Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ways to Help Your Local Animal Shelter

By Tamara L. Waters

Most local animal shelters are not-for-profit organizations and work on a shoestring budget while relying upon donations and volunteers to help the animals in their care. This year, why not make plans to give a helping hand to your local animal shelter with a few of these ideas.


Your local animal shelter is probably understaffed. Most often, these organizations need every willing body to keep things running and to take care of the animals that end up here. There are so many ways to volunteer your time to help out.

Are you handy with a screwdriver and good at fixing things? Your local shelter may appreciate having someone who can come in and replace and repair things in the building. How about volunteering to do some laundry? Blankets and towels that are used for the animals always need to be washed.

Shelters always need people to clean cages, show affection to animals, do maintenance, answer phones, sweep floors and many other necessary tasks. Maybe you don't have the time to go and do physical work at the shelter, but you might be able to spread the word about the shelter and its needs. You can volunteer to do fundraising or share information about the shelter. You can write letters, post fliers, help with newsletters and many other tasks.


While your first thought when you hear the word "donate" might be "But I really don't have any extra money," that's not the only type of donation shelters need. Sure, they need funds, but they’re also glad to have donations of items they spend their money on. Cleaning supplies, paper towels, blankets, pet toys, pet cages and carriers, and many other pet supplies are always needed at local shelters. Maybe you could make a donation of healthy pet food like CANIDAE and FELIDAE.

If you don't have anything to donate, perhaps you could collect donations. One barrier to a shelter receiving donations is often that the person making the donations has difficulty finding time to stop by and drop it off. Offer to pick up donations for the shelter.

You could also organize a donation drive among friends, family and neighbors. Create a collection box to place in a central location and outline specific donations needed. Take the responsibility of collecting and delivering the donations to the shelter.

Spread the Word

In the same way your local shelter is always in need of volunteers, they also need caring people who will help spread the word. In my area, there is a Facebook page for the local no-kill shelter. When they have a fundraiser, they post on their Facebook page. It takes very little effort to share posts on my own Facebook wall about fundraisers and needs for this shelter. This is an easy way for me to help out without leaving my own home.

Do you have a way with words? Offer to write press releases for the shelter and contact local media sources to get the information out to the public. Do you have a knack for computers and web programming? If so, offer to help the shelter with creating and maintaining a website.

Advocate for the animals at your local shelter. Write letters to your local newspaper about the shelter and show your support for its purpose. Encourage friends and family members to be responsible pet owners and get their pets spayed or neutered to cut down on the population of unwanted pets – which is one reason why so many shelters are full.


My local animal shelter is always in need of people to transport animals to other locations like rescue groups and veterinary appointments.

Call Your Local Shelter to Find Out More

If you are trying to think of ways to help your local shelter, your best bet is to pick up the phone. Call them and find out what their specific needs are. Their needs may already be on this list, or they may have a completely different need. Become familiar with what the shelter uses for day-to-day operations and let them tell you what you can do to help. The animals in their care may not be able to express it, but the people involved with the shelter will be very appreciative of every caring person who makes the effort to help out.

Photo by Bethan Hazell

Read more articles by Tamara L. Waters


  1. this was a great post and I have every intention of retweeting it and facebooking it!

    I try to donate items (toys are also good) and money whenever I can...thanks for posting this!

  2. Most shelters (especially the smaller ones) are very much volunteer driven. Without the help of volunteers they'd never be able to function. If you're looking for ways to serve, I can't think of a better cause!


  3. Thank you so much for this great post, Tamara. You've summed up perfectly the needs of our shelter! :)


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