How to Help Animal Shelters: 10 Ways You Can Make a Difference

| 11 min read Financial Assistance

There are an estimated 3,500 animal shelters in the United States alone, taking in more than 6 million dogs and cats each year combined. Sadly, less than half of these animals in need ever find a home—but shelters still need funding to support them. The good news is that there are many ways to help shelters, from volunteering at a local shelter to fundraising for animal charities. We can all do our part to help animals in need. Learn more about how to help animal shelters below.

Donate to an animal fundraiser

Adopting a pet from an animal shelter

Adopting a pet from a shelter can be a very rewarding experience. You can start by visiting local shelters to explore various animals. Interact with potential pets to gauge compatibility and inquire about their history. The adoption process usually involves filling out an application, paying an adoption fee, and sometimes requiring a home visit. You can also foster animals and provide them with a temporary home while they wait to get adopted if you have the space.

By adopting overlooked animals, such as older pets or those with special needs, you can give them a second chance at a happy life. These animals may stay longer in shelters due to misconceptions or specific requirements, but adopting them not only saves lives but also brings immense joy and gratitude from a grateful furry friend into your life.

Nine ways to help pet shelters

There are many ways to help local animal shelters this holiday season, and most of these involve a donation of some kind—whether that’s bringing in donations through crowdfunding, or donating your time as a volunteer. Let’s take a look at nine great ways you can help animal shelters, and how fundraising can help amplify your impact this holiday season.

1. Support spay and neuter programs

Overpopulation is a growing problem and can be greatly reduced by spaying and neutering animals. Overpopulation contributes to overcrowded shelters and the 3 million cats and dogs facing euthanasia each year. Responsible pet ownership includes spaying or neutering your pet. This important practice helps to control the pet population by preventing unplanned litters and contributes to a more sustainable and manageable animal community. As a result, the number of animals entering shelters decreases, positively impacting the overall shelter pet population.

Start a fundraiser to support spay and neuter programs for a local or national animal rescue, and share your fundraiser on social media to spread the word about your cause.

2. Sponsor an animal

One generous way to help animal rescues during the holidays is by sponsoring an animal. Your donation will go toward food and supplies, and can help with veterinary bills for the dog, cat, or other animals you sponsor. A sponsorship donation helps to relieve some of the expenses your local animal shelter faces, allowing them to make the most of each dollar. To make the sponsorship experience more personalized, shelters can create profiles for each sponsored animal, providing details about their unique personalities, backgrounds, and even their aspirations for finding a forever home.

Share your idea with family and friends, and ask if they would be interested in sponsoring a shelter animal of their own.

3. Organize an adoption event

The best way to run an adoption event during the holidays is by partnering with a local rescue group. By contacting and working  with a rescue group, they can help you decide what would be the best type of event to hold. 

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 many rescue groups have canceled in-person adoption events and moved to doing alternate adoption meetups. If you’re not able to do an in-person event, ask the rescue organization if you can help with virtual events or help coordinate adoption appointments. Animals can be posted on the organization’s website with a photo or video. From there, anyone  interested in adopting one of the posted pets can submit an application and arrangements can be made for a safe in-person adoption appointment.

The best way to run an adoption event during the holidays is by partnering with a local rescue group. By contacting and working with a rescue group, they can help you decide the best type of event to hold. To organize a successful virtual pet adoption event:

  1. Focus on digital presence and marketing—newsletters, community flyers, etc.
  2. Use social media to reach a wider audience and create a visually appealing, user-friendly virtual space.
  3. Engage your audience with high-quality content, such as photos, videos, and compelling stories of shelter animals.

Animals, with photos or videos, can be posted on the organization’s website. Anyone interested in adopting one of the posted pets can apply, and arrangements can be made for an in-person adoption appointment. If you cannot do an in-person event, ask the rescue organization if you can help with virtual events or help coordinate adoption appointments.

4. Fundraise to adopt a pet

Adopting a pet can be expensive, with many costs going toward adoption fees and pet supplies. Every animal adopted from a shelter must also be spayed and neutered, as well as have their shots up to date. Starting a fundraiser to help cover adoption costs can be a wonderful way to help animals find a forever home, while freeing up space in shelters. This holiday season, reach out to shelter or rescue organizations and ask if there are any costs you could help with that are barriers to adoption. 

5. Raise money for shelter supplies

Crowdfunding can be a great way to raise money for necessary shelter supplies on the humane society’s wish list. Among the top supplies animal shelters use the most include dog and cat food, kitty litter, chlorine bleach to stop the spread of disease, and collapsible wire crates to transport animals. Be specific when asking for donations, and provide a breakdown of costs. Include the typical costs for supplies in your animal shelter donations list, so donors know exactly how and where they can contribute. 

