(BPT) - Approximately 6.5 million cats and dogs enter animal shelters each year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). This massive number underscores the need for volunteers to provide the necessary care to ensure as many pets as possible can be placed in permanent, loving homes. In fact, most shelters would not be able to stay open without the generosity of volunteers.
From walking, feeding and bathing pets, to helping maintain shelter facilities and staffing fundraising events, volunteers are the true backbone of shelters who work tirelessly to promote the welfare of the animals in their care.
Shelter volunteers deserve recognition for the vital contributions they make to transform the lives of shelter pets and the people who adopt them. For this reason, Hill's Pet Nutrition's Food, Shelter & Love program launched its second-annual Hill's Shelter Heroes Contest.
While each of the five winners have a unique story, they share a common bond through their passion for helping animals in need.
1. Tammie Lohnes, Kansas Humane Society: Tammie's love for animals has kept her at Kansas Humane Society for more than 15 years. She has worked across numerous positions and is now serving as a mentor to all new volunteers and staff members.
2. Dot, Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control: Dot has volunteered at Fort Wayne for more than 12 years and consistently puts pets' needs above her own. In the words of her colleagues, "What doesn't Dot do for the shelter?"
3. Barbara Comarda, Louisiana SPCA: Following Hurricane Katrina, Barbara drove cross-country multiple times to find good homes for pets that were affected. She has volunteered more than 10,000 hours during her 11 years at the Louisiana SPCA.
4. Mark Imhof, Animal Care Centers of NYC: Mark volunteers at two locations, multiple times a week, and is dedicated to increasing pets' adoption chances.
5. Janie Stowell, Spokane Humane Society: Janie has helped the most vulnerable pets find happiness, and has donated more than 8,500 hours (and counting) to help animals in need.
To learn more about Hill's Pet Nutrition's Food, Shelter & Love program, visit www.hillspet.com/shelter. The program has provided more than $280 million worth of food to more than 1,000 shelters since 2002. To learn more about volunteering at a local shelter to make a difference for animals in need, visit www.humanesociety.org/community/volunteers.