Homeless pet in a cage
Photo: Thinkstock
Wish you could take home every pet in every shelter, but just don't have the space? Don't worry, there are lots of other ways you can help. Here are a few suggestions from Adopt-a-Pet.com.

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
5. Become a One-Man (or Woman) Marketing Firm for Homeless Pets
Help a shelter or rescue group post its pets on Adopt-a-Pet.com. Did you know that pets posted on Adopt-a-Pet.com also automatically appear on many other sites, including Petsmart.com, Petcentric.com, and PetHarbor.com? Imagine how much that kind of exposure means to a pet in a shelter, waiting for a home. If you have a computer and a camera, ask your local shelter if you can help them get their pets on the internet. Or if they're already posting their pets on Adopt-a-Pet.com, volunteer to add video to their listings! It's very easy to add pet videos: Just post the video on YouTube and copy the link into the space provided on each pet's information page (you'll need to have access to the shelter's account on Adopt-a-Pet.com first). Video is an amazing tool. Seeing a pet in action makes a potential adopter get a much better feel for the pet's personality and really increases the likelihood of adoption!

Supersize Your Efforts
Call or visit all of your local shelters and let them know how much posting their pets on Adopt-a-Pet.com can help them with adoptions!

6. Adopt a Shelter Worker or Rescuer
Shelter workers and rescuers have extraordinarily difficult jobs. They work long hours for low pay (rescuers, in fact, are often volunteers who fund their own organizations and work full-time day jobs, too). They see terrible things and do their best to help. Often the bad days outweigh the good for these wonderful people. A little appreciation and pampering go a long way toward preventing the burnout that goes along with these jobs. So adopt a shelter worker or rescuer and help him or her continue the crucial lifesaving work! There are many ways you can do this, but you can start with something as simple as stopping by and saying "thank you" (or sending a thank-you email), or even baking cookies for your shelter workers.

Supersize Your Efforts
Get really creative. If you're a hairstylist, donate a free haircut. If you're a massage therapist, offer to give an exhausted shelter worker or rescuer a rejuvenating massage. Donate a gift certificate for a local restaurant. Or have a party and ask each guest to bring a small gift certificate that can be donated to your local animal heroes!

7. Don't Be Part of the Problem
It may sound simple, but the greatest gift you can give homeless pets and those who take care of them is simply to keep your own pets for life. Think about it: If everyone did this (and spayed and neutered them), the number of pets in shelters would be drastically decreased. Be sure you're ready to adopt before you make the commitment. Deal with any behavior issues by using positive-reinforcement training techniques. Much like raising a child, having a dog or cat isn't always easy, but the rewards are too numerous to count. And, as with a child, having a pet requires you to make a commitment that needs to be honored through thick or thin. Animals are not disposable! Just being the best pet-parent you can be, standing up and saying, "I'm taking responsibility for just this one creature," means one less pet in a shelter taking up space that another pet might need, one less pet being put to sleep because of lack of space in the shelter. Even if you can't do anything else on this list, feel great about being wonderful to your own dog/s or cat/s!

8. Spay or Neuter Your Pet
Much like item #7, this is an easy one. By simply taking responsibility for spaying or neutering your own dog or cat, you are doing your part in the fight against pet overpopulation.

9. Help the Lost
If you find a lost pet, make every effort to find her owner before you take her to the shelter. Every pet who goes into a shelter or rescue, however temporarily, takes up space needed by another pet. By immediately locating the owner, you lessen the chance of another pet being euthanized because there's no more space in the shelter when you drop off your little lost buddy.

10. Spread the Word About Pet Adoption
This is the easiest item on the list. If you have a website, use it! Help others find a pet to adopt by placing a stylish link to Adopt-a-Pet.com or a pet search module right on your own site. This works, even if you don't think you have much traffic to your site.

Supersize Your Efforts
Ask everyone you know to post a link or a search box on their sites, too! Also, social PETworking saves lives. Post a link to a shelter pet on your Facebook page or TwitterACritter (https://TwitterACritter.com) and you’ll spread the word about specific pets in shelters to hundreds or even thousands of people instantly!

Keep Reading

The truth about animal shelters and responsible breeders
Choosing the right pet for you
10 reasons pets are good for kids


Next Story