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How “Maddie's Fund” Helps Shelters Save Pets

By Linda Cole

It's a challenge for most animal shelters to meet their responsibility to feed, house and provide vet care for the pets they take in. Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made to open up space in shelters. Many pets are in shelters because their owners could no longer care for them, or didn't do the proper research to make sure their pet was right for them. Some owners surrender a pet because they lost their job or home due to an illness or layoff. For one reason or another, countless pets end up in shelters every year. Maddie was a beloved Miniature Schnauzer and her owners, Dave and Cheryl Duffield, created Maddie's Fund to honor her in the best way they knew how – by trying to save lives in her name.

Maddie passed away in 1997 at the age of 10. Dave and Cheryl established Maddie's Fund because they believe all dogs and cats should have the same opportunity of finding a family of their own to share their love with, just like Maddie shared her love with them. Maddie's Fund has a simple and clear mission statement: “To revolutionize the status and well-being of companion animals.” They intend to do this is with an aggressive campaign to help shelters transition to no kill shelters by the year 2015, creating a no kill nation. All pets that are healthy and have no serious behavioral issues should be ready for adoption and never euthanized.

Most shelters, even no kill shelters, make decisions based on available space and whether a pet is adoptable or not. Maddie's Fund is trying to change that by working with entire communities and counties to help them develop business and strategic plans that puts all shelters on a path to no kill facilities. Starter grants are available for shelters willing to show they are serious about moving toward a no kill facility. The grants help pay for shelters to gather statistics and write business and strategic plans to guarantee that healthy pets are not euthanized. Long term grants are then available to help implement the shelter's plans.

Maddie's Fund is about working together as a community. In order to apply for funds, animal groups in cities, counties or states must come together in a coalition and have a human population of at least 100,000 to be eligible for a grant. This creates a working commitment between animal control, veterinarians and shelters to move towards no kill shelters in their area.

One problem many shelters have is a lack of qualified veterinarians who can provide medical care and behavioral rehabilitation for shelter pets. Maddie's Fund supports programs at Colleges of Veterinary Medicine to develop shelter medicine programs that train vets for work in animal shelters. Adoption guarantee shelters with a full time vet on staff are eligible to apply for a grant that helps pay for medical equipment. Maddie's Fund is about changing the way shelters have done business in the past to a more humane and progressive focus to help solve the problem of homeless pets.

Putting shelter pets down to make room for more homeless pets won't solve the problem of overpopulation, and no healthy dog or cat who is adoptable should ever be put to sleep. The animal welfare community, the Ad Council, DRAFTFCB (a marketing communication agency), and Maddie's Fund have teamed up for a three year public service ad campaign that began in 2010. The Shelter Pet Project promotes shelters and rescue groups as places to go first when looking for a pet.

It's estimated that 25% of shelter pets are purebred, and eight million pets end up in shelters and rescue groups every year. Three million healthy pets are put down every year. These are heartbreaking numbers that Maddie's Fund is determined to change. If only a third of the people planning to add a new cat or dog to their home visited their local shelter to find a pet, all of the adoptable pets in shelters could be placed in forever homes. The Shelter Pet Project's goal is to educate people and erase stereotypes connected with animal shelters. The majority of pets in shelters are not there because of behavior problems.

For detailed information on how Maddie's Fund can help your community become part of their no kill nation, visit their website. Roll your mouse over the bar above the picture of Maddie for the exact information you need.

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