How To Help Your Local Shelter

I recently found out about an animal shelter in my small town and got in touch with the lady who runs it to see if I could take any of her dogs out. As an active runner, I thought I could kill two birds with one stone. Get a shelter dog out for an hour or so, and I could enjoy the company of a canine companion. So I have been taking little Nina the Kelpie out once or twice a week for a short run. The lady who runs the shelter is an amazing woman, but she is so overworked and always in need of assistance. It got me thinking about the different ways we can help shelters out, not just financially, but in many other ways too.

1) Dog walking or running

There’s a growing movement among running communities to take shelter dogs out for regular runs. This benefits dogs in a few ways. They get to stretch their legs, burn off some energy, enjoy a different environment, get to socialise with people (and often other dogs). Plus it gives them extra exposure by putting them out in the community where they are more likely to come across somebody who may want to adopt them. This is a win, win, win situation for the dog.

Many shelters are happy to have somebody willing to take a dog out for a walk. Again, great for the dog as it gets him out of the shelter for a while as well as gives him more exposure to people and thus more socialisation time. With cities being built up, and units becoming more commonplace, many people are not in a position to have their dog can benefit from this. Maybe you are renting and not allowed pets, or you don’t have the time to commit to having a dog of your own. Ideal for somebody weighing up if they want to have a dog.

2) Helping out at the shelter

There’s so much work involved in running a shelter. Cleaning litter trays and dog kennels, grooming animals, socialising kittens and puppies. Two shelters I have visited recently both desperately need humans to come and spend time with kittens socialising them. This is a great job for adults and children (older ones who know how to handle a small animal). Who doesn’t like playing with kittens and puppies?

You don’t have to give up much time, and this greatly helps the animals and increases their chances of finding a home. Even older animals benefit. Often animals have been mistreated and/or neglected, or suddenly found themselves alone at the shelter, and either has huge trust issues or have entirely emotionally shut down. Sitting with them quietly and rebuilding their trust in humans can help a scared or mistrustful animal come out of their shell and as a follow-on, means they become more adoptable. After all, few people are going to want to adopt the animal hunched in a corner. Time and patience can make all the difference.

3) Photography

Are you a professional or a novice photographer? A great photo can go such a long way. Often shelter workers are too busy to spend time getting great shots of animals looking for homes, and this is where you can come in and help. Not only does it assist in presenting these animals in the best possible light, but it’s a great way to improve your photography skills.

4) Donate money

All shelters need money for food, vet bills and the never-ending list of supplies. This may be a lump sum donation, a smaller regular donation, or even leaving money (or property if you are generous) in your will. Most donations to registered charities are tax-deductible.

I recently heard of one very kind and generous lady who has offered to pay for the desexing of two kittens at our local shelter. So there is that option or offer to contribute to other vet bills.

5) Other donations

Blankets, old towels, shredded newspaper, pet food, cat carriers, stationery to name a few. If in doubt, call your shelter and ask them what and if they need anything.

6) Share on social media

Social media is a great way to get publicity for shelters and/or individual animals. So share the love. The more exposure shelters and their animals get, the greater the chances of the animals finding a perfect new home.

7) Don’t contribute to the problem

Please make sure you desex your pets so that they don’t add to the problem. Puppies and kittens should be desexed by the time they are six months old.

If you do find yourself with an unwanted pet, do your best to find it a home. Shelters do provide an essential service, but they are usually so over-taxed that where possible. It is always better to try to re-home a pet instead of using the shelter as a first resort.

8) Foster homes

Sometimes an animal (or animals) should go to a foster home. This may be so they can get a little more socialisation, there is not enough room at the shelter or in some cases, a litter of kittens or puppies come in, and they need to stay with mum for some weeks before they are old enough to adopt.

9) Caring for orphans

Some puppies and kittens may have lost their mum and will need to be hand-reared. This is quite a labour-intensive process involving frequent feeds both day and night, helping teach the kittens and puppies toileting, grooming them, playing with them (when they are older) and just giving them plenty of love and care until they are old enough to be placed up for adoption.

10) Driving/transportation

Do you have a car and some spare time to offer? Some shelters would love for you to help pick up or drop off animals to the vet or pick up supplies. Sometimes an animal is adopted by somebody who lives a distance away and can’t get there to pick up the animal.

11) Other skills

Think about any skills or experience you currently have and how they may be of help to your shelter? The lady who runs our local shelter isn’t too computer literate, so has a friend manage her social media page and writes very creative and engaging profiles for the pets who are looking for homes. Maybe you are a dog groomer, or trainer and could help out in your spare time. Tradespeople such as electricians or carpenters can offer their services for free, accountants or bookkeepers to help manage the books. There are always odd jobs that need to be done. All of this helps take the burden off overstretched staff at shelters and benefits these animals greatly.

12) Businesses

Do you have a product that could help the shelter? Free printing, supplies such as bedding, toys, pet food, hay and straw?

If all of us do our little bit, we can significantly relieve the financial burden on shelters as well as help out with our time. So if you think you can help in some way, do get in touch with your shelter and put your hand up. You won’t regret it.

The lady who runs the local shelter in my town has placed donation tins at the local veterinarian, a handful of shops and the local cafe, which help generate additional income for her. If you run a business, consider this option.


  • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

    Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio

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