Volunteers give their time and hearts to animals in need

The dedicated volunteers with the Friends of the New Haven Animal Shelter put their passion to work in socializing abandoned dogs and getting them ready for adoption.

A New Haven Animal Shelter dog sees its forever home at a local adoption event. Photo credit: Friends of New Haven Animal Shelter.

At the New Haven Animal Shelter, it takes a village to help abandoned dogs and cats find their forever homes. Although the city funds and staffs the shelter, the dedicated volunteers with the Friends of the New Haven Animal Shelter provide vital assistance with socializing the animals and getting them ready for adoption.

"It's a real passion," says Elaine Spinato, treasurer of the nonprofit volunteer organization. "I find it therapeutic. Whatever your problems are, they're gone when there is a big set of eyes looking at you. The rewards are unending. And when a dog is adopted, it's like seeing your kid going off to college."

The Friends numbers about thirty volunteers and holds orientation sessions throughout the year for new members. Many are longtime participants, including one who started in the 1980s, says Spinato.

In addition to walking the dogs, volunteers help bathe them prior to adoption events and work at the events. Some go the extra mile, like the volunteer who takes dogs to extra obedience training. Every week, one of the animals is featured on Channel 8's segment, "Pet of the Week."

"For me, it's almost like a second full-time job. But I love it. I do the tax returns. We all have our little talents," says Spinato. "You have to roll up your sleeves. The staff has its hands full of animals. We help organize the closets. We pay for medical bills the city doesn't pay for. We're spread a little thin but we have such good supporters."

The Friends recently raised money for renovations to the shelter through a $95,000 grant from the John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation and two $7,000 grants from The Lillian and Henry A. Konopacke Fund at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

The money paid for renovations that expanded the cat room and created a meet and greet area for adopters and dogs.

"It really has made it so much more inviting so much more professional," says Spinato, who has herself adopted two Chihuahuas.

"People say these dogs are a problem. But when they get into a loving home, it works itself out. It's so gratifying," says Spinato.

For more information about Friends of the New Haven Animal Shelter, visit its profile on giveGreater.org®.

Did you know?

You can find a pet to adopt at Find a Friend for Life.

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.