Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender

The surrender department at any shelter is always an emotional place.  People from all walks of life are there to hand over their ownership of their pet(s), and it is never a happy occasion.  Unfortunately, the mindset of most pet owners is that their first resort when facing a challenge or obstacle in keeping their pet is to take them to the shelter to surrender.  In reality, this should be the last resort.  Helping owners keep their pets, and helping educate the public that surrendering to the shelter should be a last resort is an important program for every rescue and shelter to have.

There are many shelters and rescue groups that do some or all of these programs to help keep animals from entering the shelter system through owner surrender.  My personal favorite through my work and volunteer experience that has really impressed me is Austin Pets Alive’s PASS (Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender) Program.  Below I’ve detailed some of the main areas the PASS program covered to help with owner surrender.

The PASS program originally started with a team of volunteers who, with the permission from the city shelter, would set up a table outside the surrender door and start conversations with people coming to surrender.  The conversations were always positive, never accusatory, with the goal of working with the owner on how to best serve them and their animal and keep the pet out of the shelter system if possible.  The program later grew to being overseen by a staff person and had a much larger army of incredible volunteers, and was run mostly through a hotline and an email.


Sometimes the reason an owner is looking to surrender their pets is they will be unable to care for them for a limited time.  It may be the owner is having a medical procedure that would make them unable to care for their pet for a few weeks or months, or any other number of reasons the owner cannot care for their pet.

A healthy PASS program will create a database list of boarding facilities in the area that will provide free or discounted boarding, and detail the length of time they are open to providing, along with how many animals they are open to taking on each year.  Volunteers or a designated staff can oversee the management tracking of this database to ensure the relationships stay positive and the pets are well-cared for and returned at the proper time.

In a few rare cases, the owner needs help boarding their pet for more than a few weeks, or even more than a few months.  A prime example is military personnel being deployed for an extended period.  In these instances, having a team of well-trained PASS foster families is a great program to help keep these pets safe and sound until their owner can return from their service.


Sometimes the issue is something as simple as the owner is having a financial difficulty that is leading them to feel they cannot afford the food and/or litter for their pet for a period of time.  A food bank for owners to access and keep themselves on their feet while also allowing them to keep their pets is vital in any community.

Taking it a step further, partnering with the local food bank and/or meals on wheels programs in the community to ensure all individuals utilizing food services for themselves also have an option at the same time to receive food/litter for their pets is extremely helpful.


Many times, the pet is facing a medical situation that the owner cannot afford, so they believe the best chance for the pet is to surrender them over and hopefully get the care they need.  Unfortunately, many shelters cannot afford to take these expensive treatments on themselves, and this ends up putting the pet in a precarious position.

The PASS program concept helps the owner fund raise and/or find a veterinarian that will do a discounted service or payment plans.  A healthy PASS program will create a database list that details all the local veterinary clinics, and the deals they are open to providing, along with how many times a year they are open to taking a discounted service on.

Placement Assistance

Sometimes the reality is simply that the owner can no longer keep their pet(s).  Instead of treating them harshly, or judging them for their situation, the best course of action is to offer to work with them in finding a direct placement for the pet.  This skips the middle man of the shelter, keeps the pet safe from the common diseases of shelters as well as free from the stress shelters can cause, and helps the pet find a good fit for their future home as their current owner knows them best.

Assisting with advertising the pet for new owners, vetting potential new owners for the best fit, and paperwork help to ensure everything is legal in the transition process are all ways the PASS program can help an owner re-home their pet.


A PASS program is vital in every community to allow owners to keep their pets when they are in need of help, and help pets find a new home safely without having to go through a shelter system!



Happy Holidays!

Whichever of the many holidays around our winter solstice you celebrate, may it be filled with joy, love, and peace!


Live Mascots

One of the many amazing traditions to come out of our University systems is, of course, the mascot.  As a University of Wisconsin alum, I can tell you we all have a soft spot in our hearts for Bucky Badger.  But there is a split on how a University will portray their mascot.  In Wisconsin, Bucky Badger is represented at our events is via a costume a college student is wearing.  And to be honest, for a long time, I though that was how mascots were represented.  All Big Ten Conference teams pay students to dress up as the mascot for events, and that seems like a fun, goofy way to earn a paycheck!

But after leaving Wisconsin and moving to Texas, I came to learn quite quickly that there is another way Universities represent their mascot:  with live animals.  College campuses like Colorado State University (ram), University of Colorado-Boulder (buffalo), University of Texas (longhorn cow), Louisiana State University (tiger), and dozens of other Universities have a live animal that they bring out to sporting events, parades, etc to show off and have be their mascot.

While I can appreciate a sense of tradition and college spirit, I do think we have reach a time in our history as a species where we no longer should be abusing animals for our benefit.  These poor animals, most of them wild animals, are run through full stadiums of screaming people, subjected to the sounds of fans, bands, and, in the case of Colorado State University, also the sounds of cannons being blown.

It is time for us to retire all live mascots, and allow them to live out their natural lives in the appropriate setting, whether at a farm or at a sanctuary.  Please join me in contacting the athletic director of any and all Universities that you know use live animals for their mascots.  Below are the contact emails for each of the four athletic directors of the Universities I have mentioned in this post.  If your college uses a live mascot and is not mentioned here, please put them in the comments so we can all reach out to them with you.

Please be courteous in your email/phone calls and simply respectfully request that they please retire their live mascot and stick with people dress up to represent them instead.

Colorado State University – Joe Parker, 970-491-3350

University of Colorado – Boulder – Rick George, 303-492-6843

University of Texas – Mike Perrin, 512-471-5757

Louisiana State University – Joe Alleva, 225-578-3600

A Puppy or Kitten For Christmas!

