By Alexis Andreopoulos
Entering the walls of any animal shelter is usually the same, there are cages full of sad and hopeful animals longing and looking for a forever home. But, when entering the Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA there is quite a different atmosphere.
You’ll find a building full of loving and dedicated volunteers and staff, devoted to helping animals find forever homes. The Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA (AAWL & SPCA) is the largest and oldest no-kill shelter in Arizona. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and re-homing dogs and cats that have been abandoned or surrendered.
But the AAWL & SPCA has found a new way to help find homes for the animals and it all starts with a nice book. With the help of their volunteers and staff, AAWL has created its own book club called the “Ruff Draft Book Club,” in which their staff, volunteers, and even the public can spend time reading to animals who are ready to be taken to a forever home.
“We pick a book once a month that is graciously donated by Changing Hands Bookstore, we keep a stack at the shelter for people to read while they are here and then people read to our dogs and cats,” says Michael Morefield, the director of Marketing and Communications for AWWL & SPCA.
The club was started in June as a way to provide the public, their staff, and volunteers enrichment and engagement with the animals in a low-impact and meaningful way.
“Reading to animals is a great way to keep them mentally stimulated in their kennels when it’s too hot to play, and it helps build their confidence around new people, which helps them get adopted,” Morefield says.
The staff, volunteers, and the public can read to the dogs for as long as they want to.
“It’s very relaxing and rewarding. You get to sit and relax in the air conditioning, read a fun book that changes every month, and spend time with adorable, adoptable animals,” Morefield says.
Not only is it relaxing for the club members, but it actually benefits the dogs and cats who are ready to be taken home to a new family.
“Spending time with them in this way helps them realize new people are friends and people visiting them is an exciting time,” Morefield says. “They start to gain more confidence as more people read with them. It’s also mentally stimulating, even though it’s a simple interaction, which keeps them happier. The more they are confident and happy in the kennels, the better they interact with potential adopters and the faster they get adopted.”
To end the month, the club will meet at the shelter for a book discussion about the book of the month, vote for the next month’s book and discuss their favorite adorable and adoptable animals in the shelter.
“We wanted to keep it very approachable and easy to do, so anyone can get involved. People can do it any time the shelter is open, which is six days a week,” Morefield says. “They hang on your every word, they are totally engaged in you and they make you feel like the most important person in the world. You also get the satisfaction that you are helping animals relax, gain confidence and enjoy their time with us. It really is a win-win.”
To be a part of Ruff Draft Book Club, visit the AAWL & SPCA’s main shelter at 40th and Washington Streets.
Who: Arizona Animal Welfare League
What: Ruff Draft Book Club
When: End-of-the-month meeting is on June 27, more details TBD
Where: 25 N. 40th Street, Phoenix
How much: Free
More details: aawl.org/ruffdraft
For more fun events around town, visit our events page.