By Gisele Gamble

Special to The Examiner

The week of November 3rd is National Animal Shelter and Rescue Appreciation week. The Humane Society of the United States is encouraging animal lovers to step up and help their local shelters.

The HSUS estimates that there are around 3,500 animal shelters in the United States that assist nearly 6 million to 8 million homeless animals annually. Rescue groups struggle to save as many animals as they can on shoestring budgets. Volunteers and donations are gold to shelters and rescue groups alike.

The first thing we all can do to help shelters and rescue groups is to have our animals spayed or neutered. Preventing unwanted litters of kittens or puppies is a huge help. It is a myth that a female has to have babies before being spayed. It is also a myth that neutered males become lazy and fat. Lazy and fat come from a lifestyle not from being neutered. We've had nothing but females for more than 10 years. They were all spayed before they were 6 months old and none of them have had any health problems.

Another helpful thing is to have your pet micro chipped. Most rescue groups, shelters, and animal hospitals have scanners that can read the microchip numbers and find out whose pet they have brought in off the street. This precaution can save everyone the stress and heartache of losing a pet.

Donations are important whether they are bags of food, kitty litter, toys, linens, or newspapers. Monetary donations are always welcome. It is usually best to contact the shelter or rescue group to see what items they need.

Volunteering at shelters and with rescue groups is not only fun but rewarding as well. I volunteered my time for several years helping Animals Best Friends with fundraisers, cleaning the building, adopt a pet, and even served as treasurer. The hardest thing I found was that I became attached to the animals that stayed at the ABF facility. When the animals you love are adopted it is bittersweet, but seeing them get a wonderful, loving home is one of the greatest experiences in life!

Volunteering doesn't cost much besides a little gas and your time. Sometimes one's time given to another is the ultimate gift.

So please support your local shelters and rescue groups this week and year around. They do us all a service because they help thousands of unwanted, homeless animals each year.

We need to do our part and take care of our animals and encourage others to do the same.