Do you have a passion for animals, and a drive to make the world a better place? Around 6.5 million animals are put into shelters in the United States every single year. Beyond that, there are approximately 70 million stray animals in the country. This means that around 92% of homeless animals stay homeless. Moreover, only about 3 million animals are adopted each year from shelters.
What this means is that our shelters, pounds, and animal population is overflowing. Shelters and pounds are often understaffed and overwhelmed. Beyond that, more and more people are surrendering their pets to shelters because they’re unable to care for them. Vet clinics can struggle to keep up with demand.
There’s a clear need for volunteers to help with this crisis. From care, food, homes, and more, there are several ways to get involved. If you love animals and want to volunteer your time, it can be challenging knowing where to begin. Here are four terrific ways to make a difference in the lives of animals in the United States.
Volunteer at a Shelter or Vet
The most straightforward way to volunteer is to get connected with your local animal shelter, pound, or vet clinic. These places often have volunteer positions open and are eager to have the help. While you might think that volunteering is just walking dogs and snuggling cats, there are several ways to volunteer your time to help an animal shelter, pound, or vet.
Help with the Cleaning – Things get messy when animals are involved. From cleaning kennels to laundering bedding, there are several ways to help shelters keep things clean and running smoothly.
Take Photos and Get Social – These pets need homes. You can volunteer your time by taking quality pictures of them to help potential new owners see what pets are available (and how cute they are). Then, use your social media or marketing skills to get the word out and help these animals find their forever homes.
Be a Greeter – Remember how overworked shelters, pounds, and vets are? They often don’t have adequate staff available to tend to the animals and maintain the front desk. When visitors come to look for a new pet, it can be overwhelming if no one’s there to meet with them and walk them through the shelter. You volunteer your time to make sure potential pet owners aren’t scared away by a lack of guidance.
Help with General Care – You can also help with feeding, bathing, walking, playtime, and more. These animals require lots of care, and volunteers go a long way at ensuring each animal gets the attention and love they deserve.
These are just some of the different ways to volunteer your time at a shelter, pound, or vet. Visit your local shelter and see how you can best help their organization.
Help Existing Pet Owners
Many animals in shelters were put there by their owners. Owner surrender is a real problem. A lot of times, these owners don’t want to give up their pet, but there’s something that caused them to be unable to care for them any longer.
Sometimes these owners are elderly and can no longer play with the animals. Sometimes they grew larger than expected, and they need more space to run and play. Sometimes there’s a training or behavior issue that the owner can’t handle anymore. Other times owners have to move and can’t take their pet with them. Life happens, and these owners didn’t get their pet with the intention of surrendering them.
You can volunteer your time to helping these owners keep their pets. Offer to walk, care for, and play with animals if the owners aren’t able. If there’s a training issue, and you’re adept, help the owner train them. If not, consider donating the funds to hire a trainer. If owners are temporarily displaced from their home, offer to keep the pet until they stabilize.
If this type of volunteering interests you, keep your ears on the ground for neighbors, friends, and people in your community who are looking to put their dogs in shelters. Or, consider meeting people at the shelter to see if you can find a solution to help them keep their pets.
These animals need things to survive. From food, to toys, to kennels and beds, shelters need donations. If you don’t have the money to buy these items outright, consider running a food drive or donation event. Get the community involved and work together to gather items to take to your local shelter.
If you don’t have the time to run a community event, get creative. Browse Craigslist and trading posts, because people often give away pet items for free. Volunteer your time, by being on the lookout for free or cheap items. If you can sew, you can even make beds and toys.
It’s also helpful to call your local organizations and see what they need. Needs vary by organization, so you don’t want to gather a bunch of items that they don’t need.
Foster, or Get Involved with Fostering
If it’s within your means, fostering animals is one of the most significant ways you can volunteer and help. When you foster, you care for the animals in your home and help them find their forever home. You’re a safe and temporary solution to helping these animals stay out of shelters and avoid being euthanized.
Sometimes it’s not possible to foster because you have pets of your own, family members with allergies, or you don’t have the time. However, you can still help the fostering community out.
Offer to drive foster pets to and from their foster houses. Help encourage others to look into fostering. Help fostered pets find forever homes by taking pictures and sharing them on social media or with local news outlets. Even if you can’t foster yourself, you can find ways to help those who do continue to do so.
Start Volunteering Today
There are numerous ways to help the animals in your community. Call up your local shelter, talk to your neighbors, organize events, or consider fostering. Get creative and think about other solutions to help the animals in your area.
With a little ingenuity, time, and compassion, you can make a significant impact on the lives of the animals in your area.