Many dog lovers like us are always looking for a way to help homeless animals, but not everyone is able to bring a new dog into their home. So we’ve consulted the ASPCA, Humane Society of the United States, Petfinder and our local shelters to come up with a list of 5 things everyone can do today (and every day!) to help animals in need.

1. Donate Small Items

Animal shelters and rescues require a lot of hard work and resources to keep running and fulfill their missions. In addition to monetary donations, shelters often welcome donations of items you may have lying around the house. Those bed linens and towels you no longer use can become soft bedding for cats and dogs to make their temporary homes more cozy. How about that bed your kitty never slept in once, or that crate that is too small for your full-grown pup? A local rescue group can put those items to good use.

Are you a creative type? Why not knit blankets for pets in need, or sew your own pet toys to give them something to play with? Never touched a sewing machine in your life? Ask your local shelter if they have a wish list, and buy something they need, like dog puzzle toys, cat scratching posts, toys and houses for small animals, cleaning supplies or even office supplies. These donations can make a big difference to the staff and to the animals they care for.

2. Spread the Word

Put that next Facebook status or Instagram pic to good use! Find a local shelter and rescue in your area and share a photo of one of their adoptable animals. Who knows, a friend of yours could be looking for a pet just like him!

If you have a rescue pet at home, tell your friends where they came from and why they are the great fit for you. For example, explain why adopting an older dog was a great choice for your family – he’s already housebroken and trained! Or how fostering a litter of kittens taught you a lot about taking care of your own cat. By sharing your experience, you may encourage someone to look again at the five year-old dog in the shelter instead of only looking at puppies.

3. Attend Events

Many animal shelters and rescues attend and host races, fairs, parades, spay-neuter clinics, adopt-a-thons, and more throughout the year to raise funds, attract adopters and educate the community. Find out about local events in your area, and participate. You can buy a ticket, raise funds, sponsor an attendee or volunteer to help at the event. Not only are you helping out a great cause, attending these events is also a great way to meet fellow animal lovers. You can even bring your dog with you to outdoor events – no doubt he’ll meet some new friends of his own!

4. Learn More

In addition to finding homes for animals, many animal shelters also provide much-need community services and education to help pets and pet owners in their area. Learn about the programs they offer, and share that information – such as discounted spay-neuter services and vaccine programs – with your neighbors. Sadly, according to the Humane Society of the United States, “about 2.4 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs – about one every 13 seconds – are put down in U.S. shelters each year.” Spreading the message about the importance of spaying and neutering your animals is crucial to help reduce these staggering numbers.

You can also share that message in your own home. Teach your kids about responsible pet ownership, and about giving back to animals in need. Your local shelter many even have programs designed especially for kids – ask them for more information or check their website.

5. Donate Your Time

Volunteers are often crucial to the operation of an animal shelter. Donating your time is one of the best ways to help animals in need. And because there is so much work to be done, you can often find a way to use your specific skills to make a big impact!

  • Do you have lots of experience with dog obedience training? Volunteer to walk shelter dogs and help them improve their leash walking, which can help a dog be more attractive to potential adopters.
  • Are you a skillful coder, social media guru or talented photographer? Offer to help build or improve a shelter’s website and social media accounts with eye-catching images and compelling content.
  • Are you a business-minded dog lover? You can share your fundraising or accounting expertise, or work with local businesses to facilitate event sponsorships.
  • Are you a talented woodworker, gardener or all-around handyman (or woman)? Donate your time and services to help improve the shelter buildings and grounds. You can even build furniture, cat patios or additional dog kennels to help make the place feel more like home to the animals and their minders.
  • Or simply give up one Saturday a month to help clean cages, do laundry, wash dishes – whatever you can do that day to help the busy staff keep the organization running smoothly!

Do you have other great ideas about how to help shelter pets that we didn’t include in this list? Tell us in the comments! And hats off to all the shelter/rescue staff and volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to helping animals find their forever homes!

Featured Image: “PeaceLove&Animals27” by Ian Phillips is licensed under CC BY 2.0.