dogs-and-catsAdopt, Don’t Shop — There are so many wonderful pets currently living in animals shelters and rescues. These animals are homeless through no fault of their own and they deserve loving, permanent places to live. Some have experienced abuse or neglect; others were orphaned when their human moved or passed away. Animals in shelters are not bad—they are innocent creatures eager to provide love and companionship, and we owe it to them to make sure they are properly cared for and don’t suffer. Each year, millions of healthy companion animals are euthanized simply because they are homeless. This is just plain wrong. So in 2016 if you decide to get a new pet, pledge to adopt, not shop!

Spread the Word — Despite the efforts of animal shelters and rescues everywhere, people still seem to be largely unaware of the homeless animal problem. Even as the ASPCA and the Humane Society work diligently to educate the public through television commercials and mailers, people still buy puppy-mill dogs from pet stores or get kittens from breeders. Some people insist that they want to get a purebred pet—those are widely available through rescues and shelters, too. If the animal homelessness situation is ever going to improve, the financial benefits of breeding companion animals needs to decrease. Therefore, in 2016 spread the word about animal adoption when you hear people talk about getting a pet.

Do Not Treat Your Car Like a Kennel — Leaving an animal in a car is not just dangerous in the hot summer months. A cold car can be equally dangerous. It only takes a few minutes in a freezing-cold car for a pet to suffer hypothermia, suffocation, or frostbite. And not only is the temperature dangerous, but each year thousands of pets are stolen when they’re left in a car unattended! Don’t be a victim of pet theft, and don’t expose your pet to dangerous conditions. Promise that in 2016 you will not leave your furry loved one in a hot or cold car.

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Get Proper ID — Many lost pets are never found because they aren’t wearing identification. Your pet can’t tell someone where they live if they get lost, so having an identification tag on his/her collar and/or having a microchip is the only way to ensure that someone who finds your pet will be able to find you! Every pet store these days has machines that will make custom tags, or you can order them online. You can even get a collar with your info sewn right onto it! And it’s easy to get your pet microchipped at your vet’s office. Having a collar with ID tags is the quickest way to ensure your pet will be found if he or she slips off the leash or escapes the fence because it is visible to anyone who meets your pet. Microchips can store lots of valuable information, but only animal control, veterinarians, and rescue organizations have the scanners that can read the chips. In 2016, make sure your pets have collars with tags that have current contact information.

Plan for Emergencies — Remember the horrible stories during Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy when people fled their homes and left their animals behind? Some people found themselves in extreme peril because they wouldn’t leave their homes if they weren’t allowed to take their pets with them. These situations were gut wrenching, but in many cases they could have been avoided. FEMA recommends that every household have an emergency plan that includes their pets. You’ll need ample food and water supplies and a plan for where to go in case you have to leave your home quickly. It doesn’t take long to get a solid plan in place. Visit the FEMA website for helpful tips and promise that in 2016 you will create a safety plan to ensure that you and your pet are taken care of during an emergency.

If You See Something, Say Something — By now everyone has heard the phrase “If you see something, say something” as it relates to terrorism and national security. But the “see something, say something” idea can be applied to almost any situation. Don’t think of it as tattle-telling, because it is actually the duty of a good citizen. Americans are known for helping others and that means speaking up when the situation warrants. If you saw someone’s house on fire you wouldn’t just go back inside and watch TV. You would call the fire department! So if you see an animal in need, say something. Call the non-emergency police number, your local animal shelter, or a rescue group. Vow that in 2016 you will follow the “see something, say something” mantra if you see an animal being abused or neglected.

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Exercise Daily — What would a set of New Year’s resolutions be without one related to diet or exercise? Of course eating right and getting exercise is good for humans, but it is essential to your pet’s health too! As our pets age this becomes increasingly important. So this year resolve to get out and spend some quality exercise time with your pet. You can take a walk, play a game of fetch with Fido, or catch the mouse and climb the scratching post with Mittens—anything that gets the blood flowing and increases the heart rate. You will both benefit! Resolve to exercise with your pet every day in 2016.

Give of Yourself — Maybe you’re rich, but have no time. Or maybe you have all the time in the world, but you’re low on cash. Either way, you can help change the world for homeless animals by giving of yourself. If you are able, donate money or goods directly to your local animal shelter. Or if you can’t afford a monetary donation, go to your local shelter and volunteer. Solving the homeless animal issue is a team effort, and if we all spend a little bit of time we can help these animals find loving homes and lead better lives. Shelters always need volunteers to clean kennels or walk the dogs and play with the cats. You might even be the perfect foster home for an animal who only needs a place to stay for a few days until a permanent home can be found. Just call and ask how you can help! Pledge that in 2016 you will give whatever you can to help make animals’ lives better.

By Charlene Sloan