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37 Best Ways To Help Animals in Need

This article is presented in partnership with Best Friends Animal Society

Best Friends Animal Society is a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of dogs and cats in shelters by 2025. Best Friends runs the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary and works collaboratively with a network of more than 4,200 partners nationwide. 

Learn more about Best Friends Animal Society

Photos of a dog and a baby deer, to represent how to help animals
This article is presented in partnership with Best Friends Animal Society

Call it what you want: being an animal lover, a devout dog parent, a bird watcher, or a cat lady. Either way, there’s a good chance most of us feel connected to animals in one way or another. (Is a dolphin-themed childhood bedroom ringing a bell for anyone else?)

But whether it’s the threat of dwindling biodiversity, overcrowded animal shelters, or the existential burden of climate change, the animals need our help.

And the good news is that there is always something we can do to help. No matter what type of activism you are most inclined to take up, if you’re passionate about animals, there are countless ways to take action.

We also know it can be hard to get started and that it’s overwhelming to know when, where, or how to get involved. 

We’ve put together a list that includes what you can do to help shelter pets, homeless or abandoned pets, wild animals, your own pets, and more, so you can go forth and make a real difference

How To Support Animals — In All Kinds of Ways

Help Shelter Pets

Dog happily running through dog shelter

Adopt.

The best thing you can do for a shelter animal? Adopt them! If you have the means, resources, and capacity to welcome a new furry (or scaly or feathery) family member into your life, this is your sign to do it.

And if you need some more convincing, here are some really valid reasons why you should adopt a dog (or any shelter pet!).

Volunteer at your local shelter. 

As much as it pains us to say this, you cannot adopt every available pet from your local shelter. But you can certainly hang out with them!

Whether it’s walks, enrichment time, cleaning habitats, or even doing laundry, your local shelter is likely in dire need of some more help. 

Find a shelter or animal rescue organization near you — and reach out to learn more about its volunteer programs. Like, do it now! We’ll wait here. 

Donate funds to a local shelter.

If you don’t have the free time you’d like to volunteer regularly at a shelter, you can also donate funds. Your financial contributions will go toward hiring valuable staff, providing essential resources and medical care to animals, and all kinds of meaningful work. 

If you don’t have a rescue or shelter near you, you can always donate to larger pet rescue organizations like Best Friends Animal Society, the Humane Society of the United States, or the ASPCA

Sponsor a pet adoption. 

Some organizations offer donation options that allow community members to specifically sponsor the adoption fees involved in getting pets into loving homes. 

Some businesses or anonymous donors will even pay for a large number of adoptions so shelters can offer fee-free pet adoptions for a window of time. This incentive is great for getting people to finally take the leap — especially during periods of overcrowding.

This can also be done informally. Say you find a stray animal in need of a safe home, but you’re not able to take it in. If your neighbor is, but they need some financial help in making it happen, you can provide that support, even if you can’t provide shelter.

Donate items to a local shelter.

You can also donate any number of household and pet care items to your local shelter! Be sure to check before donating to see what items would be helpful.

That being said, most shelters are often in need of items such as gently used towels and blankets; pet beds; bowls and food dishes; soft toys and puzzles; measuring cups; poop bags; cat litter; litter boxes, unopened cleaning products; unopened food and treats; carriers and kennels; and collars, harnesses, and leashes.

Be a vocal advocate for pet adoption.

Even if you’re not in a place to adopt a pet (or your spouse has put you at a limit of five dogs), you can still be a staunch supporter of pet adoption! 

Help connect a friend to a local rescue or shelter to find their first pet. Share available animals on social media. Remind folks about upcoming adoption events or fundraisers. 

Spread awareness about puppy mills and unethical breeders.

Even if you can’t convince someone to adopt a pet from a shelter, you can still spread awareness about the issue of unethical breeding. 

Puppy mills and backyard breeders are often home to cruel and abusive practices that can even lead to lifelong health conditions for dogs. Plus, they contribute to the overcrowding of shelters and keep more animals in need from finding loving homes.

Sadly, the Humane Society estimates that there are at least 10,000 puppy mills in operation across the United States. Share some of these facts and figures with someone who might be considering dog ownership and help them find a better option. 

Follow (and support) shelters and rescues on social media.

Our animal-filled For You Pages have become one of the best avenues for spreading the word about adoptable animals. 

Whether you already follow some of the best animal shelters on social media or you just want to help amplify the efforts of a small organization in your community, a cute puppy pic goes a long way. 

Foster an animal. 

OK, maybe you can’t fully commit to adopting a pet, but maybe you could be a foster parent? Most shelters and pet adoption organizations have foster programs that help keep their kennels open to intake new animals and help provide more loving and engaging homes for those adoptable friends. 

These programs usually include comprehensive application and interviewing processes to ensure that these fosters are well cared for. If you’re up for the task, reach out to your local shelter!

