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JoAnna Lou
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Pet Ministries on the Rise
Churches are sponsoring groups for animal lovers

Dogs have become an important part of our culture and more and more places are starting to welcome and accommodate pets. It's becoming common to see hotels with dog beds, stores with water dishes out front and even car companies designing vehicles with pets in mind.

Religious groups are no exception. Churches have long held blessing of the animal events and some are even inviting pets to attend service. But some congregations are starting pet ministries in order to reach and connect with animal lovers on a new level.

Grace Church, a nondenominational Protestant congregation in the Saint Louis area, has a pet ministry that organizes pet-food drives, fundraisers for a local rescue group, pet therapy visits, a pet loss support group and a Bible study that discusses animal-related passages.

Other churches include animals for adoption in their weekly bulletins, host adoption events and run vaccine clinics.

As a testament to this growing trend, the Humane Society of the United States hired a liaison to religious communities in 2007. Now there are animal ministries in every state. Next month, the Humane Society will be launching a directory of affiliated ministries on their website.

We don't have a pet ministry at my church, but our animal events (blessing of the animals and a holiday “giving tree” that collects supplies for the local shelter) have inspired a lot of people in the congregation to share stories of beloved pets and connect with each other in a different way.

Animal lovers are an amazing community of people, so pet ministries seem like a great way to get like-minded people together for a good cause.

Does your church have a pet ministry?

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by jseattle/flickr.

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