and the homeless would feel more hopeful about the future.
What’s A Little Money Between (Furry) Friends?
Sure, this will cost money. But Americans already spend $56 billion / year on their pets, more than they donate to charities that provide social services. If we re-allocate just a fraction of that, maybe we can run enough pilot programs to show that no animal should ever be left to die in a shelter and no human being should be deprived the delight of caring for and being loved by another being–human or otherwise.
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