Get creative.

Volunteering with a shelter doesn’t just have to mean picking up poop. You can also use your own creative talents to contribute! 

Have some leftover fabric or craft supplies? Make your own dog or cat toys! Are you a social media whiz or a skilled photographer? Volunteer your time and labor to help spruce up a shelter’s website or Instagram account. Love spreadsheets? See if they need someone to help organize data.

Truly — the possibilities are endless. 

Host a fundraising event.

Want to make your dollar go a long way? Host a fundraiser for a shelter! 

Maybe you’re a small business owner who can loan your shop to the cause or sponsor a 5K. Perhaps you’re a savvy event planner who can reach out to contacts across the community. 

Even if all you can do is drive around town sticking signs in various yards, whatever you can contribute will be a huge help.

Donate your used car to an animal shelter or rescue.

So you’re fresh out of towels and rags to donate, but did you know that you can even donate your old car to a shelter? That’s right! 

Check out the Humane Society of the United States’ car donation program, Humane Cars, to learn more or schedule a pick-up.

Teach children about animal welfare. 

Preventing animal cruelty starts from an early age. Consider reading books with your students or children about taking care of animals, or even work together to create some kid-friendly volunteer ideas for your local shelter.

Help Homeless or Abandoned Pets in Your Neighborhood

A safe cat sleeping in a blanket after being helped

Support TNR efforts for stray cats.

Calling all cat whisperers!

TNR stands for Trap-Neuter-Return. This is the process of humanely trapping, sterilizing, vaccinating, and returning community cats to their outdoor homes. This helps reduce overpopulation, improve the health of cats in the community, and ultimately, reduce euthanasia if and when they are rescued by a shelter or medical team.

Shelters, organizations, and even veterinarians across the country run these programs — and offer free or low-cost spay and neuter services, as well. See how you can help in these efforts or support them financially.

Spread awareness about animal cruelty.

Similarly to sharing vital information about puppy mills and unethical breeding, it’s important to know how to be able to spot animal cruelty

If there are animals in your area that might be abused or neglected, you can step in to report their owners and get these animals to a safe haven.

Have the phone numbers of local rescues or animal shelters saved in your phone. 

Even though most things are a quick Google search away these days, sometimes, in a high-stress moment (say… you just found a litter of kittens on the side of the road), you’ll want to be able to quickly phone an expert.

Take a moment to add the contact information of your local shelter or animal control team in your phone for safekeeping.

Volunteer with your city.

While volunteering with your local animal shelter is a great way to support homeless pets, it might be time to initiate contact with your local government, too. 

If stray or abandoned animals seem to be an ongoing issue, reporting information to all stakeholders is important to help find a solution. Heck, maybe you will be a part of the solution! 

If you’re the Snow White of the neighborhood and all the animals seem to flock to you, you will be an immensely helpful asset in creating programs and systems to keep these animal companions safe. 

Put out water bowls.

Are there animals in your area who seemingly roam without a home? Set out some water bowls (and maybe even some food) to make sure they have access to clean and fresh drinking water. 

Just make sure you’re refreshing these every day, so they don’t become dirty or home to water-borne diseases!

Take a class or training to become an expert in animal rescue. 

While it’s usually best to leave it to the experts when it comes to animal rescue, you can become an expert in your own right! Organizations across the country have training classes to equip you with the skills you need to respond in a crisis.

Check out courses from organizations like the Animal Rescue Professionals Association, the Humane Society of the United States, and the ASPCA Learning Lab.

Help Wild Animals

A deer in a neighborhood yard

Make your property wildlife-friendly.

Whether you plant native pollinators, plants, and grasses in your garden, or you’re using sustainable swaps to make your outdoor space more welcoming to wildlife, making small changes in your yard or near your home can be a big help.

Consider things like wildlife-friendly lighting that doesn’t cause light pollution, choosing a grass lawn alternative, and avoiding pesticides in your garden. 

Donate to a charity that protects animals.

Just like animal shelters need your support, so do conservation and animal protection organizations. There are countless nonprofits that work tirelessly to make the world a better place for animals, but here are a few you might consider contributing to:

Use humane methods of pest control.

Whether you’re controlling an infestation in your home or trying to keep the mosquito bites to a minimum, there are safe and effective tools that are still considerate of wildlife. 

For example, consider mosquito dunks to manage those bug bites instead of chemical-based sprays, and definitely opt away from glue traps when it comes to rodent control

Volunteer with a local wildlife sanctuary.

Similarly to animal shelters, wildlife sanctuaries and organizations need your help, too! Explore the options by researching wildlife sanctuaries near you, thanks to the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. 

Hang bird feeders.

If you don’t have a yard or garden, one way you can make your space animal-friendly is by hanging bird feeders outside your apartment or porch. 

