Adopt-a-Dog October has buzzed by and, hopefully, many folks have checked out the pooches seeking happy homes at the local shelters. The whole month has been dedicated to shelter dogs and their adoption. Making a loving home for a deserving pet is rewarding and mutually beneficial for both human and pet, whether that pet is a dog or cat or pocket pet. The countdown to end-October is on and the end of Adopt-a-Dog month but don’t let that stop you from helping pets. Perhaps the family has thought about getting a dog from the local shelter. No doubt about it – the sweet pooches presently existing in cages would like nothing better than to meet, greet and impress you.
But let’s face it. You may not be able to get a pet or keep one. Perhaps allergies or a landlord or frequent travel or lack of time for a pet simply make it impossible. Perhaps you are on a tight budget and cannot spare a donation to shelters either. It’s all okay because there are lots of other ways to help animals in shelters that don’t involve investment of tons of dollars, time or energy. Have a read and get creative with your ideas to benefit shelters and pets.
Here are suggestions, lots of them, for you to find ways to help shelters, rescues and sanctuaries. Get to know your shelters and lend them your skills and talents.
Share information about pets on social media
Spread the word and pictures of adoptable animals to followers on your Facebook timeline, Twitter stream, Pinterest board, Tumbler page and any other social media accounts you like. This doesn’t take a lot of time and your post might just become the spark for a perfect match between a needy pet and a loving family.
Someone skilled with the etiquette and best practices for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other platforms, including skills for writing and scheduling updates, can mean a big uptick in successful adoptions.
Provide transport of pets
Help transport animals to vet appointments. At times, shelters need transportation for animals to other shelters, or pick up animals from other rescues. In this way, you offer your driving skills and free up other volunteers to get work done at the shelter.
Provide help exercising and walking dogs. Shelters are often short on staff or volunteers and can use assistance with dog walking and socializing. If you love dogs and are great with them, take some time once a week or more to take a dog for a walk. Play time has huge psychological and physical benefits for waiting animals.
Socialize kittens and cats. If you love felines of all ages, take some time once a week or more to pet a cat and hang out with them. Play, pet and interact with the cats to prepare them for a new home.
Phone or personally visit office supply stores
Find businesses that might be agreeable to donate printer paper, ink and envelopes to a shelter for promotions, fliers, postings, letters.
Hang up fliers
Lend your time to distribute fliers or marketing materials for future adoption events. Advertise adoptable animals in pet stores, vet offices, dog parks or anywhere potential dog or cat adopters are found. Circulating fliers is one of the more important methods of getting the word out about adoptable pets.
Contribute or donate wish list items
Shelters always have items that are needed and add them to a wish list. It could be food, bedding, toys, crates or even cleaning supplies. If you have the means, pick up a few items when you are shopping to drop off at a local shelter.
Call auction sites or advertisements
Phone Craigslist, Freecycle, eBay and other resources to follow up ads for give-away items or reasonably-sale-priced items to collect them for donations to shelters.
Call around to local motels, hotels and even hospitals
Phone for any items that are becoming unusable or are being replaced at establishments – these items can include bedding, towels, cleaning supplies and bedspreads or items that could be used for fundraising. Donate them to a local shelter.
Throw a party
Have fun for everyone by throwing a party for your dog on his birthday or conjure up a reason to party. Ask folks to bring a donation or gift – think gifts like harnesses, dog or cat supplies, or usable items for use by a shelter.
Have family throw you a birthday party
Forego birthday presents for you. Ask instead for donations or gifts such as dog beds, blankets, collars, leashes instead of personal gifts.
Ask for a donation for the local shelter. It’s a win-win for all since you probably have everything you want or need and the shelter can use anything you can donate. Everyone comes out a winner.
Use ingenuity and talent to make toys or bedding from old t-shirts, jeans or blankets. Sew “Adopt-Me” vests, bandanas or pet coats with a slogan to wear on walks or adoption events. Look up dog bed, dog toys, cat toys, pet coats/blankets on the computer to get loads of patterns and ideas for your projects.
Create usable item using your carpentry skills or DIY knowledge
Use your carpentry or handiman skills to repair and improve shelters. Help renovate here and there projects for the shelter. Build a cat tree, dog beds, platforms. Think about projects you can contribute using your own unique skills and check with the shelter to confirm or get ideas.
Offer legal knowledge and skills
Volunteer your expertise and legal talents if you are in the legal profession. Use your skills, knowledge and time to stay on top of matters for your shelter. Stay apprised of legal forms, contracts, copyrights on videos and brochures, advertising, ads, etc.
Offer accounting knowledge
Volunteer your accounting expertise if you have skills and knowledge about accounting. Assist shelter to keep current with accounting paperwork. Help shelters stay organized with adoption fees, donations, grants. Assist the shelter with staying on budget. If you have experience in non-profits or charities, lend your knowledge and specialized skills.