As the seasons change, the needs of animals in shelters change as well. During the winter months, blankets, heating pads, and thermal bedding become essential to keep them warm and comfortable. In spring and summer, it’s important to have increased supplies of flea and tick preventatives, as well as cooling pads to help them stay cool during warmer temperatures. As fall arrives, there is a need for cozy beds, and extra grooming supplies. When you make a monetary donations to a shelter, you enable them to address these seasonal needs promptly and comprehensively. 

Your donations also have a direct impact on animal care by providing nutritious pet food, veterinary services, and enrichment activities, ensuring the physical and mental health of shelter residents.

6. Raise money for new facilities

New and improved facilities can make a big difference in the quality of life for homeless animals. New facilities are designed with efficiency in mind, and can usually hold more animals than older shelters. Many new shelters also include indoor and outdoor exercise areas for dogs and cats. Examples of facility improvements include bigger kennels, climate control areas, grooming stations, and interactive play areas.

Upgrading the facility can increase adoption rates as prospective pet owners are more likely to choose a shelter that prioritizes the comfort and happiness of its residents. Fundraising for shelter upgrades is ultimately an investment in creating a space that not only nurtures the animals during their stay but also significantly improves their chances of finding loving forever homes.

Start a fundraiser to secure animal shelter funding, and get your local government involved. Write to your local representatives explaining why a new shelter is needed, and collect public signatures in addition to donations.

7. Start a veterinary fundraiser

If you’re trying to find another way to give back during the holidays, consider starting a fundraiser to cover expensive medical treatments for homeless animals. Many homeless animals require veterinary care, and sometimes this means expensive surgery. By starting  a fundraiser to raise money for surgery costs, or other medical needs, you can make a huge difference in the quality of life for a rescue animal. Your donation can even increase the chances of adoption, as animals with medical issues are more difficult to adopt.

Related reading: Meet Dr. Kwane

8. Volunteer your time

Get out there and make a real difference during the holidays by volunteering with a rescue or shelter. Local shelters and rescue organizations are in constant need of dedicated volunteers. Volunteer duties include socializing dogs and cats, walking dogs and getting them used to leashes, cleaning kennels and feeding animals, and helping with the adoption process. You can also volunteer as a foster parent so you can provide a loving, temporary home to shelter or rescue animals during the holidays. 

If your local rescue or shelter is not able to take in-person volunteers, ask if they could use online or remote volunteers. Sending mailers, writing newsletters, posting to social media, and more can all be done remotely from a computer. Plus, they’re all activities that rescues and shelters can benefit from, so offer your online support. Any volunteering time that you can offer shows your gratitude and appreciation for shelter workers and the work they do.

9. Start an animal rescue

Help bring more attention and donations to rescue organizations that do important national and international work to rescue animals as well as local animal welfare policies. If your local shelters have the support they need, look to organizations across the country or globally that may be in dire need of help. 

Takis Shelter and The Man That Rescues Dogs are just two examples of smaller international organizations that focus on rescuing animals abroad, but there are many more organizations that can use your help. Consider fundraising for one of these incredible organizations and truly giveback during the giving season. You can also find out more about international pet rescue organizations through the Animal League America.

10. Educate the community about animal shelters

Adopting a pet is the best way to support an animal shelter, but not everyone can do so due to financial restrictions or allergies. However, you can still help by involving your community and educating them about how they can support the local shelter. You can organize events such as “Paws in the Park” fun walks, where community members can bring their pets. These events raise funds through participant fees and sponsorships and serve as a platform for distributing educational materials. 

Adoption fairs provide a unique opportunity for community members to learn about various breeds and responsible pet care while potentially adopting a furry companion. You can also host workshops on spaying/neutering, basic pet training, and the importance of regular veterinary care to help pet owners care for their four-legged friends.

People who started fundraisers for animal shelters

Take a look at the ways others are using fundraising to help animal shelters.

Emergency relief for animal shelters

After the devastation of 2018’s Camp Fire, hundreds of pets were left scared and homeless in Northern California. Paradise Animal Shelter committed to helping as many animals as possible, but needed extra resources. Volunteer Lisa started a fundraiser to raise money for pet supplies as well as extra storage, to make room for more animals in the shelter. She was able to raise over $11,000 in donations.

Raise funds for adoption fees

Andrew started a fundraiser to support adoption fees for the Abilene Animal Shelter in Texas, where he volunteers. Unfortunately, the shelter is not a no-kill shelter, so finding each animal a home is an urgent and important need. Andrew was able to raise more than his $2,000 goal, helping support the adoption of dozens of animals.

Start helping animals today

Knowing how to help shelters is the first step in making a difference in the lives of homeless pets. This year, you can help animals during the holidays by donating to your favorite animal charity or cause. By making a donation to a local shelter or rescue, you can provide much needed support to these organizations doing great things for homeless pets. 

Donate to an animal fundraiser

Written by GoFundMe