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

| 7 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.

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Nine ways to help animal shelters

There are many ways to help local animal shelters all year-round. Donating, volunteering, and even fundraising through crowdfunding are all ways to help animal shelters. Let’s take a look at nine great ways you can help animal shelters, and how fundraising online can help amplify your impact.

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. Start a fundraiser to support spay and neuter programs for local animal shelters or national animal rescues, 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 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. Share your idea with family and friends, and ask if they would be interested in sponsoring a shelter animal of their own.

3. Organize a virtual adoption event

The best way to run an adoption event is by partnering with local animal shelters. 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.

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. You can 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. 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. Also, keep in mind that rescue organizations need things like blankets, beds, towels, and other supplies all year round. 

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. 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, 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 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, taking dogs on walks, 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. 

If your local rescue or shelter is not able to take in-person volunteers due COVID-19, 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.

9. Start an animal rescue

The global COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on everyone, meaning less attention and donations for rescue organizations that do important national and international work to rescue animals. 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.

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 by donating or fundraising 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

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