Americans love to treat their pets as family, but we all know there are far too many pets out there who do not have a home. Homeless animals in the United States is a problem of massive proportions. Roughly 6.5 million animals enter shelters every year, and sadly 920,000 of those animals will end up euthanized each year due to lack of homes and resources to care for them. If you are a pet lover, you’ve already adopted as many pets as you feel comfortable caring for, but you may wish you could still do more. For people like you, the best thing to do is to support your local animal shelter – the last beacon of hope for all homeless pets.
There are more than 3,500 animal shelters in the United States, and that number jumps to 14,000 when you include animal rescue groups. There are always more homeless pets than there are shelters to house them which is why they serve such an important role in our communities.
Let’s talk about what animal shelters do and how you can help to give them the support they need. Even if you don’t have money to donate, there are many ways to help serve shelter missions of finding a home for every pet. If you love animals and want to give back to the community, supporting an animal shelter is a fantastic way to do so.
How Animal Shelters Serve their Communities
Animal shelters offer a variety of critical services to the communities in which they are located. The most prominent role they play is taking in stray animals or pets from people who can’t keep them any longer and finding new forever homes for them. If you have ever adopted a pet, you know how good it feels going to a shelter and finding the perfect new family member.
Without this central community hub of intakes and adoptions, many pets would be abandoned by their owners, and people would be more likely to buy from pet shops or puppy mills, further exacerbating the homeless pet problem.
Animal shelters also play a critical role in reuniting lost pets and their families. Dogs and cats get out of their homes and wander into the neighborhood but don’t know how to find their way back, and animal shelters often find these animals and give them a place to stay until their owners come looking for them.
More Support for Animal Shelters Means More Lives Saved
Although animal shelters do their best to save animals and connect them with loving owners, every shelter has their limit as to the number of animals they can care for. While some animal shelters are “no kill”, the sad truth is that there are simply too many homeless animals to be adopted out. There are not enough resources for every animal to be given a temporary home for their entire lives which leads to euthanizing healthy pets that don’t get adopted.
Each year, approximately 920,000 shelter animals get euthanized – and we can do better than that.
Those who work at animal shelters often put in long hours and don’t get much pay for what they do, but they do it anyway because they love animals and believe in the cause. Their mission is to save as many animals as possible. Your support could make a difference in the lives of countless animals in your area.
How to Support Your Local Animal Shelter
Many people want to support their local shelter but don’t know where they should begin. Whether you’ve already adopted a pet or two or you’re looking for a new family member, there are ways for everyone to pitch in and help out. Here is a list of some great ways you can help serve your local animal shelter.
Adopt a Pet
Since most animal shelters are overcrowded, a lot of the animals will stay there for a while before finding an owner who loves them. While some animals will never find a home, you can change the life of one animal by adopting a pet from your local shelter.
Many shelters have a variety of breeds from which you can choose, and they will help you find an animal that matches your personality and lifestyle. Shelters are grateful for each person who adopts an animal from them. During the Coronavirus pandemic, most local shelters are still adopting out animals; however, they require you to call and make an appointment to come see the pets.
Donate your time to an animal shelter if you would like to help and love spending time with animals. Shelters almost always need volunteers to feed and water the animals in their facilities, take the dogs on walks, and help socialize animals who never got much attention from their previous owners.
Socializing animals is a vital step in the adoption process because it gets animals used to being around people again, especially if they were treated poorly in the past. You can walk dogs or play with them in their cages so that they get to better relate to humans. After you socialize the animals in the shelter, you can help match them with caring families who will love them for years to come.
Seeing the impact you make with helping animals get adopted is a reward in itself!
Volunteering at local animal shelters is fulfilling and a great way to give back to your community. Not everyone has enough time or energy to volunteer at the animal shelter in their town, but you can still help by donating money.
Shelters have a constant need for funds to feed, house and care for the animals under their supervision. Shelters even use the money you donate to launch adoption campaigns to help animals find places to live with loving families.
The medical services that shelters provide to the animals in their care are often overlooked, but among the most important functions. Shelters have to pay for spay and neuter surgeries which cost hundreds of dollars each. There’s also a lot of preventative medicine they provide to their animals to prevent things like heartworm and tick borne diseases from harming the animals.
Shelters are always looking for pet beds, blankets, towels, newspaper, pet toys, bowls, leashes and any pet-related items you may have. If you have a pet crate or pet carrier from a previous trip that you no longer need, this will be put to good use at your local shelter. Some shelters even have an Amazon Wish List that they link to from their website or Facebook page. You can use this to take a see what they’re in need of and see if you have the supplies to donate.
If you wish to make a donation of pet food, contact your local shelter before you purchase it to see what types of food they need. Some shelters will also accept opened bags of pet food but others won’t due to safety concerns or lack of appropriate storage.
If you are looking for even more ways to support your local animal shelter, raising awareness for them is more helpful than you may think. Everyone has a platform and an audience today with our social media profiles. Letting your circle of friends know about adoption drives or fundraising events can let you support your local animal shelter by getting pets get adopted and money donated second-hand.
If you see someone talking about buying a pet on a public forum you can also jump in and suggest a local animal shelter and share your story of why adopting a pet is better than shopping, especially over the Internet where pet scams are rampant.
Leave a Review
Shelters are often so focused on serving the animals in their care that they don’t have time to think about marketing or the online presence of their organization. By not proactively asking their visitors and supporters to leave a review for them online, they can often be bombarded with negative comments and reviews for very silly reasons. It’s not uncommon to see a 1-star review when someone was denied adoption because they didn’t bring the necessary paperwork with them, or the pet they wanted was already adopted when they arrived.
Get out there and leave the kind of review the shelters deserve on platforms like Facebook, Google Maps, and Yelp. If the ratings of your local shelter are too low, potential adopters might avoid the organizations and end up buying from a breeder or pet shop instead.
Spay or Neuter Your Pets
The world has more animals than people who can properly care for them, and this problem causes countless animals to be homeless each year. Animal shelters would love to hear that every animal has a home, even if it means their services aren’t needed anymore!
By spaying or neutering your pet, you potentially prevent hundreds or thousands of offspring years from now. Regardless of how old your pet is or where you got it from, spaying your pet directly serves the mission of animal shelters and will prevent more pets from being euthanized.
When in Doubt, Reach Out
Animal shelters have a difficult and challenging job. They constantly fight to better the lives of animals without a voice, knowing that the battle to end homeless pets is likely to continue indefinitely.
If you are unsure about how best to support your local animal shelter , give them a call or send them an email asking how you can best help them out. Their needs will change based on demand for adoptions and the supply of homeless pets in the area, so talking to someone at the organization is the perfect way to give them what they need while building a relationship that matters.
Kyle Holgate is a proud dog dad and animal blogger. He often writes about all things dogs and dog nutrition with a data-driven approach on his website Woof Whiskers. Kyle has a Golden/Aussie mix named Kartoffel and a Husky mix named Pidgy.