July is National Lost Pet Prevention Month, National Adopt a Cat Month and National Foster a Pet Month! So in honor of those days, we want to remind people that there’s a lot you can do beyond adopting a pet, especially if you’re not able to house or care for a pet but you love animals.
Many stray or homeless pets end up at an animal rescue or shelter. If you’re wondering about the difference, you can check out our article on animal rescues vs shelters. For now, know that animal shelters always need more help. It usually comes down to them needing 3 things: donations, people, and supplies. Shelters are volunteer run and usually only receive funding through state government programs and donations. On top of this, they need cleaning supplies, toys, and other accessories to help them care for the animals.
In this article, we’ll go through each of the ways you can help your local shelter, so you understand what option is the best for you.
Best Animal Charities To Donate To
When donating money to an organization, you want to know that the money you give is actually going to help out. Therefore, it’s important to do your research before planning to donate.
One of the best ways you can make an impact is to donate to a local shelter. You can search online for shelters near you and then research the legitimacy of the shelter or rescue that you find. All nonprofits in the U.S. are required to file 990 forms with the IRS, all of which are available for U.S. citizens to review. To search for a nonprofit’s tax form, visit the IRS website. You can also check your local BBB or do a Google search for the charity by name, along with the words “legit, reviews, complaints.”
You should donate to local organizations that are “no kill” and “non profit,” as there isn’t much oversight or regulation for animal shelters. If you have the time, consider visiting the rescue or shelter before donating to see what kind of conditions and facilities they have. VolunteerMatch is a nonprofit that connects would-be volunteers with nonprofits that match their interest, including animal-related causes.
However, if you live in an area without any shelters particularly close by, here’s a list of some great organizations to donate to and what they’re known for:
- Best Friends Animal Society – Leader in the push to make all U.S. shelters no-kill.
- Friends of Animals – Leads programs in spaying/neutering animals.
- Animal Welfare Institute – Pushes to limit animal testing for consumer products.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) – First North American humane society
- Brother Wolf Animal Rescue – Shelter focused on finding foster homes for animals in overburdened shelters throughout the country.
While these are some widely known great organizations, you should do your own research to find an organization or cause you believe in.
How to Volunteer Your Time to Animal Shelters
If you have the time, volunteering at an animal shelter can be a great way to make an impact. Volunteering can be similar to a job, where you’ll be expected to be readily available to help out with whatever needs done. You will also need to show up consistently and be reliable, as your co-volunteers and the animals are relying on you.
You can perform a local search for rescue organizations nearby to find one to volunteer at. The application process will differ from place to place, but you’ll likely need to fill out some sort of application, attend an orientation, make a donation, and receive training on your responsibilities.
When helping at animal shelters, you will likely be expected to:
- Walk dogs
- Socialize cats
- Cleaning dishes and food bowls
- Office work like printing and copying
- Photographing animals
When you’re searching for a place to apply to, consider asking what positions are available and what responsibilities you’re likely to have. You should also be aware of how available you are throughout the week so your volunteer work never conflicts with your life responsibilities like school or work. Expect to spend, at the minimum, 2 hours every week regularly volunteering. That said, ask how much time you’ll be expected to volunteer during the application process so you know if the position is right for you.
Before volunteering, it’s important to know that animal shelters can sometimes be distressing or heartbreaking to work at. You’ll see injured animals, animals returned after adoption, and animals recovering from abuse. You may become attached to certain animals and want to adopt them yourself, even if you can’t financially support them. This is one of the many reasons why volunteering at a dog shelter is so difficult and why shelters may seem selective during the application process.
Donating Supplies to Animal Shelters
Animal shelters need a lot of supplies to stay running. If you’re looking to help out but may not have the time or budget, you’d be surprised at what you may have around the house that a shelter may want. Here are some common items that shelters want that you may have:
- Unopened pet food or treats – Extra treats or food you no longer need? Did you buy extra food that your pet didn’t like? Don’t throw it away! You can donate these to local shelters.
- Cleaning supplies – Paper towels, multi-surface cleaning spray, garbage bags, etc… Animal shelters need a lot of this stuff!
- Crates or carriers – If your pet has outgrown an old cage or carrier, or has passed on, shelters can definitely use these!
- Durable toys – If you’ve got a toy that your pet didn’t particularly like, shelters will appreciate these. Remember not to donate an overly used or chewed toy.
- Leashes or collars – Whether you’ve got a spare one or some that just don’t fit anymore, shelters need these to walk their dogs with.
Make sure that everything you donate is in decent condition, as you don’t want to waste an animal shelter’s time by giving them supplies that they can’t confidently use.
Having a pet pass on is a difficult process, and we understand that. A lot of the belongings that your pet leaves behind, however, can still be used. The last thing that you may want to do is lose some of the old toys that remind you of them, and we’re not asking you to do that.
However, if you’re not planning on adopting another animal, old leashes, excess food, and other materials you’ve gathered can still be used by shelters and rescues. You can pass on your pet’s legacy by using their old belongings to help other animals out there. The last thing that you want to do is throw away useful things!