Opinion: Animals Need Our Help During the Pandemic

Op-ed

During May of last year, several national news stories were claiming that shelters were seeing record adoptions and that people were surrendering their “pandemic pets”. While this observation didn’t reflect the entire nation, this did impact a couple of animal shelters.

Right now, animal shelters in Houston and other cities are struggling to keep up with an increase of homeless animals and a decrease in adoptions. The omicron surge only made things worse.

According to an August survey by Best Friends Animal Society, 87 percent of the 187 U.S. shelters polled are understaffed, reflecting a broader nationwide problem.

Best Friends Animal Society, an animal welfare organization with hundreds of rescue and shelter partners nationwide, is warning of an animal shelter crisis. There are an estimated 100,000 more pets in the U.S. shelter system right now compared to the same time in 2021. They also noted that staffing shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are affecting these numbers.

However, there is some light during these dark times. Behold the Betty White challenge!

When Betty White died on Dec. 31, less than three weeks away from her 100th birthday, her love of animals inspired animal lovers across the nation. They donated historic sums of money to organizations that rescue, protect and defend animals, as well as spreading the message of pet adoption.

It was supposedly a single Facebook post that said “everyone should pick a local rescue or animal shelter in your area and donate just $5 in Betty White’s name.” The end result, an outpouring of money to these groups.

I personally love this challenge. The pandemic has clearly had some negative impacts on local shelters. Therefore, our furry friends deserve the best care and respect during this time.

As a Muslim teen, I always admired the Prophet Muhummad’s (peace and blessings be on him) affection for animals. For instance, there is a saying by the Prophet Muhummad, narrated in Bukhari that once a man was travelling along a road felt extremely thirsty and went down a well and drank. When he came up he saw a dog panting with thirst and licking the moist earth. ‘This animal’, the man said, ‘is suffering from thirst just as much as I was.’ So he went down the well again, filled his shoe with water, and taking it in his teeth, climbed out of the well and gave the water to the dog. God was pleased with his act and granted him pardon for his sins.”

I hope to carry his compassion for animals in my own life, especially now more than ever. In essence, we all should try our best to help animals during these tough times. I’m going to start researching more about the local shelters in my area that need help.

Animal lovers can help shelters navigate this crisis by opening their homes and donating their time. For those who can't adopt a pet, donating or volunteering your time to assist a local shelter will also help save the lives of animals in need.

Maha Laiq
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Maha is a current high school senior from Virginia. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, catching up on binge-worthy TV shows, and spending time with her friends and family.