EL PASO, Texas -- The 27th Annual "Be a Star, Save a Life" Telethon raised more than $82,000 as of last count Saturday night despite the unprecedented challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"I am so thrilled. This shows that El Paso is so extraordinary," said Deb Benedict holding back tears. She is the Humane Society of El Paso's executive director.
Every year ABC-7 partners with the Humane Society to help raise funds for the thousands of dogs and cats cared for by the shelter. This year, however, there were no volunteers sitting together at a phone bank and puppies walking all over the television studio. The pandemic required a reinvention of the telethon with ABC-7 staff taking its production to the shelter in a socially-distanced environment.
Julie Rutledge, the Humane Society's director of operations said the generous donations underscore how important animals are for people and the key role the shelter plays in the community.
"There will be more animals to take care of, and there need to be more people who need help caring for their animals and we have to be here for them," said Rutledge.
The pandemic has changed the way the Humane Society operates. The shelter is operating with only essential staff, they have split in teams to prevent infection and ensure the operation remains open should employees need to quarantine. In addition, pet foster parents have had to keep animals months beyond what they expected -- and the donations have dropped off.
"There are times when we wonder, 'are we going to be able to keep the doors open'?" said Rutledge.
You can still click here to donate.
Every day, Humane Society volunteers and employees work hard to take care of an average of 200 pets a day. The shelter is no-kill, and will not euthanize any healthy animals even when it's at full capacity.
Because the Humane Society is a nonprofit, the facility depends totally on adoption and service fees, fundraising activities and grants for all of the operating expenses, and most important, donations from you, the community.
The shelter is not affiliated with the City's Animal Services division, but it does take in about 50% of its animals from Animal Services. This is in an effort to help make El Paso a no-kill city for all animals. Every year, about 4,000 animals come into the shelter and thousands are able to find their forever homes.
When a person adopts an animal from the shelter, they are saving the life of their new pet, along with another life who can then enter the shelter once there's a vacancy. Adopters need to be at least 18 years old with a valid driver's license or state issued ID and complete an application and contract during the adoption. Puppies cost $190, kittens $100, dogs cost $125 and cats cost $75. All adoptions include spay/nueter surgery, microchips and all age appropriate vaccinations.
If you can't adopt you can still help the shelter. The community has the option to either donate, volunteer, foster pets or be part of the shelter's Adoption Ambassador program. Minor volunteers ages 16 and 17 need to provide a waiver from a parent, and volunteers ages 8 to 15 need to have a parent or guardian with them at all times.
When someone fosters an animal, the shelter provides food, enrichment and medical care necessary for the animal. Fostering an animal can take anywhere from a few days to a few months, it depends on the individual animal you are fostering.
The Adoption Ambassador program is similar to the foster program. By providing a temporary home for an animal but you take an extra step and promote the animal in an effort to find them a permanent home. Fosters can promote the pet among friends, family, co-workers and community networks, as well as sharing on social media, and taking the pet to adoption events throughout the community.
When someone fosters a pet you're giving another animal a second chance at life. Fostering an animal will free up space in the kennels to take in more homeless pets. No prior experience is needed to either foster or be an adoption ambassador, and it is okay if you have pets at home as long as they are up to date on all of their shots and are friendly.
For more information on how to volunteer, foster or how to become an adoption ambassador you can go to the humane society's website by clicking here.