By Tatiana Garrett
Animal lovers know that adoptions save lives. But what if you love animals and are allergic or simply cannot take anymore in at the moment? Here are 15 easy ways to help animals.
1. Post. Social media is a great way to spread the word about animal issues. Repost an article that you believe in (like this one!), share an invite for a pet-related event, or post photos of adoptable animals. You never know who may log in, see the call, and help.
2. Collect. Hold an item drive for your local shelter or just collect the items in your own household. Shelters are always in need and some of the items are things you may just throw away: Towels (pets don’t care if it looks a little worn), newspaper, and unopened pet food and toys. Even used cell phones are popular items because many nonprofit organizations participate in technology recycling programs that also act as fundraisers. Check with the shelter first to see exactly what is on their wish list.
3. Film. If you are a gifted photographer or videographer, you could volunteer at your local shelter to capture great images and video stories of animals. A pet may sit in a shelter for months (especially if they are a little older and get passed by for kittens/puppies), but once the public sees his/her personal story people may flock in to offer a loving forever home.
4. Speak-Up. Public perceptions can be a huge problem for animals. Someone may hesitate to adopt a cat for fear of being labeled a “crazy cat person” or someone else may not adopt a Pit Bull because of a misconception. Speak up for animals without a voice and herald the benefits of adoption, breeds you love, and the human-animal bond. If you change someone’s mind, it may save a life.
5. Clean. From scrubbing kennels to collating documents to washing pooches…shelters can always use a helping hand. Know that every shelter is different though and some larger urban facilities may have hundreds of volunteers and require some form of a training procedure for volunteers in any role.
6. Foster. There are many reasons to foster a pet. Some animal rescue groups are so small that they don’t have a physical space. Instead, they rely on a network of foster volunteers. Other times, people foster for a shelter and provide temporary housing for an animal that is too young or ill to be placed up for adoption. It’s a wonderful and rewarding way to help out.
7. Plant. Have a green thumb? Volunteer to do some gardening at your local shelter. If the shelter doesn’t have an outdoor space, they may still welcome small indoor pots for home-grown catnip. If wildlife is more your thing, you could volunteer for a local park to clear invasive species or help with plantings. You could even just plant local vegetation in your own backyard.
8. Socialize. Shelters are meant to be temporary places for animals to live until they find a warm and loving forever home. The environment has to be safe and easy to clean to cut down on disease transmission among animals—this can translate to loud and scary environments for pets. I work at a large shelter in Chicago and know many volunteers who come by on their lunch break to sit with a kitty or walk a dog. Socialization will help animals be less stressed while in the shelter environment, and allowing them to have a calmer demeanor can lead to a speedy adoption.
9. Give. Everyone has something to give: A helping hand, a disposable camera that a Humane Investigator could use, etc. And every shelter can always use funds. Know that adoption fees do not cover the costs of what it takes to care for the animals—shelters need your donations. Peruse the website of your favorite local shelter or ask someone in their Development/Administration department about what you may be able to give.
10. Trap. Cats should be kept indoors to keep them safe from traffic, disease, wildlife, and other potential hazards. Many cities have feral cat populations and if you have property that these cats visit, you may find a local trap-neuter-release (TNR) program that will help you spay and neuter the cats to prevent future generations.
11. Bake. Retro is in! Host a bake sale or lemonade stand (work with your church, school, or scout troop to increase your impact) and donate the funds to your local shelter.
12. Build. A Champaign County Humane Investigator told me about Eagle Scouts that built some amazing dog houses. The local Humane Investigators were then able to give the houses to dogs in need. We’ve repeated the program in Chicago. Even a carpentry project can help animals!
13. Craft. The shelter I work at in Chicago, The Anti-Cruelty Society, has a volunteer club called “Busy Fingers” that meets to sew cat and dog beds and dog bandanas for animals in the shelter. You can find instructions here on how to make items that you can donate to your local shelter.
14. Run. Coordinate a sporting event and collect pledges to support the animals. Check in with your favorite shelter because they may already have a fun event that you can join, and you may even be able to participate with your dog.
15. Think. This list can go on and on. Whatever your skill set may be; everyone can make a difference for animals.
There is no excuse to not take action for animals. What will you do today?
Tatiana Garrett grew up with Borzoi, a rescued Standard Poodle, cats, hamsters, parrots, rabbits, guinea pigs, and an iguana… just to name a few pets. She began her professional career with animals in 1995 at Brookfield Zoo. She has studied wild dolphins in Australia and rescued wildlife in Florida, but people are truly at the heart of her work. If it walks, hops, or slithers, Tatiana cares about it. She currently oversees the Humane Education programs at The Anti-Cruelty Society and hosts “Chicago Tails” on Watch312.com.