We've already discussed the two most obvious ways to help your animal shelter (the links open resources about each topic in a new tab):
Pet adoption is the best way to help animals, because living in a good home with a loving family gives them a sense of belonging.
Fostering takes second place, because it's the most effective way to prepare shelter animals for a transition to a forever home.
All of that said, not everybody can adopt or foster a pet (self included), and that's totally okay! Here are some other ideas.
Being in an animal shelter is a thousand times better than living on the streets. But it's still a scary place, especially for dogs used to the domestic life.
The barking never stops. You can't immediately go outside when you need to potty, so the kennel gets dirty and stinky. Trained dogs might "hold it" for half the day, which can't be comfortable, and wonder why nobody attends to their needs as quickly as they used to.
It's even worse for anxious and energetic dogs. Some dogs appear aggressive in their kennel, but it's just because they're nervous or have energy that needs to be expressed. After they spend a few minutes outside, they transform into a completely different dog. More "affectionate" than "aggressive."
This is why I participate in a Doggie Day Out program at my local animal shelter. Once or twice a week, I pick up a different dog and take them for a walk. If they're dog friendly, we go to a park. If they're not, we walk downtown or in a nice neighborhood with sidewalks, where we're less likely to encounter other dogs.
Most animal shelters have a program exactly like this. They might call it a different name but the details remain the same. All you have to do is fill out a form with some contact information and then you'll be able to take sweet shelter dogs on a fun field trip that helps them forget about all of their troubles for a few hours.
This point is an extension of the first one. If you're guilty of skimming (I usually am), read the text above first.
Done? Good deal. To maximize the impact of your Doggie Date or Doggie Day Out, document the trip with some pictures.
Have you ever noticed the most popular memes, photos, and videos online always involve pets? Use that fact to your advantage.
Write a status update containing the dog's age, name, and breed. Include relevant details such as how they do with kids, cats, and other dogs.
For best results, mention information about the dog's personality and past history, especially if there's a "sob story" involved (cue Sarah McLacchlan commercial).
The most common example is a dog who landed at the shelter because their owner passed away or went to a nursing home. I get 2-3 times as many shares on my doggo posts when this is true.
You'll need to make your status update public or nobody who isn't a friend will be able to see it. Don't worry, you can still restrict the visibility of everything else to friends only. We just want the dogs to get more attention.
Lastly, tag the shelter's Facebook page and share the post to local animal rescue groups. This step is the most important one. As soon as I added this tip to the mix, I began to reach thousands of people with every single post. If you live in the Tri-Cities of TN/VA like me and want to participate, join these groups:
-East TN Pets Who Need Homes
-Animal Lovers Group of Tennessee
-Appalachian Animal Rescue Coalition
-Saving Countless Animals by Sharing
-Tri-Cities Lost and Found Pets (TN/VA)
-Pets in Shelter, Stray Holds, Found Pets, and Adoptables (East Tennessee)
Note: if you don't have the time to visit an animal shelter because work is too hectic or you're never available during their operating hours, you can still help by engaging with content in groups like these, which leads to more people seeing the adoptable animals in their Facebook feed. All it takes is one click of the like button!
Personally, I enjoy taking a different dog out every time. But others prefer focusing on one dog at a time. Both approaches are acceptable and helpful.
If you focus on one dog at a time, you'll build a deep bond with them, and become a highly effective advocate since you'll know everything about them.
I should also specify you don't absolutely have to be social media savvy. My mother followed my example and volunteers at the shelter as often as I do.
She doesn't have a smartphone, computer, or any other device with Internet access. But she is still an animal lover and wants to help them however she can.
While her efforts don't directly translate into adoptions, she's made many dogs feel loved, and prefers giving one dog all her attention until they find a good home.
She takes them on a long drive and lets them stick their head out the window. They walk a few laps at the park (not many in summer as she can't handle the heat). And then she treats them to a cheeseburger or chicken nuggets.
More of a cat person? You can help, too. Cats are more content with the shelter life than dogs. They tend to be less energetic, so staying in a kennel isn't as bad.
That said, I can confirm the shelter cats appreciate your attention just as much as dogs. When I collect photos for the cats page on this website, I love on each feline for a few minutes. Some want to play. Others want to be held. Or they might just want to give you a "boop" on the forehead before they go back to sleep.
I'm a computer savvy writer and web developer who knows a thing or two about online marketing. Thus, I help shelter animals by promoting them on social media and building websites with content like this.
You might not know anything about business or computers. That's totally fine! It'd be super inefficient for everybody to help animal shelters in the exact same fashion. Focus on what makes you a unique and original individual.
Some folks are pro's at handling dogs. Not me. I can't even put a harness on correctly. So I select one animal for a Doggie Date, let shelter staff deal with the harness, and then take them on a trip. This is the most effective way for me to contribute.
Others are different (read: they aren't hopeless with harnesses). It makes more sense for them to stay at the shelter until they take every dog outside for a little while. The majority of shelters have a fenced-in area where you can play fetch or let the dog run around until they work off some energy.
Other volunteers are great at graphic design. So they produce graphics containing a pet's photo and key information about their personality. These visuals are more eye-catching than photos alone, as evidenced by the amount of likes and shares they typically generate on social media. Help the best way you know how.
Yesterday, Petworks Kingsport animal shelter had a big adoption event at Texas Roadhouse. Approximately ten pets got adopted within two to three hours.
Without a team of volunteers, this never would've happened. At least one person is needed to manage each animal. Otherwise, they might get loose and run away.
The more people involved with an event, the more dogs and cats can go. Ask your local animal shelter if they have an email newsletter or group chat for volunteers. This is the easiest way to plug-in and plan to attend events where you can make a difference.
Ready to volunteer for the cause of? Contact your local animal shelter today.