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2009-11-11 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

To give; or not to give…that is the “que$tion”. Times are tough. Pets do not know that there’s a recession, nor do they understand that now more than ever they need to rely on us to support their individual and “com-pet-riots’” welfare. Unlike our pets who trust unconditionally, we need to be a bit more discriminating when considering where to donate money.

Selecting which animal charities to support has always been a difficult decision. During the present fiscal upheaval, donors may have limited resources, so it is more important to choose causes wisely. When it comes to animal organizations, donors can disperse their generosity by helping both national and local groups; or instead streamline gifts toward specific rescue or research projects.

Meanwhile non-profits are operating on less than they anticipated because of decreased donations and increased requests for help. Shelters and humane groups continue to take in more pets as unemployment and foreclosures force surrenders, while consumers are overwhelmed with a plethora of pleas from various organizations asking for monetary assistance.

There are guidelines for choosing reputable charities. We should know how our contributions will be used, plus be certain that most of each dollar goes directly to the animals in need. A donation is tax deductible if a charity has 501 (c) (3) non-profit status but this does not assure financial responsibility, ethics or sound policy. (Even animal hoarders can apply to be non-profit.) Therefore:

•Decide the type of cause you want to support. Animal rescues and animal rights groups differ greatly. Make sure the charity backs practices and legislation that you believe in.

•Don’t be fooled by glitzy websites or give-away gimmicks. Read the newsletters and press about the organization. Do not “buy into” every animal saga that you read. Trust your instincts when gauging exploitation versus true accomplishment.

•With grass roots rescues, get an inside look. Join the group. Speak to people who have adopted or sought help from them. Listen to the members talk-is it all about them or is it about the animals? Assess honesty and pet smarts.

•Make sure at least 75% of all revenue is spent on the charitable cause and not on administrative and fundraising expenses, especially telemarketing. Contact the group and ask to see financial statements.

•Check the charity watchdogs: a) Charity Navigator compares 245 animal charities, gives one to four star rating, and provides pie graph breakdowns; b) consult Better Business Wise Giving Alliance (www.give.org); c) GuideStar is a database of 1.8 million non-profits. Register online first to view actual IRS forms; d) or call the NYS Charities Bureau at the Attorney General’s Office (518)486- 9797 or (212)416-8402 to inquire about fundraising or charitable status.

Pet lovers can personalize their generosity. Some are dog devotees; some are feline fanciers while many are “bi-petual”. Often dog folks have allegiance to particular breeds; others care about rescuing all homeless dogs. We can tailor these passions by donating to specific purebred rescue groups. The American Kennel Club (www. akc.org) has a list of national club rescue links. On LI, Hempstead, Islip, Babylon, Brookhaven and N. Hempstead Town Shelters have non-profit, special medical needs and/or shelter volunteer funds that aid their impounded dogs and cats.

Most owners have lost beloved animal companions to common or rare diseases. Memorial donations are a wonderful way to remember departed pets. The AKC Canine Health Foundation (ww.akcchf.org) has designated breed parent club funds and charitable trusts researching ailments that plague particular breeds such as the Darcy Fund, designed to combat chronic heart valve disease in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and other small breeds.

The Greyhound Project has a matching cancer fund program with Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) which is the world’s largest non-profit dedicated to funding research that protects, treats and cures companion animals. MAF contributors can request their checks go to the Canine Cancer Campaign, Healthy Cat Campaign, behavior, wildlife or even donor-advised toward a specific study. The Winn Feline Fund established in 1968 is the only international charity devoted solely to the advancement of cat health. Winn has designated memorial trusts striving to cure deadly diseases like the Bria Fund for FIP (feline infectious peritonitis) or the Ricky Fund for HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy).

At the university level donors can give to distinct veterinary areas such as Cornell’s Baker Institute (infectious disease) or Feline Health Center. In addition, Tufts, Cornell and University of Pennsylvania have animal behavior departments. Donors may wish to help finance ongoing studies because solving common behavior problems cements the human/animal bond, keeping numerous pets from being discarded.

Large and small groups acknowledge memorial monies sent in sympathy to friends who have lost a pet. Morris Animal Foundation, the veterinary colleges, and local organizations like Last Hope Animal Rescue (www. lasthopeanimalrescue.org) offer pet memorial cards that celebrate each pet’s life and send condolences in a meaningful way. Later on, forward thinking people include bequests to cherished animals causes in their estate planning.

Supporting service dog agencies like Canine Companions for Independence, Puppies Behind Bars or the Guide Dog Foundation combines concern for people and pets. Puppies Behind Bars (PBB) where inmates help themselves by training dogs for the disabled or law enforcement has expanded its mission. Special PBB “Dog Tag” canines are paired with military veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.

Donations need not be monetary. Local shelters often have wish lists of food, toys, blankets, and other supplies. Better yet-give of your time. Volunteering is the best way to help animals directly and also offers you a clear view of whether this organization matches your principles, thus, deserving your financial support.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Both poster pups are unclaimed strays. This Corgi/Lab in Cage 3 likes to sit in your lap. The pretty Shepherd in Cage 29 was found at Wyandanch Library even though her microchip traces to a Queens man who merely said “he gave her away”.

Female: the familiar crew of brindle “Roxy” Cage 25 & “Hallie” Cage 38 the Pit with one blue eye has been joined here by “Ginger” in Cage 39, a small, quiet brown Pit.

Male: Italian Greyhound mix who had extensive dentistry by the shelter’s vet; “Teddy” Retriever Cage 6; big Shepherd mix Cage 20.

Cats: “Annabelle”-gray tabby C-7; in lobby- super tabby “Leo”; eviction felines-“Winston & Penny”.

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