How Your Donations May Actually Be Hurting Animal Shelters

You have the best intentions. You want to help in any way you can. But before you drop off a bunch of supplies, please do this one thing first.

By: jeffreyww
Contact the shelter first before you drop off a bunch of old newspapers, cat litter or other supplies. By: jeffreyww

Donors usually have the best intentions when dropping off bags and boxes of supplies at their local animal shelter.

They want to help the animals, and sometimes a cash donation just isn’t possible.

Even though cat litter and cans of food left at the shelter’s door can help keep facilities running smoothly, sometimes these things aren’t needed and can hurt the shelter more than they help.

Animal shelters rely on the generosity of donors to stay open and keep the animals happy, healthy and entertained while waiting for their new homes.

But what about the donations that shelters don’t need or can’t use? In that case, checking a shelter’s wish list is almost as important as making the donations themselves.

Newspaper Donations at a New Shelter

The first shelter I worked at was a brand-new facility with state-of-the-art upgrades to make animal care easier and safer.

It was much different from the organization’s old shelter, which was smaller, less inviting and less funded. But in that old shelter, the staff used newspaper to line cages and shredded it for litter boxes.

Because the animal lovers of the community remembered the shelter’s need for newspapers in its old facility, they continued to donate stacks to the new one. Sometimes I’d get to work and find a tower of newspapers taller than me piled against the doorframe.

The problem was, we no longer used newspapers. The pets were given linens, and the cats used special litter.

Before you donate old pet toys, make sure your local animal shelter actually needs them. By: klamathvx

How the Donations Became a Burden

Every day, we had mounds of newspapers donated to us that we couldn’t use. So we just threw them in the dumpster.

We had to spend a considerable amount of time and energy — the newspapers weren’t light — disposing of them. That time could’ve been better spent with the animals.

It didn’t just end with newspapers. Other large items that we couldn’t use included:

The fee charged to the shelter for additional waste pickup was an unjustifiable loss, but we rarely had a choice except to load the dumpster with unneeded donations.

Finally the shelter created a wish list that was published online and distributed to donors and visitors. The newspaper donations didn’t stop — but as word got out, the load certainly lessened and the amount of useful donations increased.

Avoid Donating the Wrong Items

Before you start cramming your trunk with your ex’s Beanie Baby collection and heading to the shelter, call or visit the shelter’s website and make sure the animals are in need of stuffed toys.

If you’re already on the road, make a special trip to the shelter to do a “drive-by” and find out firsthand what’s needed before picking up a few of the items at the store.

Many animal shelters need these items:

  • Cleaning supplies
  • Blankets and towels
  • Peanut butter (xylitol-free)
  • Medicine
  • Office supplies
  • Grooming tools

Pet food and toys are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to shelter supplies.

Watch this video for more tips on how to make your animal shelter donations count:

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Checking those wish lists before lugging a bunch of animal shelter donations through the door won’t just help you determine what the staff and animals do need — it will also give you the lowdown on what they don’t need.

Reasons to Donate

There are tons of reasons to donate, not the least of which are the homeless animals that you’re helping. Don’t forget:

  • Some donations are tax-deductible.
  • Donating is a guaranteed boost to your happiness.
  • You can get rid of unused items while doing some good.

Just make sure you don’t donate for the wrong reasons. Some donations that we received at the shelter were obviously being given to charity to clear a guilty conscience. These are real examples of inappropriate donations:

  • Human toothpaste
  • Human hair conditioner
  • An artificial Christmas tree
  • Broken children’s toys
  • Human diapers

Remember, not everything you use on your pets at home can be used in a shelter.

Donating to an animal shelter can make a world of difference to its staff and animals. Whether that difference is extra bedding and toys for the pets or unnecessary work for the staff is totally up to you. Make sure your donations help where they’re needed most by contacting your shelter first.