I live in a rural area, and wild animals are commonplace. It is a rare day that I avoid seeing a raccoon, rabbit, groundhog, possum, even the occasional deer or coyote dead on the road — the losing victim of a race with an oncoming vehicle. It’s sad, but it’s something of a fact of life in rural America.
Another sad reality of country life is the cruel practice of dumping dogs and cats at barns and houses in remote areas. I suppose the person who no longer wants the poor animal must imagine the pet will find a happy new life with a compassionate family. That version of the Good Samaritan approach is hardly a reality.
The problems of animal cruelty and the overpopulation of domestic animals in the United States are grave concerns. According to reports issued by the National Council on Pet Population and Policy, between 6 and 8 million dogs and cats were housed in shelters last year. About half of shelter animals are rehomed; the other half are euthanized.
If you don’t know how you can help animal shelters and rescues — or if you think you have no time to do so, this article is for you. Here are 15 easy ways you can make a difference:
1. No Place Like Home
Adoption is the first clear approach to assist the plight of a homeless animal. Most shelters provide a comprehensive medical exam to determine the health status of pets available for rehoming. Responsible shelters spay or neuter and make sure all vaccinations are current. The cost of adoption includes the fees for medical services. Application prices vary from site to site.
A benevolent service sponsored by the US Humane Society, Maddie’s Fund and the National Ad Council called Shelter Pet Project provides a wonderful source of information about shelters and available pets for adoption. You can locate a local shelter, “Find a Pet” by zip code, read stories of adopted pets and gain other useful information about adoption services through the website.
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Perhaps you have enough fur-children, but with a little space and some consideration you can help shelters with their overpopulation from time to time by becoming a pet foster home. Most shelters provide training for potential foster parents. (More info on fostering pets.)
This video takes a look at some foster parents in the St. Louis area:
3. Just a Little of Your Time
It doesn’t cost anything more than time to volunteer a few hours to an animal shelter. The list of jobs is endless, and any contribution of aid is much appreciated. Volunteer activities may include:
- Pet adoptions (transport pets to adoption sites, work registration desks, provide information)
- Dog walking
- Phone banks
- Cleanup crews
- Administrative (receptionist, filing, copying, mailings, phone calls)
- Stocking shelves
- Vet tech assistance
- Trash removal
Animal shelters depend entirely on donations and community support. Operating a shelter is an act of love that demands an enormous amount of dedication, time and energy. With little personal investment, we can support the self-sacrificing heroes who commit to animal welfare and keep shelters operating.
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4. Cash in
It goes without saying that animal shelters operate on a very lean budget. The estimated cost of housing an animal at a shelter ranges from $3 to $25 a day. Shelters must operate 24 hours a day/365 days a year! A few dollars can feed a homeless animal for a week.
If you can’t contribute cash, start a “pet box” for donations of paper towels, tissue paper, bleach, hand soap, dog and cat food, and cat litter. Even old newspapers and used linens are valuable to a shelter. Many shelters operate thrift stores as a source of income. They often sponsor flea markets or yard sales as fundraising events. Save your appropriate household items, gently used clothing and toys to donate to their cause.
- Don’t Miss: The Amazing Shelter Drive-By, written by Pets Adviser managing editor Kristine Lacoste.
5. Be the Voice
The communication stream to publicize animal welfare organizations needs and events is extremely important. If you belong to a social media site, join your local shelter’s communities. “Like” or promote its services. Re-post stories and announcements. Let your friends, neighbors and coworkers know when a fundraising event is scheduled. Volunteer to post flyers in approved public areas.
6. Cause to Pawty
For your next celebration, add the local shelter to the good cause. Instead of accepting birthday, anniversary or holiday trinkets, develop a wish list for your shelter. Request bags of dog food, detergents, office supplies, any item to donate to your shelter instead of traditional gifts.
Even children get excited when they deliver the much-needed supplies for the happy dogs and cats, and the practice teaches a lifelong lesson in kindness.
- Don’t Miss: 5 Ways Your Children Can Help Shelter Animals
7. Feelin’ Lucky
Any number of pet supply and consumer product companies offer sweepstakes on a regular basis. The rules vary, but often you can enter and designate your organization for a prize. Take a little time and enter contests on behalf of your favorite shelter. Iams, Eukanuba, Blue Buffalo, Pedigree and many other national brands routinely run online and mail-in contests. Just search for “pet food contests” and you will find lists of current contests.
Even Pets Adviser holds a charitable photo contest (for Halloween); last year there was a $500 prize for a needy animal shelter/rescue. Look for our contest again this fall.
8. Clip & Save
Do you clip and save? How often do you comb the newspapers and magazines in search of coupons for favorite products? Clip extra coupons and mail them to your shelter. Watch for pet food, paper supplies, bleach, detergents, kitty litter — anything purchased with a discount by the shelter represents a savings, and that is money to apply to other needs. (Call your shelter first to find out if this is something they’d like you to mail them.)
9. Let Your Wallet Do the Talking
Patronize local businesses that support animal welfare causes. Restaurants will often designate one day a month and donate a portion of their sales to a shelter.
Petco and PetSmart routinely donate to animal welfare organizations. Some writers, publishers, apparel designers, artists, greeting card manufacturers and others earmark a percentage of proceeds from purchases to help animals.
On the flip side, do not patronize companies that practice animal cruelty methods for product testing or production.
10. Walk the Talk
Participate in community events sponsored by animal welfare and shelter groups. Maybe you aren’t a marathon runner, but a nice 5K walk is great for your health and a fun social activity. Most events sponsored by animal groups encourage pet attendance. Attend street fairs, flea markets, concerts and animal health events to demonstrate support.
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11. Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve
Proudly wear apparel that promotes your favorite shelter or animal welfare organization. Buy and display bumper stickers, posters and key tags.
Teach animal welfare awareness to civic groups in your community. Tell your neighbors, your children and their friends how to be kind to animals. Provide information to distribute announcing the local animal welfare activities and needs. Lobby for funding.
13. Blow the Whistle
14. Set an Example
Practice animal kindness with your pets. The loudest voice is that of example. Show others how to treat all animals with respect and compassion.
15. Keep a Leg Up
Remain informed about all animal welfare plights and initiatives. Join communities like Petful’s (it’s free), and stay in the know. Information is the most powerful tool available to end cruelty and improve animal welfare.
Photos: rikkis_refuge (top), maplegirlie/Flickr