Setting up a pet comfort station can’t be properly done with the odds and ends lying around your home, and it can’t properly be done on a shoestring. Unless you have the money and the time to do this all yourself, you will want to ask others to help defray the costs. You need sponsors and donations.
Here’s a rough estimate of the costs involved.
The total cost to set up the first pet comfort station is between $1250 and $2600. A lot of this is supplies you will use time after time, so the second and subsequent booths will cost less. The starred (*) items are the ones you’ll need to replenish or pay new. That replenishment cost is approximately $500 each time you set the booth up.
This is a pretty severe financial outlay, so let’s see how we can lower those costs.
Much of this involves time in person (always best!), on the phone, or over email and even Facebook and Twitter with various businesspeople, asking them for sponsorships and donations. You would do well to write down some bullet points for your “pitch,” emphasizing the community and animal service aspect of the pet comfort station, the goodwill such stations engender among pet owners and event participants, and the cost of such an enterprise. Emphasize that you’re only asking for this person or business to contribute a specific thing, not to pay for the whole shebang. (If they want to do more, well and good.) After some initial hiccups, you’ll get better at making your proposal, but make sure you don’t sound too slick. You’re a community support person, not a telemarketer.
Remember, it’s always a trade-off with a business. They want to know what they will get out of sponsoring you, whether it be with goods or money. Let them know that you’ll list them as sponsors, have a place for their brochures or business cards at the event, and will provide them with photos of the happy pups and their happy owners after the event is concluded. They can hang these photos up in their customer service areas on the “brag board” or whatever they have.
Social media is obviously your friend. Set up a Facebook page for your local pet comfort station, and provide the local media outlets with a “press release” briefly outlining what you do, where you do it, what you need from donors, and how to contact you via Facebook, email, and/or telephone. The weekly “ad shopper” publications are good bets for publicity, as are the local radio stations, who may willingly broadcast PSAs (public service announcements) touting your stations (especially the smaller, community-focused radio stations and the local NPR outlet). Even local newspapers and television news providers might be willing to run ads on your behalf; they will likely want to interview you for the news. especially if they can get footage at the event itself. The local cable channel always has a public service channel; you can easily get a blurb running on that channel. Be creative and keep your eyes peeled for new ways to get the word out.
The event itself or whoever is sponsoring the event should provide Water Paws with, at minimum, a space and a tent in an accessible area – there needs to be room to also set up a wading pool or to have a “dog wash” area to wet hot dogs down in warm to hot weather. Any tents or booths nearby should be willing to have dogs congregating nearby and not mind the possible muddy spots. Setting up at the end of a row is usually best. Access to water is essential, either through a faucet and hose or from a water tank set up for that purpose. Electricity is a nice bonus, to run cooling fans and an ice chest in hot weather and a heater and hot plate or electric tea kettle for hot water in cold weather. Donations collected in the donation jar should go to the event to help defray these expenses.
The city where the event takes place may also sponsor the Water Paws tent by providing the water and electricity instead of the event providing it, or perhaps the power and water companies will sponsor the water and electricity.
If the event or the city won’t supply the tent, you can ask the tent rental company to sponsor the station by providing the tent for the duration of the event. If they say no, you have other options. The event organizers may have funds available to pay for the tent. They would be the second people you’d ask. At the very least, they can give you the space for setting up the tent, and access to water and electricity if such is available at the site.
Space fees vary widely from event to event and location to location. The event organizers may charge anywhere from $25 for a 10’x20’ space (the minimum amount of room you need in order to have the water cooling station beside the tent) to a whopping $1,000 for the same space. However, event organizers always allow for some space to be used as service space – first aid, EMTs, fire, police, event office, information booth, etc. The pet comfort station falls under the same service as those, except for pets. Contact the event organizers far enough in advance of the event so they can mark out the space you need. Almost all event organizers will give you the space. They may also provide access to water and electricity as they do for the first aid, fire, police, etc. They may even pay for the tent rental if they are providing tents for the other services. It never hurts to ask. The city where the event takes place may also sponsor the Water Paws tent by providing the water and electricity instead of the event providing it, or perhaps the power and water companies will sponsor the water and electricity. Just ask!
