How to reach out to the needy animals you can’t rescue.

Photos by Khrysta Imperial Rara

Animal Scene Note: There are many reasons why we can’t help animals even when we really want to. Some of us live in places where animals are prohibited, or don’t have a lot of space at home. Even the most dedicated animal welfare worker will reach the point when he or she can no longer take in more animals, either because the work involved is threatening to intrude into one’s livelihood, or there are already too many animals being cared for. Or a family member or domestic partner may have an unfortunate allergy to the animal concerned. Whatever the reason, there is still a way to help, instead of just being an armchair activist, and Animal Scene invited University of the Philippines professor and radio personality Khrysta Imperial Rara to share tips for helping out the animals you can’t rescue.

Taking a proactive stance to help animals in need is a fulfilling way to show your compassion. Why not reach out to that skinny dog which roams the streets for food, or that alley cat that’s in need of a bath but is always so sweet to strangers?

There are many ways of showing love and concern for animals. You could just stay in your corner and say you love them… or you could go a step further by reaching out to them and encouraging other people to do the same.

Also, do you love just your dog and cat or do you wish the best for all dogs and cats? I have met people who shout out their concern for their companion animals but turn their backs on the canines and felines abandoned by irresponsible owners. These people loathe these homeless animals that, through no fault of theirs, suddenly found themselves roaming the streets.

So which kind of animal lover are you? The passive or the active kind? The challenge here is not to just say you love animals. Here are 7 things you can actually do to help them and live your compassion.

1. Reach out to community animals. They are the dogs and cats in your neighborhood that don’t have a permanent home and/or a regular source of food. If you can go the extra mile, help out a stray dog or cat by fostering them first in your home while finding permanent families for them.

A word of caution: Don’t adopt if you aren’t sure you can take care of them for the rest of their lives. Animal hoarders keep on rescuing animals but can’t afford to give them decent lives at home. It’s like an addiction; they collect animals but don’t take care of them. Make sure you have the consent of your human family before you do it. Adopting stray animals then throwing them out in the streets again when things don’t work out is a very cruel thing to do. It’s very traumatic for the twice-abandoned animals too.

2. Share your blessings. Always have dry dog and cat food as well as canned food in the trunk of your car, if you have one. Also have some water and food dishes and a jug of water ready, just in case. The stray animals will surely appreciate food and water offered by a kind stranger.

3. Befriend them and socialize them. Get them used to interacting with you and other people. The strays that get easily adopted are those that have managed to charm their way to a stranger’s heart.

4. Take charming photos of them in winsome positions, then create a Facebook page or blog about them. Everyone loves an animal with a story. So when you put up that Facebook page or blog about them, make sure the stray dog or cat’s photo is accompanied by his or her story told in an engaging manner. Melt people’s hearts with your words. But be sure that the one who’s finally going to adopt the animal is a responsible person totally capable of giving the dog or cat a good life.

5. Trap-Neuter-Return. If you can afford it, trap the community animals one by one, bring them to a nearby vet clinic for neutering or spaying, then return them to where you found them. If possible, foster them first in your home or a friend’s place while they are recovering from the spaying surgery before bringing them back to their place of origin. You would be doing the community a favor by helping control the population of stray animals. (Animal Scene note: This will entail some out-of-pocket costs so you may need to watch for special discounted or free spay-neuter days among the local vet clinics.)

6. Observe them. Learn from them. I have been observing animals for close to 20 years and I always learn from them. I get a lot of insights about life and people from both my companion animals and the animals I befriend everywhere. They inspire my writing.

7. Educate yourself on animal-related issues. There is so much information available on the Internet, print, and broadcast media nowadays. Check social media and share cute and informative posts about animals, then share what you learn with friends and family. Create a group or online community and encourage others to see animals in a new light. You’ll be surprised at how quick the responses will come and how positive your new friends will be. The love for animals brings like-minded people together.

This appeared in Animal Scene’s April 2016 issue.