I recently chatted with Heather Allen, President, CEO and co-founder of HALO (“Helping Animals Live On”) Animal Rescue, a limited admission dog and cat rescue organization in Phoenix.
Heather is one of our many long-term animal welfare partners, and we’re extremely proud to work with her group. She built HALO from the ground up with her mother, and we’re proud to say that PetSmart Charities helped, too.
She’s busy working on several projects with PetSmart Charities, including a large community adoption event in August and an Enhanced Adoption Centeropening in September. But she took the time to talk with me and our summer intern, Geoff, about some of HALO’s needs that go beyond the typical requests for time and money.
Q: Besides donations, what other support does HALO need?
A: We definitely need more volunteers. Whether that’s somebody to come in and help answer the phone, file papers, help walk the dogs, play with the cats, serve as adoption counselors or transport animals. Our needs run the gamut.
Q: What kind of supplies does an animal shelter need?
A: Oh, if people could just look at our weekly Costco order …
It’s not sexy to buy a mop head, but we need mop heads. We also need basic items such as trash bags, bleach and laundry soap, If we didn’t have to spend money on these kinds of supplies, we could spend more money on mending broken legs and medication.
But it’s important to check with your local shelter before you donate any of these supplies in large amounts. We need to make sure that we have enough room to store them.
Q: How do these types of gifts from individuals impact HALO?
A: Some people think that if they volunteer once a month that it’s just not enough. But I’ve seen firsthand—that isn’t true.
It makes a really big difference if everyone just gives a small contribution, whether it’s time, money, adopting a pet, (or just donating a mop head!). Whatever it is, all it takes is a little piece from everybody to help save more pets’ lives.
Q: How does working with larger organizations help meet some of your needs?
A: We’ve been an adoption partner with PetSmart Charities since the beginning. In fact, we founded HALO because of relationships we formed there.
One day, my mom went to PetSmart and started chatting with the adoption center staff. She ended up becoming a foster parent. And then she became the “I’ll help you on the weekends” gal. And then that organization, a cat rescue, dissolved. We really wanted to continue helping animals, so we formed HALO.
Without PetSmart Charities being there to support us, and providing a venue to adopt animals out, we wouldn’t exist. We continue to work together, especially during large community adoption events. There’s one this week at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum where we hope to find homes for 600 pets.
HALO focuses on the animals that are most in danger of euthanasia. There are thousands of animals euthanized in Phoenix that are otherwise very wonderful, savable animals. Our relationship with PetSmart and PetSmart Charities is helping us reduce that amount.
We’ve been in business for 18 years, and we’ve adopted out about 25,000 pets. And we keep improving year after year. Last year we helped 3,520 pets find homes (1,000 more than 2010!), and we’re aiming to increase that by another 500 to 800 in 2012.
Q. What is your favorite part about working at HALO?
A. My favorite part about working at HALO is the joy that comes with knowing that you’re making a difference every day.
We have so many great stories to tell. For example, I remember one cute little dog who I named Fifi. When I found her, I couldn’t tell what kind of dog she was. She was so badly matted from running wild for 6 months. She was snarling and barking. All you could see were her little eyes because her fur was matted so badly. I could tell that she was just petrified of me.
We sedated her and shaved her, and what we found underneath was this adorable little gray poodle. She came home, woke up from anesthesia, and climbed into my lap. She hadn’t let anyone touch her for the 6 months she was running wild. I adopted her out to a wonderful mom with a 3-year-old girl. It was her first dog. She carried her around, and Fifi liked it.
When I tell people stories like Fifi’s, I try to emphasize that the choices that you make in life impact others. When you choose where to acquire your next pet, you impact the other animals within your community. I said earlier that my favorite part about working at HALO is the joy of making a difference. If you make sure your actions have a positive impact, you’ll experience that joy, too.