5 Unexpected Ways to Help Out Animal Shelters

When it comes to lending a paw to animal-rescue orgs, adopting a little dude of your own isn’t the only way to pitch in. Here are some alternative ideas for giving furry orphans a leg (or four) up.
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Collage of four different dogs

Photographer Guinnevere Shuster takes photo booth–style head shots of shelter dogs to encourage people to adopt.

1. Raise funds

A great way to put cash (yours and other people’s) in the coffers of your favorite shelter is to set up a virtual donation drive, like a GoFundMe, a birthday fund-raiser on Facebook, or a Kickstarter campaign. 

Go the extra mile: Turn an IRL event, like a block party, into a fund-raiser. “One volunteer is including us in her wedding by requesting people support Animal Haven in lieu of gifts,” says Jenny Coffey, director of community outreach at Animal Haven in New York City.

2. Donate old stuff

One man’s trash may be his best friend’s treasure. Food and toys are the obvious choice, but did you know that old bedding and towels are in demand to make those cages a little more cozy? If you’re unsure of what’s needed, call your local shelter and ask for its wish list. 

Go the extra mile: Rally friends or coworkers to donate their gently used pet supplies. Your boss may be more than happy to purge that old puppy-training crate—especially when you’re doing the drop-off for her.

3. Rally your network

“Don’t just Like your favorite shelter’s posts—reshare them to help get the word out to more people,” says Nora Vondrell, executive director of the SICSA Pet Adoption Center in Dayton, Ohio. Or take your own photo of an adoptable pet and include info about the shelter’s upcoming events in the caption. 

Go the extra mile: Offer to help with the shelter’s social media—a cool line on your résumé and one less thing on the employees’ plates.

4. Use your skills

“We have a role for absolutely every interest,” says Sarah McDonald, associate director of media and community relations at PAWS Chicago. “If you have a skill that you think would benefit homeless pets, we likely can use your help.” To start, contact your local shelter and offer your time and talents. 

Go the extra mile: Have a knack for Web design or writing? Ask if you can give the site, adoption ads, or the newsletter a polish.

5. Plan a play date

Spend your downtime playing fetch with lonely pooches. Give the shelter a call or visit its website to find out the volunteering requirements. You may need training before you’re allowed to walk or play with the pets (for your safety and theirs), or you might have to commit to regular visits. 

Go the extra mile: Plan an extended vacay for one lucky animal (or more) by becoming a foster parent. Bonus points for teaching them some manners until they find their safe, happy forever homes.

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