They say a picture is worth a thousand words. As a photographer, that phrase resonates deeply, but what does it mean for a shelter animal without a voice? What we’ve learned over the past two years is that it can mean everything.
We joined Pawsitive Shelter Photography in 2012 (our two-year anniversary is coming up in April) and started photographing pets at Orange County Animal Services, a high-intake kill shelter in Orlando, Florida.
Pawsitive Shelter Photography started in 2011 to “save good pets through better photography.” The founders knew that euthanasia rates were high and that quality photos, along with social media efforts, would help more possible adopters see the potential and beauty in the shelter pets.
In the beginning, we joined a number of other dedicated volunteers in photographing the dogs at Orange County Animal Services. However, we found that no one was stepping up to photograph the adoptable cats. As lovers of cats and dogs alike, we decided to take the reins and start photographing them ourselves!
A few months into working with the cats, we actually adopted one of the cats we had photographed. Daphne is now the queen of our household; she loves keeping her feline brothers on their toes, and she merely tolerates her canine companions!
In the years since it started, Pawsitive Shelter Photography has expanded its program to help other shelters, as well. Many of the volunteers, whether photographers or wranglers, show up every single weekend to help out. We’ve seen euthanasia statistics steadily decrease and live release/adoption rates increase as a result of our efforts, and that’s how we know that a picture is actually priceless.
In all honesty, there are times when volunteering with Pawsitive Shelter Photography is the highlight of our week, and there are other times when it’s all we can do to get through a session without crying. Nothing worth having or doing comes easy, though, and that’s how we know what this volunteer organization does is so very important in our community.
Pawsitive Shelter Photography’s volunteers are so much more than just photographers of shelter pets or animal lovers. We’re storytellers: our pictures give them a voice. We’re advocates: our vigilance ensures that we’re doing everything we can for their welfare. We’re safe, warm arms for snuggles: our love and compassion might be the first or the last a pet ever experiences. We’re a clean slate: we look beyond the past and focus on the future. We’re matchmakers: We see into the spirit and soul of every pet we photograph, and it’s our hope that when someone sees a pet’s photo online, they can make a lasting connection with their furry soulmate before they even meet.
These same efforts are also undertaken on a nationwide scale by our fellow members of HeARTs Speak and volunteers with their Perfect Exposure Project.
We hope that one day we’ll be able to call Orange County Animal Services a no-kill facility, but until that day comes, Pawsitive Shelter Photography will be there, rain or shine, giving the abandoned, abused, neglected and overlooked pets a fighting chance at finding a forever home.
This blog post is part of the Fenced In By Love by Dog Fence DIY 2014 awards.