Most kids I’ve met want to hug and pet every fuzzy 4-legged critter they can wrap their arms around. Children love animals. And that’s precisely why it’s a great idea to get kids involved with helping animal shelters when they’re young.
It’s important to show children the need for responsible pet care and the benefits of animal shelters through the love of homeless pets. Through their involvement with the shelters, children gain the reward and feeling of accomplishment that come with aiding animals.
It’s not always simple to determine how children can get involved with shelters, though, especially for very young children. But kids of all ages can help, whether from home, in school or at the shelter itself.
Not all children are capable of or should be allowed to perform some of the tasks that shelter volunteers manage. But almost every age group can find some way to help out.
High school teens (16–18 years old) can:
- Walk and socialize dogs
- Feed and clean up after the pets
- Clean the shelter or provide landscaping services
Kids in junior high (13–15 years old) can:
- Groom docile pets
- Prepare meals
- Distribute toys
Children 12 and younger can help with their parents to:
- Socialize kittens and puppies
- Hand out treats
Keep in mind that most shelters have age restrictions for their volunteers and may require a parent or guardian to be present with volunteers younger than 18. Some shelters don’t allow very young volunteers, or they may have certain days specifically allotted for them.
For instance, Austin Pets Alive! in Texas works with another organization to host volunteers younger than 12 each month.
Check with your shelter to see what needs it has and what its volunteer policy is.
Hands-On vs. Remote
Not all involvement with animal shelters has to be done on-site. It’s actually possible to get children involved, raise awareness and benefit shelters from the comfort of your home or elsewhere in the community.
Raising awareness about local shelters and the many benefits of adopting a pet instead of buying one is a great challenge that can be taken on by kids eager to help.
One method of raising awareness and money is remote fundraising. If you have a little entrepreneur in your home, encourage her talents and drive. You can set up a lemonade stand, art sale, car wash or puppy kissing booth (these are always popular for shelter fundraising) and help your kiddos run the show.
Not only do the shelters benefit from all the exposure and raised funds, but also the children get an awesome sense of achievement by becoming a part of that shelter’s success.
Class Field Trips and Lessons
Your children’s school involvement is important when teaching kids about the necessity of animal shelters, the role they serve in our communities, and the need for support through adoption and volunteering.
Fortunately, many shelters are prepared to provide educational support in the form of shelter tours, school presentations and even sponsored events. Most of these visits involve some hands-on time with the animals, guaranteeing a lasting impression on the children.
Besides education and outreach in the shelters, some rescue groups sponsor birthday parties or offer child-friendly events, such as an after-school story time. These kinds of events reinforce the message of responsible pet care and shelter support.
This video can be used to teach children about how animal shelters work:
Sharing a Love for Animals
If your child is a frequent volunteer or visitor of your local shelter, let him or her share that at school. Consider discussing these with your child:
- Show-and-tell. If your child’s class has a show-and-tell, maybe your kiddo can take some pictures, video or information about the shelter. Or, if you get approval from the school, you could meet your child for show-and-tell with your own adopted pet. That’s sure to get some attention.
- Write a report. If your child is writing a report for school, maybe he or she would like to talk about animal shelters and the benefits of adopting and volunteering.
Spreading the word in school could mean more volunteers for your shelter and maybe even more adoptions, too.
Even if the impact children have on shelters now is relatively minimal, the lessons that the kids learn through the humane treatment of pets and shelter education will help them grow into adults whose empathy toward animals will make the world a better place for shelters and homeless pets in the future.