There’s no question that adopting a rescue animal is one of the best ways to support your local animal shelter: according to the ASPCA, roughly 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized in the United States each year because there simply aren’t enough resources to care for them properly. But if adopting isn’t an option for you, there are still plenty of other things you can do to help. Read on for nine creative ideas about how you can lend a hand at your local shelter and make a difference in the lives of homeless pets.
Be a chauffeur.
Shelters are always happy when their animals are adopted, but the question of how to get the pet to its new home is not always an easy one to answer. It’s more and more common these days for households to adopt a shelter pet from another city, or even another state, and under-resourced shelters rely on volunteer drivers to help get adopted animals to their destination. If you’re able to serve as a chauffeur to the newly adopted pet on all or even part of its journey, the shelter (and the pet) will thank you. Drivers are also needed for shorter trips, like taking animals to the vet.
Distribute marketing material.
Animal shelters are always working to build awareness of where they are, what they do, and the animals they have available for adoption. You can help your local shelter spread the word about its activities by volunteering to put up posters or flyers for upcoming events in pet stores, vets’ offices, parks, and community centers in your neighborhood.
Take a walk.
If going for a walk is part of your daily or weekly routine, why not take a dog along? Shelter dogs need regular exercise to stay happy and healthy, but the staff don’t always have the time to take every dog for a long ramble. Volunteer walkers are greatly appreciated by local shelters, and you’ll feel good that such a simple activity can bring such important psychological and physical benefits to your four-legged companion.
Have a cuddle.
Cat cafes, where patrons can come for therapeutic playtime with a furry friend, are all the rage these days, but did you know the principle works in reverse as well? Shelter cats benefit greatly from petting, cuddles, and socializing—it keeps them happy and helps prepare them for a new home—but it’s not always easy for shelter staff to prioritize this when faced with other pressing tasks. If you’re a cat lover, ask your local shelter if they could use your cuddling services once a week: chances are, you’ll enjoy the experience just as much as the cats.
Most animal shelters have a “wish list” of much-needed items they use on a regular basis, so helping to obtain donations of these items is an extremely practical way to help out your local shelter. Visit sites like Craigslist and Freecycle to see if used bedding or toys for pets are being given away, or call local hotels to see if they are able to make donations of cleaning supplies or used items like towels and bedding that are no longer suitable for hotel use. You can also check with office supply stores about donations of items like paper or printer cartridges.
Put your skills to work.
Animal shelters welcome all kinds of administrative support, and you might be surprised by all the ways you can put your talents and skills to work for them. You can be a big help to your local shelter if you’re a:
Photographer—When an animal’s adoption profile features a high-quality photograph that highlights their personality and shows them at their best, the chances that the pet will find an adoptive home quickly are greatly increased. If you have some camera skills, ask your local shelter if any of their animals would like to pose for you.
Lawyer—There are plenty of legal issues that animal shelters must deal with on a regular basis, including adoption forms and contracts, copyright on photographs and videos, and other matters. If you’re able to offer legal guidance to your local shelter, that frees staff up to spend more time taking care of the animals.
Writer—Carefully crafted adoption profiles, newsletters, blogs, and other written publicity material can boost a shelter’s image and reel in more prospective pet adopters, while well-composed grant applications can help bring in much-needed funding. If you’re a writer, your words could make a real difference to your local shelter’s chances of success.
Website designer—A professional-looking, up-to-date website is a must for any animal shelter today. It’s particularly important that adoption profiles are taken down as soon as an animal is adopted to avoid confusion and disappointment. Whether you’re a pro website designer or an amateur who’s handy with WordPress or Squarespace, you can provide hugely valuable help by making sure a shelter’s online presence is professional and accessible.