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The public is the solution

By Julie Castle

Rich Avanzino, one of the fathers of the no-kill movement, always pushed back against the claim by the traditional sheltering crowd that the public was the problem when it came to the huge number of animals being killed in shelters. “The public isn’t the problem,” Rich would say, “the public is the solution. All we have to do is ask and trust people to do the right thing.” And he would repeat that at every opportunity.

That sentiment is now a guiding principle of our movement and is at the heart of the move toward community-supported sheltering, an approach that, among other things, enlists local animal lovers to foster and rehome pets. 

The other day, I came across a great story that highlights the energy and creativity of one caring and motivated individual, whose efforts will soon safely place a foster pet.

Meet Christine Clauder, a foster caregiver who found herself in a challenging situation with a rambunctious though very cute young dog named Hank. Christine found Hank sitting in the middle of traffic in an industrial section of Houston, Texas. Concerned about his safety, she opened her car door and in he jumped — a bit hungry and dirty, but a totally lovable rascal. An experienced volunteer at Abandoned Animal Rescue in Texas, she decided to foster him. 

While getting Hank cleaned up and ready for adoption, Christine got to know him and his endearing and sometimes annoying quirks. She took an approach that not many would, creating a satirical website to display the good, the bad and the ugly reality of life with Hank — using some very colorful language. 

This direct approach has attracted millions of people (not to mention national news outlets) who appreciate Christine’s efforts to describe the adventure of fostering a dog with behavioral quirks. While some might consider it a risky move, her honest approach has won the heart of many and has turned Hank into a celebrity. Christine partnered with a local rescue organization to handle adoption applications (Hank has a bunch), so it won’t be long before he’s in a great new home. 

Christine and Hank have made the news, but she is not unique. Individuals across the country are fostering pets for shelters and rescue groups and, like Christine, after their own serendipitous rescues. There are foster programs for dogs and puppies, cats and kittens, bunnies and birds, and even horses. 

What’s so cool about Christine’s warts-and-all approach is that she tells Hank’s story with obvious affection and humor. In a normal shelter setting, a dog like Hank would be bouncing off the walls, would show poorly to potential adopters and would get more hyped up the longer he remained there. Being able to tell the story of a real-life relationship, as Christine has done, is just not possible for a shelter, no matter how well-intentioned, and that’s why community-supported sheltering is getting so much traction. For a homeless pet awaiting adoption, there is no better place than a temporary home with kind, understanding people.

In the middle of the pandemic, communities everywhere stepped up to the plate and were there for animals more than ever. As a result, fewer animals were killed in shelters in 2020 than in any previous year. Right now, as our lives get busier, it is crucial that we continue that progress. Never forget the positive impact that you can have: Fostering or adopting even one pet, or volunteering a few hours of your time at your local shelter, can make a significant difference. 

Check out our resources to find out more about fostering a pet.

Thank you, Christine, and thank you, Hank! Together, we will Save Them All.

Photo of Hank courtesy of Christine Clauder

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Julie Castle with dog
Julie Castle
CEO
Best Friends Animal Society