Animal shelters and rescues are amazing! Usually with limited resources and very little publicity, they help untold numbers of animals and people. Give back by choosing one or more of the following ways to show your appreciation for the groups that do so much for animals, people and your community.
1. Adopt a pet
If you’ve been thinking that it’s time to add a pet to your family, consider adopting from a local shelter or rescue group. Search for available cats and dogs near you at the Shelter Pet Project. Be sure to find out from the group you are considering adopting from what their adoption process is like and, if it doesn’t feel right to you, move on to another local group.
Every animal shelter and rescue organization has bills to pay and your generous monetary donation will be gratefully accepted. Donations may be used to help cover the costs of daily operations, supplies, staff training, animal housing upgrades, community outreach programs, animal enrichment and much more.
Even if you can’t adopt a pet just now, you can help make life better for animals in your community by volunteering with your local shelter or rescue organization. Do you have experience as a carpenter or electrician? Are you a marketing or dog walking whiz? All of these skills are valuable! Or be open to learning something new that is needed, such as trap-neuter-return for unowned cats.
4. Say thanks
Take a minute to express your gratitude to the people who work at your local shelter or rescue groups. Did you adopt a pet from one of them? Did they provide affordable spay/neuter? Perhaps they helped reunite you with your lost pet or provided behavioral advice that made it possible for your pet to stay in your home. Give them a shout-out on social media, drop off lunch or cookies for the staff and/or mention to municipal leadership what a value they bring to your community.
5. Become a fan
Like and follow your local animal shelters and rescue groups on Facebook, then invite your friends and family to like and follow them too. Also like and follow the Shelter Pet Project, which directs people seeking to adopt a cat or dog to their local shelters and rescues. Engage by sharing and commenting on posts.
6. Get crafty
Combine fabric, recyclables and imagination to bring much needed fun into the lives of local shelter and rescue pets. You can fashion cage curtains to help shelter cats get some privacy (and stay healthy) or play matchmaker by creating attention-grabbing "Adopt-Me" vests to spotlight available pets at adoption events held by shelters and rescues.
7. Make wishes come true
Shelters and rescue groups always need towels, toys and other supplies. Check their websites for wishlists; if they don’t have one, call them to find out what's in short supply and offer to create an online wishlist for them.
8. Become a foster
The value of fosters can't be overrated. They can be lifesavers for pets who can't adapt to shelter life, those who need to be nursed back to health and orphaned kittens who need someone to step in for their mom (or whose needs are beyond what busy shelter staff can often provide).
Foster homes are the backbone of many rescue groups—without a strong network of foster providers, rescue groups simply could not take in as many animals. Foster homes can also become adoption ambassadors to friends, family and colleagues who otherwise may not visit the shelter. If you already have pets of your own, fostering is also often very fun for the resident pet.
9. Help at your own home
Make the jobs of shelters and rescues easier: Outfit your cats and dogs with collars and proper ID (a microchip and ID tags) at all times. As soon as you bring them into your family, have all of your pets spayed or neutered. Keep your cats indoors, where you can keep them safe (though it's great to take them on walks if they are comfortable on a harness and leash or provide them a catio for safe outdoor enrichment) and keep dogs on leashes when off your property.
10. Help your shelter make positive changes
The work your local shelter does may be hindered by an outdated animal control ordinance or, for municipal shelters, an inadequate budget. You can help by rallying support from your elected officials and working with shelter and rescue leaders to make necessary changes. If you see or hear anything at your local shelter that concerns you, follow our guidelines for addressing that concern in the most effective way.