In a perfect world, every animal would have a home with a loving family to protect and dote on him. The sad reality is that the world isn’t perfect, and there are countless creatures wandering the streets and stuck in shelters waiting for the chance to be saved.
Here is the good news, though: there is a lot we can all do to help. Volunteering at a local animal rescue organization is a wonderful way to lend a hand, but many people don’t have that option, whether due to a disability, a lack of time or transportation, or even their location. However, you don’t have to leave the house to make a difference. Here are a few ways to help the homeless pets in your community — and beyond — right from home.
Adopt, don’t shop
Naturally, adopting is the number-one way you can help save homeless pets. Making a stray a permanent part of your family will actually save countless lives. After all, when you bring an animal into your home, you make room for another creature in need to be taken in by the shelter or animal rescue organization you adopt from. There are many ways to adopt in addition to working with your local nonprofit. Many pet shops now work exclusively with rescue pets rather than those from breeders. There are breed-specific organizations all over the country, and many proud pet parents pulled their fur babies right off the streets. No matter what critter you have your heart set on, there is a way to bring one home without going to a breeder. Petfinder is a great online resource for finding adoptable pets.
Foster pet parents are critical in saving homeless pets. If you can provide a safe haven to animals for the short term — usually ranging from a few weeks to a few months — you’ll make room for another animal to be taken in. Animal-based organizations are willing to accommodate your schedule and other unique needs however you need them to. If you’re going on vacation, for example, they can find care for your foster pet while you’re away, or they can make you their go-to for reptiles and other hypoallergenic pets if you have allergies. If you’re still not convinced, know that caring for a foster pet is completely covered by the organization you work with, from food to toys to veterinary care.
Temporarily bring in a stray if at all possible
You obviously need to practice safety first, but if you’re able to, bringing in a lost pet you see in your neighborhood and tracking down the owners on your own leaves a spot open at the shelter for another homeless pet. If he isn’t wearing a license with contact information, try to find a way to go to a vet’s office, where he can be scanned for a microchip containing current contact information; vets usually do this for free. As a last resort, you can take him to the shelter (or call animal control to take him there for you), where he will be kept for a holding period that allows the owner time to claim him. After that, he will be put up for adoption.
If you find one or more animals that are clearly strays or have obviously been abandoned — such as a litter of kittens — you can get him to the shelter or adopt on the spot. If you decide to give him a forever home (way to go!), be sure to take him to the vet for a health check as soon as possible.
Call animal control if you see a homeless pet
Animal control will pick up lost and homeless animals if you give them a call. You’ll need to report exactly where the animal is and his condition, if possible. They’ll respond more quickly if an animal is injured and/or aggressive, and they’ll respond as immediately as possible if he appears to be in danger or is putting a human in danger.
Donate to charity
Donating money online may not seem very personal, but it’s truly a meaningful way to make a difference. While it’s wonderful to donate to major animal welfare groups that operate all over the country, don’t disregard donating to local organizations. Local societies are just as in need of funding, and no amount is too small. You can also set up monthly donations or even sponsor an individual pet with special needs or high vet bills.
In addition to money, you can also give needed supplies to your favorite animal-based charity. If you’re unable to drop off your donation, you may be able to schedule a volunteer to come pick them up.
If you donate to a large group — especially one you’re not familiar with — consider checking its credibility on Charity Navigator. You can also visit the organization’s site to learn about how it uses donated funds.
Start your own online fundraiser
Use a crowdfunding site to raise money for your favorite animal-focused organization. Occasions like your birthday, your wedding, or the holidays are all great opportunities to ask friends and family members to contribute to your cause. Similarly, if you run a business online, you can donate some of your proceeds to your favorite animal organization. As a bonus, dedicating some of your profits to saving animals is a great way to entice people to choose your store over other retailers.
Dedicate your garage sale to the dogs
Next time you host a garage sale, give some or all of your earnings to your local shelter.
Shoppers may feel inspired to give you additional donations with their purchases, and you can even run a collection drive for any visitors who want to contribute pet supplies.
Shelters and rescues always need warm blankets for the pets in their care. If you know how to sew, knit, crochet, or quilt, make blankets, pillows, or dog beds to donate. (Keep in mind that some shelters don’t accept these types of donations, so make sure yours does.) Similarly, if you’re a woodworker, contact your local rescue group to see if they need dog houses, cat condos, or other items built.
Use your computer skills
If you’re a whiz on the computer, volunteer to do computer-based projects for your local shelter or rescue. You can remotely help by working on:
- Website and graphic design
- Blog post writing
- Social media updates
Organize a neighborhood donations drive
Host a donations drive by collecting food and pet supplies from your neighbors. You can also collect monetary donations, but it’s usually best to request that people write checks made out directly to your charity of choice. This act of goodwill probably requires a trip to the shelter, but if you’re unable to drive, you can ask a neighbor who’s donated to give you a lift.
Shop at online retailers who give back
There are companies that help animals in need when you purchase certain items or during certain times of the year, while others steadily contribute to pet-based charities all year long. Check to see if your preferred retailers donate to these types of causes. (If they don’t, consider writing them a letter about why it’s a great way to make an impact!) For example, AmazonSmile allows you to contribute to several animal-based charities when making purchases on the site; all you have to do is select your charity, and eligible purchases will automatically direct donations to it.
Get your kids involved
Unfortunately, the problem of homeless animals won’t go away overnight. It’s critical to teach younger generations the importance of being kind to strays, so get your children involved in your efforts however you can. Find a way to make the issue relatable to them so they know why the work you’re doing is important. For example, telling them the story of how your beloved pet came from a bad situation before he found your family will help your little one understand why other critters need that kind of compassion.
In addition to involving them with any of your own projects, you can put together some kids-only activities, such as:
- Having a lemonade stand and donating the profits to your local rescue
- Making donation baskets
- Writing thank-you letters to shelter volunteers
Take care of your own pet
If your pet gets loose, there’s a chance he’ll end up at the shelter. Even if you’re contacted right away, the time spent getting him to safety is time that could have been put toward helping animals that don’t have homes. Don’t forget to have your pet spayed or neutered to help keep the pet population under control!
Advocate for animals every day
Simply spreading the message about how important it is to adopt animals and spay or neuter your pet can make a big difference. Inspire your friends and family by letting them know how passionate you are about saving homeless pets. You can also sign up for the ASPCA’s Advocacy Brigade, which will keep you up to date on nationwide and local legislation that needs your support.
When it comes to helping homeless pets, no act is insignificant. In order to save as many strays as possible, we all need to do our part, and there is a lot we can accomplish even from the comfort of home.