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Reflecting on Saving Lives in 2021

As 2021 comes to a close, I have been reflecting on what a complicated year it has been for pets and the people who care for them. It felt as if the animal welfare industry has attempted to pivot to address the obstacles impacting lifesaving since January. Shelters faced crippling staffing shortages that hampered transport, adoptions, intake, and community services. Veterinarian shortages in and out of shelters frustrated communities and stalled critical spay/neuter procedures. Many shelters faced diseases, creating a complete overhaul of protocols. And as if those barriers weren’t enough, natural disasters like the recent tornadoes in Kentucky and Arkansas and Hurricane Ida impacted southern shelters already seeing increased intake.

While the obstacles shelters faced may have sent some industries running for cover, they worked tirelessly to address each issue that came their way. Shelters found new and creative ways to get staff in the door, such as lowering the minimum age to attract part-time high school students and setting up a daycare on-site. Community vaccine clinics took place across the country to address disease and provide some relief for veterinarians. Many shelters consulted with experts from the University of Florida and University of Wisconsin shelter medicine programs to continue lifesaving transport despite an increase in distemper and parvo cases.

I have been on several Zoom calls with BISSELL Pet Foundation’s Shelter Alliance as they discussed these issues and shared how they were collaborating to work through them. At a moment’s notice, several of the members rushed to the aid of shelters that lacked resources to handle large-scale disasters, cruelty, and neglect cases. It fills my heart with gratitude to watch shelters helping shelters.

BPF supported the work of shelters through lifesaving funding. We had a record-breaking year of Empty the Shelters events, with more than 26,000 pets finding adoptive homes (with one event taking place currently). These organizations pulled out every tool in the tool kit to save lives, and I am proud that our Empty the Shelters program was one of them. As a small foundation, a more than $1.6 million annual expense for Empty the Shelters is significant. Still, every dollar went toward sending pets home while helping animal shelters, public and private, big and small, rural and urban.

Spay/neuter services were limited in some areas of the country due to the lack of veterinarians, but BPF supported shelters as much as we could, providing $1.7 million in spay/neuter grant funding. We also ensured animal welfare organizations had the funding to treat heartworm-positive dogs, with nearly $350,000 provided to shelter pets throughout the country. In addition, shelters experienced emergencies, and BPF was there to help with $475,000 in emergency funding to ensure pets were safe from harm and received the help they needed. These items are only some of the many funded by BISSELL Pet Foundation in 2021.

BISSELL Pet Foundation will be here for you in 2022, continuing our mission to help shelters, both the animals and the people within them. We see your hard work and are so grateful for each one of you.

From my family to yours, I’m wishing you a very Merry Christmas, a happy holiday season, and cheers to a New Year.