1. Donate Supplies
Your local shelter or rescue group probably has a wish list of supplies and equipment it needs to save pets' lives and keep them fed and comfortable. Instead of throwing away that old crate or blanket or computer printer, check with your local animal shelter or rescue to see if they need it.
Supersize Your Efforts
Become the point person for a specific need your shelter has. Does your shelter always need towels and blankets? Take up a collection of old linens from family and friends, or host a block party and request that each guest bring an old blanket or comforter to gain admittance. Get even more creative and ask a local linen store to help you with a drive by offering a discount on a new blanket to anyone who donates a used one to your cause.
2. Use Your Special Skills
Are you a great bookkeeper? Graphic artist? Investment specialist, seamstress or carpenter? Your local animal shelter or rescue group just may need someone with your specialized experience and skills. There are many aspects of shelter and rescue operations, from office and administrative duties to training, feeding and grooming, to adoption events and community outreach and education, site maintenance and fundraising. It takes people with all kinds of skills to make the lifesaving work possible. Call shelters and rescue groups in your area and let them know your skills are at their disposal!
Supersize Your Efforts
Enlist co-workers or union mates to offer their skills as well, or take responsibility for wrangling all the different experts needed to complete a special project for your shelter from start to finish.
3. Grab a Brush and Some Treats: Grooming and Training Save Lives
Too many people will walk right by wonderful shelter pets (especially dogs and long-haired cats) because they can't see the beautiful, sweet pooch behind that dirty, matted mess. A well-groomed pet is far more likely to be adopted than his grubby counterpart. Volunteer to spend a few hours each week bathing and/or brushing shelter pets. Shelter workers are generally overwhelmed just taking care of pets' basic needs. Help their shelter pets become more presentable, watch adoptions go up...and know you're saving lives.
By the same token, training gives a dog a much better chance of finding a home. Volunteer to work on basic commands with the dogs in your local shelter or rescue group. And—this is important—make sure adopters know about your training successes. Hang a brightly colored card on the dog's kennel (check with the shelter manager first, of course) with a message like: "Hi! I can sit, lie down and stay! Take me home with you!"
Supersize Your Efforts
Visit your local grooming salons and build an army of grooming volunteers. Ask people in your community to donate grooming supplies, or solicit donations from companies that manufacture or sell grooming supplies. Get a group of pet-loving friends together and learn about dog training together (we love clicker training—Google it for more information). Then volunteer together to work with local shelters or rescue groups.
4. Quiet Petting Time Works Wonders
The shelter can be an extremely stressful atmosphere for a dog or cat. Think about it: No matter if the pet was relinquished by his owner, was lost on the street or is a stray, he suddenly finds himself in a completely foreign place. To make matters worse, he's surrounded on all sides by other extremely stressed animals and constant loud barking. Strangers walk by his kennel all day. These are just a few of the ingredients that combine to create a perfect storm of anxiety. This stress can even cause the pet to develop temporary behavior issues, which can make potential adopters overlook him. You can help! Volunteer to pet and comfort dogs and cats in the shelter. A little love and individual attention go a long way.
Supersize your efforts
If you're working with dogs, take each of them for a walk as part of your time together. Once away from the shelter, find some grass to sit on and let the petting and loving begin! With cats, ask the shelter manager if you can take each cat into a quiet room, if there's one available. Another idea: Organize a whole petting brigade of friends, or hold a pet-a-thon and get your friends and family members to sponsor you for each dog and cat you pet during your event. Donate the money you raise to the shelter, or buy them some treats or supplies! Enlist your pet-loving friends to join your pet-a-thon, too.
6 more ways you can help homeless animals