It’s that time of the year, when the kiddos are asking Santa for what they wish for the most.  And, without fail, many of those kiddos will ask for a puppy or kitten.  Even my brother and I received a puppy as children for Christmas when my parents fell in love with a little runt a few days before the holiday.  If you are at risk of giving in to the pleas, here are a few tips!

  • keep in mind, the puppy doesn’t care it’s winter and you do still have to potty train.  I’ve done it, it’s not the most fun thing in the world to stand in the freezing cold and dark to get your little guy to finally pee, but you can definitely survive it!  Just make sure to keep this in mind so you are prepared once you bring the little one home.
  • PLEASE opt to adopt your new addition to the family.  There are pet stores that make those designer puppies and kittens look extra cute for the holidays, but please do not support the puppy mill industry.  While those little ones are cute, their parents are stuck in a hell on earth back at the mill.  Instead, go to your local animal shelter and give a cutie the forever home they deserve.
  • Consider an adult pet!  While puppies and kittens are cute, they are also a TON of work.  Consider getting a pet that’s a year or more old.  They’ll have bladders that last all night and you’ll already know their personality/size/how they do with kids/etc.  And don’t worry, you can definitely teach a pet of any age new tricks!

Good luck with your new addition to your family and Happy Holidays!


Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Make sure you are being safe with the decorations and especially the food around your pets!  A lot of the traditional foods at the Thanksgiving table are not so great for your pups and cats.  Explain to your guests (especially the kiddos!) that the pets are not to receive any table scraps from them.  The worst thing to share with your pets are parts of the turkey that has bone in it, so be very careful with that wishbone!  And if you do want to include Fido in the festivities, a little pumpkin (straight pumpkin, not the pie which has cinnamon and nutmeg – both are poisonous) or some raw carrots or broccoli will do the safe trick for them!

And don’t forget that your pets might not be as excited to hang out with the extended family as you are.  Provide a safe place for them to retreat to if they are nervous or anxious with company.  If you already know your pet does not do well with large groups, be proactive and set them up in a separate room with some fun toys and soft music.  It can be very stressful for some pets to have all that commotion in the house!

I wish you a safe, fun, and festive Thanksgiving and good luck to all the shoppers out there!


Don’t Give Up

If you are like me, you are still reeling from the results of this past presidential election. It does not help that while we try to make sense of all this and try to heal, the hate and bullying continue (and seems to be increasing).  But we do not have to give up.  And I’m talking directly to my fellow white Christians in particular:  we have to stay and we have to fight.

Call you representatives to make sure they know how you feel about decision being made/appointments that are being considered:  https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials (BE RESPECTFUL!)

Here are some petitions I encourage you to sign:

Audit the 2016 election

Appoint Garland now (the Senate has waived their rights at this point)

Encourage the Electoral College to vote for Clinton

Here are some organizations that are worth supporting:

To support women’s health, donate to Planned Parenthood (plannedparenthood.org) or the Center for Reproductive Rights (reproductiverights.org).

If you don’t believe man-made global warming is a silly issue, give to the Natural Resources Defense Council (nrdc.org) or any of the nine other worthy environmental groups listed here.

If you don’t think refugees are a terrorist army in disguise, donate to the International Refugee Assistance Project (refugeerights.org).

You may also want to donate to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (naacpldf.org), the Trevor Project for LGBT youth (thetrevorproject.org), or the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (maldef.org).

And to support journalism, subscribe to a newspaper, and donate to ProPublica (propublica.org).

Start NOW with the 2018 election. 

It does not have to be a last minute thing to get people to register and we truly need to do our homework on our representatives.  The president is just one piece of the puzzle in our government, and we have the power to control who is in the house and senate which, arguably, is more powerful than the president.  So start working now to get everyone you know registered and start working now to campaign for the representatives you want to see in DC.


Most of all, be good to yourself and to others.  Defend and protect targeted groups.  Here is a great article on how to respond to hate speech/bullying as a witness – it directly talks about Islamophobia, but can be used for any instance of hate.  If they demand a Muslim registry, join me in the lines to register with them.  We must be the change we wish to see in this world.  I look forward to fighting the good fight with you all. ❤

Pet Safety Tips For Halloween

Halloween is a super fun holiday – what’s not to love with candy and costumes galore?  But it’s typically not a super fun holiday for your pets.  Most of that candy can hurt them, people in costumes are terrifying to them, and costumes on themselves can be painful.  Make sure you are being safe this Halloween for your four-legged pals!

Trick or Treaters:  I promise you, no matter how awesome your pets are with strangers, trick or treating is going to freak them out to some degree.  They could spook and run out the door, bite a kid that scared them, or scare the kids by barking/protecting the home.  It’s best to put your pets in another room, as far away from the front door as possible and play some music to drown out the noise of the festivities.

Candy:  Candy is an awesome perk for Halloween, but pretty much all candy is poisonous to some degree for your pets, most notably anything with chocolate, nuts, or gum.  Make sure the candy you stocked up on is safely away from where you pets can get.  A real Halloween fright is rushing your pet to the emergency vet to get their stomachs pumped.

Pet Costumes:  Costumes for your pets are always fun – how adorable do they look, right?!  However, please make sure the costume actually fits them and does not restrict them in anyway.  Check for tightness, especially around the neck, and make sure they can still see and comfortably move.  It’s not cool to hurt your little pal just for some cute pictures.

Have fun this Halloween, and feel free to share pictures of your little ones in the comments – I would love to see them!  I’ll make sure to share pics, too!