October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month
HISTORY OF ADOPT A SHELTER DOG MONTH
No one knows the exact number of dogs that find safe harbor and temporary housing in community animal shelters each year. But these shelters are the last hope for an estimated 3.3 – 4.5 million misunderstood, unwanted, abused, or neglected dogs in need of a fresh start with a compassionate human friend.
But lost, abandoned or unwanted dogs have not always had shelters where caring humans provide help and hope. As we celebrate Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, we would be remiss to not recognize the founder of America’s first animal shelter, Mrs. Caroline Earl White. Mrs. White and a group of 30 female animal rights activists formed the “Women’s Humane Society” in 1869 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Society’s initial mission focused on advocating for the humane treatment of carriage horses on city streets. Horses were considered beasts of burden for industrial purposes at the time, and carriage horses were often seen being treated harshly on city streets, frequently denied access to clean water and medical care.
After success in advocating for more humane treatment of horses, the women turned their attention later that year to smaller domestic animals when they opened a shelter where lost dogs could be found and reclaimed by their owners or placed in new homes. As their commitment to cause continued, the Women’s Humane Society began the first formal educational program about the humane treatment of animals. In 1909 they raised enough money to open and support a dispensary where owners could bring their dogs and other small animals for medical attention.
The determination and commitment to animal rights by Mrs. White and her band of animal activists paved the way for dogs to be treated humanely some 50 years before these women could even vote. Their original shelter, which opened as “The Women’s Branch of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,” is still in operation today as the “Women’s Animal Center” in Bensalem, a suburb of Philadelphia.
Today there are approximately 5,000 community animal shelters nationwide and perhaps as many as 10,000 when including rescue groups and animal sanctuaries in the count. Knowing there are so many places of refuge for unwanted dogs gives us hope that every dog in every shelter will be adopted into a loving permanent home during Adopt a Shelter Dog Month