Offer to take a shelter dog to obedience class
Take a dog or several to training class so the pet(s) become more adoptable. Volunteer your knowledge and training skills if you have experience with dogs. Teach dogs basic commands like sit, stay, lie down. Teach a dog to walk on a loose leash.
Sew sweaters and dog or cat bedding
Use your sewing talents or basic stitching ability to make a dog bed from an old sweater. Simply follow this tutorial. http://www.auntpeaches.com/2012/02/cashmere-cat-bed-for-3-in-ten-minutes… Use an old sweater and make up an adorable bed for kitty or pooch in no time at all. Have no old sweaters? Head to the local Salvation Army Thrift Store and buy used sweaters galore. Check with your local shelter to see if they need anything.
Update shelter websites
Post new animals online or help maintain the website for adoptable pets. Keep the website current and up to date as necessary. Post future events information, calls for donations, volunteer days. If you have expert web design knowledge, suggest improvements, professional designs, enhanced website capabilities.
Offer to write for the shelter
Write adoption profiles for each dog, cat, bird or pocket pet available for adoption. Write and send newsletters and emails. Design and craft ads for fundraising events. Write grant applications. Skills as a writer are critical talents and make all the difference in a shelter’s success.
Offer to take pictures for the shelter
Volunteer your photographic expertise if you have skills and knowledge in photography. High-quality photos for each adoptable pet make an enormous difference in rates of adoption. “A picture is worth a thousand words” really comes into place here! Bring your camera skills to help the animals. Show off their personality and make them look their absolute best.
Each animals has a sense of urgency to be adopted and pictures make a huge difference if people click into the profile. In HeartsSpeak, meet an organization that helps photographers work with shelters.
Hold photography workshops
Volunteer your photographic expertise to hold photography workshops for shelter volunteers and have the group select best pictures of each pet. Then publish animals for adoption. Update pictures as necessary.
Offer photographic contests
Offer contest for camera club members to take pictures of pets, awarding free publicity for the winning photographers as pictures are posted online, on website, or on social media.
Volunteer for work day
Offer your free services on a day or those days when shelters have clean up/spruce up volunteer days.
Create an annual calendar contest
Offer a contest to the community [or online to the masses] to enter one quality photo of pet dog, cat, or other pet for inclusion on an annual calendar. Each entry should be accompanied by a fee, say $5 tax deductible, to be judged for final entries. Have a “committee” select 13 finalists for the calendar, stating all profile details of each entry. – OR –
Enter past adopted-out animals from the shelter, giving the pet’s details, history and how his/her life has changed at the new home. Work out the specifics based on what the shelter would like to do with the calendar and find a fair sale price. Then market it. – OR –
Make up a calendar, getting donations from local businesses in support of the shelter. Get a printshop and help from local businesses to defray printing and setup costs. Distribute the calendar for free everywhere,
Send a picture of your pet to the shelter from which he or she was adopted [if you adopted a pet] and in an accompanying letter or thank you note, describe how well the pet is doing. The shelter may want to use it as a testimonial or for publicity online.
Read to a dog or dogs at the shelter
Honing children’s reading skills has the kids reading to a shelter dog. This suggestion is the reverse – Read to a shelter dog to give the animal closeness, comfort and a soothing voice coupled with some companionship. The sound of a calm voice helps stressed dogs more than we ever realized.
Collect coins or dollars at your workplace
Send out an email to your coworkers announcing a donation jar for the local shelter. Follow up by setting out a glass jar with a sign for shelter donations for a week.
Organize a fundraising drive
Send out an email to coworkers asking coworkers to help in an organized drive for donations to benefit a specific shelter or sanctuary. This could be a bake, a raffle or other fundraising effort as well.
Work in partnership with school
Teach schoolchildren about the benefits of loving, faithful pets. Enlist the assistance of teachers and student classrooms/grades to raise funds for a local shelter. Talk to the faculty and staff and solicit ideas that can range from donation drives to raffles. The benefitting shelter could bring several adoptable pets to school to show the children some of the animals that are being helped. Use the opportunity to both raise funds and raise pet awareness.
Foster an animal
Living in a shelter even for a short time is extremely stressful for many dogs and cats. Many shut down or simply don’t thrive. Offering temporary homes for adoptable pets frees up space for other rescues.
Fostering doesn’t necessarily fall under the “easy” category for how to volunteer to help, but it does fall under the category of most important things you can do. Most shelters pay for food and vet bills, so fostering is not a burden on the wallet. Opening your home to an animal in need and providing the food, shelter, love and training it needs while waiting for a forever home is one of the best things you can do to help. It can also be one of the most fulfilling.
As you can see from this long list of ideas, there is much that can be done for shelters and the pets available for adoption. You can even get your kids involved. There are many more ideas that are not included here. All it takes is a little creativity. So how about it? See if you can find some way to help in your own way. The dogs, cats, birds, tiny furry pets that find themselves confined in shelters will be immensely thankful.