Other sponsors are places like PetsMart or PetCo for treats, wading pools, dog pillows, and water bowls. If there is a local pet bakery, they may also want to sponsor by donating broken treats. A fabric store may provide the materials for making the banners and signs (muslin or broadcloth are good materials for this). The banners can be painted with fabric paints. Hardware stores can donate the sign stands (something like this, or like this), as can realtors or even political campaigns who use a ton of sign stands (though I’d warn against politicizing your comfort stations).
Veterinarians are also good sponsors. Check out the emergency clinics closest to the event site. They may provide supplies for the first aid kit, as well as simple give-away leashes and business cards. They may also be willing to provide a short course in emergency pet first aid for volunteers who don’t have that training yet. Often vets provide leashes with their names printed on them; snap some of these up.
Don’t forget people pharmacies. A lot of the first aid supplies can also be used by people so pharmacies may be willing to donate towards the first aid kit. They also sell the hot water bottles that can be used to warm chilled pets and may donate one or two. Spread across several pharmacies and veterinarians, and you should be able to collect all the first aid supplies you will need.
The Red Cross may also sponsor the booth by providing materials and information to give away.
Pet boutiques that sell specialty pet clothing and accessories may also want to sponsor the Water Paws booth, perhaps by helping sponsor the cost of the tent and space, providing some supplies or giveaways, or even by providing volunteers to run the booth.
Unusual items can be good. For example, some businesses provide free frisbees with their logos on them; these can double as pet toys and as water bowls for smaller animals.
Any place that sells pet supplies may be willing to sponsor your pet comfort station.
You might also reach out to pet rescues. They may not have cash to help you, but they might be able to provide you with volunteers, emergency pet care training, and brochures or cards you can hand out to help others be aware of their existence. Those are also very useful things to have. Some pet rescue organizations like to conduct “adoption fairs” at some outdoor events; they may wish to coordinate their efforts with yours.
Fire stations, EMTs, city emergency response teams, CERT and Citizen Corps groups may also be willing to sponsor your station. They can provide you with grants, do your printing and signage, sponsor the cost of the dispoz-a-scoop bags as giveaways, oxygen and pet oxygen masks, and provide you with brochures on pet disaster preparedness to give away. If your pet comfort station is set up near them, they will probably also spend a lot of time at your booth helping cool down over-heated dogs and carrying around chilled puppies to warm them up. They are some pretty awesome people. Noddy writes that when she’s worked events near them, they always bring over pizza or sandwiches and tea to share, trying to bribe them into letting them play with the dogs that visit.
In exchange for sponsorships, you will need to make a sign listing your sponsors and donors, and make space on the table to give away their business cards and brochures. If you secure their sponsorship far enough in advance, the event will list them in the map and schedule of events sheet or booklet.
Sometimes, the corporate headquarters may be unwilling or unable to sponsor your pet comfort station due to corporate policies, but the manager or employees may still want to help, either by buying things for the booth or volunteering to help work at it. In that case, list the individuals who donate rather than the corporation.
After the event is over, be sure to send a photo of the booth (with lots of animals using it!) and a thank you card to each of your sponsors. Be sure to mention in the thank you card exactly what it was they donated and how you used it, how it helped the animals and the booth. If you drop by the sponsors’ businesses later, it’s entirely possible you’ll see your photos hanging up in the offices or customer areas. Make sure your contact info (a phone number, email address, or Facebook handle) are prominently displayed so others can contact you with offers to donate.
One quick method for testing your dog or cat for dehydration is to “pinch” up the skin on his or her neck. A well-hydrated animal’s skin will return to normal immediately. A dehydrated animal’ skin will remain “tented” for several moments.
If your animal is suffering from sticky eyes, has sticky saliva, or fails the “pinch” test, he is suffering from dehydration and very possibly from heat exhaustion. Getting him or her cared for at the pet comfort station is a good short-term solution, but you need to take your pet to the veterinarian. If your pet is suffering from diarrhea or vomiting, or worse, is stumbling, shaking, having a seizure, or is semi-conscious, you need to drop everything and get your pet to the vet immediately.