While bird feeders may just seem like an aesthetic decoration (or a selfish way to see new bird friends), ensuring birds have access to safe and readily available food and water can be instrumental to bird populations

Just make sure you keep these spaces clean, so as not to spread disease or illness among the birds! (And maybe pass on this option if you have outdoor cats.)

Help Animals in General

Opt for a plant-based diet.

If you’re not ready to fully choose a vegan or plant-based lifestyle, you can definitely still make conscious choices to reduce your meat, dairy, and egg consumption. 

Not only is reducing our meat consumption better for the environment, but it also helps reduce animal suffering and cruelty. 

Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of over 500 vegan grocery ideas to add to your list. Or… get some vegetarian fast food

Only shop cruelty-free products.

When you’re shopping for health and beauty, medical, or cleaning products, you’ll want to make sure you’re only picking up items that are certified as cruelty-free. These are products that do not test on animals, and they’re easily identifiable by a “Leaping Bunny” logo.

You can also search online to see if a brand or product is cruelty-free

Ditch the single-use plastics.

By now, we all know how single-use plastics have damaged our environment — especially the ocean. While the call to action has long been to “save the turtles,” we’ll save a lot of animals when we choose to use a more sustainable option. 

And you know what will save even more animals? Governments enforcing regulations about plastic use and disposal. 

Cut fur and animal textiles out of your fashion statements.

Though it’s become more rare thanks to regulations and initiatives to ban the use of animal furs and skins in clothing production, make sure you’re not shopping for any goods that are made with animal furs, skins, or feathers.

There are certainly other ethical options you can shop, like wool or alpaca textiles, since those are often distributed under much more strict regulations and considerations — and animals are not killed in the process of a seasonal shearing. 

Learn more about animal welfare through books and documentaries.

If you’re passionate about animals and want to know more about their welfare and protection, there are loads of books you can check out from your local library and documentaries you can stream. Here are just a few recommendations:

Books:

  • “In The Shadow of Man” by Jane Goodall 
  • “The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife” by Nancy Lawson 
  • “Wilding: Returning Nature to Our Farm” by Isabella Tree

Documentaries:

Call your representatives.

Whether you want to express your concerns about a new development that would harm wildlife habitats or implore an elected official to establish protections for certain species, calling your representatives is the first step. 

Help Your Own Pets

Spay and neuter your pets.

Not only is it better for their long-term health, but spaying and neutering your pets helps to combat overpopulation in shelters and communities. 

Affordable spay and neuter clinics are available at most shelters or community veterinarians, and this one-time cost will make a major impact on the life of your pets and others. 

Microchip and/or ID your pets.

ID tags and microchipping are vital steps to ensuring the safety of your pets. In the event that your pet gets lost, ID tags and microchips make it much easier for a shelter to help your beloved friend find their way home. 

Plus, there are some darn cute dog tags out there these days.

Ensure your pets are up-to-date on their vaccinations.

Another public safety concern, it’s important to make sure that your pets have all of their necessary vaccinations to keep them — and all of their fellow furry friends — safe. 

Similar to spaying and neutering, many shelters and vets offer low-cost vaccination clinics a few times a year. Look for some in your area!

Prepare a disaster kit.

As much as we hope disaster will never strike, it’s important to have an emergency response plan in place in the event of a crisis. Whether a climate disaster, illness, or accident, you’ll want to be able to quickly gather your pet(s) and their things when evacuating your home.

Have a plan in place, as well as an emergency pet kit with all of your beloved companion’s essentials. This might include:

  • First aid supplies
  • Food and water
  • Bowls
  • Collar with ID tags
  • Veterinary records
  • Medications or prescriptions
  • Care instructions and emergency contact information
  • Leash and other walking supplies
  • A crate or carrier

Plan for the future.

Not only is it important to plan for crises, but it’s also important to plan for the unimaginable. We know, it’s tough to think about, but you’ll feel a lot better knowing your best friend will be in good hands.

First, you’ll want to have a “safe haven plan” in the event that you need to evacuate or become incapacitated and need help caring for your pet. Consider who will take care of your pet or where they can be boarded (like local vet’s offices or daycare facilities), or if there are hotels within your region that are pet-friendly. 

You may also want to consider a pet trust or pet protection agreement that declares who will be responsible for your pet in the event that you become incapacitated or deceased. This ensures that your pet goes to a loving home and is not taken to a shelter or euthanized. 

Opt for safe and eco-friendly toys and pet products.

Your pets deserve products that are safe for their health — and their environment. Look for items that do not contain any harmful chemicals or ingredients and are durable and well-made.

To help you out, we’ve compiled a guide to our favorite sustainable pet products — and our favorite gifts for animal lovers!

Keep the planet clean for your pets.

While you should always clean up your dog doo, it’s also important to make sure the world around you is clean for your pets!

Pick up litter on your walks, remove harmful chemicals or items from your home and yard, and do your part to make the world safer and more inhabitable for all our animal friends.

Article Details

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