Be a champion for the underdogs: 12 tips for helping homeless pets, rescues and shelters

We love, cuddle, care for and even spoil our furkids. But all across America, staggering numbers of healthy, adoptable cats and dogs are living out very different lives than our beloved pets. Ultimately, many of these homeless pets are meeting tragic ends, often in astounding numbers. 

Every one of those animals has a unique story; however, there are really only two main reasons pets end up in shelters: their people surrender them because they are unable or unwilling to care for them anymore, or they are strays that are picked up by animal control.

The vast majority of the animals turned over to animal shelters have not been spayed or neutered. Lack of spaying and neutering directly contributes to overpopulation, which leads to high shelter intake, overcrowded shelters and high euthanasia rates.

Not only are these statistics tragic – they’re largely avoidable. There are many ways in which animal lovers can help reduce the number of pets that may become homeless or end up in shelters.

1. Donate to a remarkable rescue

Animal shelters are not the only game in town. Breed or issue-specific groups that rescue dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and other small pets need support as well. By offering funding, you can help homeless pets by providing them with necessary veterinary care and supplies. This is an especially meaningful option for those who love a specific breed of animal, or have a favorite animal other than a dog or cat that they would love to support.

2. Tap into your skill set

There are so many ways you can use your specific skills to help overburdened shelters. Are you a persuasive people-person? Organize a fundraiser, or gather family and friends and ask if they’d like to be part of a pet shelter outreach project. Are you a dog whisperer? Offer to play with the pooches and take them for walks. Handy with tools? Offer to be the resident handy helper and take care of small repairs. Great at copywriting or graphic arts? Help create professional marketing materials. Assess your skills and then ask your local shelter how you can put those skills to work.

3. Foster a homeless pet

Aside from offering funds and skills to help animals, you can offer up your home! Becoming a foster parent to a shelter pet is the most hands-on way to help. Fostering animals helps them socialize and receive love and care before finding a forever home. What’s more, becoming a foster pet parent will lead to fewer pets at the shelters, which means fewer shelter pets being euthanized.

4. Be a champion for lost pets

If you come across a lost pet, try helping him make his way home before calling animal control. Create posts on neighborhood social media pages, take him to a vet to see if he’s been microchipped, and/or start an old-fashioned boots-on-the ground effort to find his pet parent. With a little extra effort, fewer lost animals will risk never seeing home again. 

5. Volunteer at shelters and adoption events

A lot of work goes into making off-site pet adoption events and programs a success. Adoption agencies need to form partnerships with organizations, mobilize the community, and organize individual events. Help is always welcomed and appreciated, and volunteers like you can make all the difference when it comes to helping homeless pets find their forever families. Likewise, shelters can always use a few extra hands when it comes to caring for the animals in their care. Volunteer your time to pitch in and help when you can!

6. Choose to adopt rather than shop

Adopting is a wonderful way to give an unwanted animal hope, a future and a chance to be part of a forever family. Adopting even one pet helps to relieve the burden placed on overcrowded shelters. And, adopting isn’t just about helping animals in need –  pets bought from pet stores often have health issues, ranging from mild to serious, which can result in suffering or even death for the affected animals. Save healthy shelter animals by choosing to adopt, not shop!

7. Take a stand against irresponsible breeding

You can also support the “adopt-don’t-shop” effort by standing up to irresponsible breeders who breed and contain animals in dirty, dangerous and crowded conditions with little regard for their health and safety. 

When you support anti-puppy mill initiatives, you are taking a direct stand against animal cruelty. Say no to this terrible industry by refusing to buy animals from pet stores, filing complaints with the Humane Society about puppies bred in poor conditions, contacting your legislators about animal cruelty laws, and/or partaking in protests held by local anti-puppy mill groups.

8. Don’t forget the cats

We love kitties, as evidenced by the vast popularity of cat videos we love to watch. But shelter cats are in even more peril than dogs. To help stray, feral and surrendered cats in shelters, donate cat toys, food, and supplies, and volunteer to cuddle and play with shelter kitties. Join a local cat initiative to promote trap-neuter-return (TNR) for feral cats, and be a responsible pet parent by microchipping and spaying or neutering your pets. 

9. Do your part by spaying and neutering

The homeless pet population can be significantly reduced simply by having your adopted pets spayed or neutered. Not only is this a proven way to help curb overpopulation, but fewer animals will accidentally be born, only to end up at animal shelters. Spaying and neutering can help ensure that all pets have families to love them. If you are already being responsible by ensuring your furry companions are spayed and neutered, then consider supporting your local spay and neuter initiatives by volunteering, raising awareness, recommending low-cost options, or simply by donating much-needed funds.

10. Be on the lookout

Keep an eye out for wandering pets. Lost and stray pets can easily become scared, and will often run away from help. Unfortunately, they may end up mating with other lost or stray animals, which contributes to even more pet homelessness. If you are unable to find a pet’s parents by yourself, or if an animal seems threatening and you feel safer by staying away, then be sure to make a report to animal control.

11. Take responsibility

Be part of the solution by being a responsible pet parent. Make a plan to microchip your companions, spay or neuter them, keep their pet identification tags updated, and choose to adopt a pet if and only if you plan to care for him for his entire life.

12. Give a shout out to the volunteers

Shelter and rescue workers are often overworked and overwhelmed, but they still tirelessly advocate for the health and well-being of animals. Show them some appreciation by writing thank you notes, sending cards with encouraging messages, or sending baked goods or gift cards for coffee shops or restaurants.

Become part of the solution and not part of the problem. By taking part in just a few of these tips, you’ll make a huge step toward reducing the number of homeless pets and increasing the number of pets who have forever homes.

About TripsWithPets

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