As the day gets chillier and the leaves on the trees turn yellow, animal shelters all over the country are gearing up for the busy season. Autumn is the time when they start expecting more animals to be rescued and surrendered, and there is much to prepare.

As the enclosures fill up, the need for pet food and supplies grows. There are more funds to raise, cages to clean, bowls to fill up, and dogs to play with. The animal shelter workforce is usually lean, so they’ll need all the help they can get.

This is where you can come in! There are so many ways to help animal shelters . No matter if your home is big or small, if your bank account is empty or full, as long as you have a soft spot for animals, there is always something you can do to help! 

Volunteer at the shelter

If you’ve got a couple of hours a week to spare, you can volunteer at the animal shelter. From taking inventory of supplies to cleaning enclosures to giving dogs a bath, it’s a flurry of activity to keep you busy. 

Before the winter sets in, the shelter will likely need people to take the dogs out for walks or playtime. Imagine helping out a cause while playing with dogs at the same time!

If you know how to drive and can offer your car, you can also volunteer to help transport dogs to the vets or other places they need to go. You can also help animal shelters by picking up heavy bags of dog food and other supplies.

These are all typical volunteer tasks for animal rescue, but if you want to do something unique, feel free to ask them if they’re in need of your talents. If you love photography, offer to take creative pictures of the animals for their adoption profiles. If you’re into social media, ask if they need help managing their accounts to getmore traffic to their page. If you like to sew, offer to mend damaged towels, blankets, or dog toys. Whatever you’re good at or enjoy doing, you can translate into a service to help the animal shelter.

How to donate to animal shelters Most animal shelters rely on donations of cash and supplies to keep operating at capacity. Whether you can spare $10 or $100, you can be sure that your donation will be appreciated. 

These usually go to dog food, medicines, cleaning tools, shelter bills, and other recurring expenses. In the time of COVID, shelters need to set aside a budget for face masks, face shields, alcohol, sanitizers, and other cleaning supplies to keep things virus-free. Experts say that the spread may get worse during fall and winter, so your donation could help keep shelter staff safe as they work to save animals during a pandemic.

In-kind donations are in demand too. Aside from personal protective equipment and cleaning materials for the staff, there are a lot of things they need in constant supply at the shelter. Old towels that they can use to dry off dogs after a bath, tennis balls to play fetch with, knitted blankets to keep them warm when winter comes, additional leashes, harnesses and bowls for newly surrendered animals--the list could go on.

You can ask your local shelter for what they need the most, but two things that will never go out of style are food and treats. You can donate Open Farm’s dry dog and cat food to help get rescued animals back on their feet with delicious nutrient-dense, ethically-sourced, antibiotic- and hormone-free kibble. 

Open Farm’s healthy and yummy training treats are sure to be big hits at the shelter. Staff and volunteers can use these to keep the dogs busy while stuck indoors during the winter. Learning a couple of tricks  will also help them gain brownie points from potential adopters!

Share adoption profiles on social media

While you may not be able to adopt, you might know someone who would be. Local shelters post profiles of the animals who are up for adoption, and you might be the link between an animal and her furever home. Every time you repost on social media, you not only increase the chances of getting a dog or cat adopted out, you also decongest the shelter to allow other animals to get rescued.

Aside from adoption profiles, share other shelter announcements. You can help raise awareness about the value of responsible pet ownership, about the opportunities for rescuing an abused animal, about the benefits of spaying and neutering.

Your local shelter may be doing callouts for donation drives or volunteers. In the time it takes to make a few clicks, you might be able to help them get another day’s worth of supplies or a couple of extra hands for their daily operations.

Become a Foster Parent

If you have the time and space to take in a rescue, consider this option. Many shelters have an arrangement wherein they take care of the vet bills and food, while the foster fur parents provide the space and playtime. Check your local shelter to find out how their program works.

Fostering an animal helps decongest shelters, allowing them to take in more rescues. Providing a safe and warm home during the winter months can help socially rehabilitate an animal. 

Choose this option only if you are ready for the rollercoaster of emotions when your foster gets adopted out. There will be the pain of missing them, but also happiness in knowing they found their furever family.

Consider adoption

If you are financially and emotionally prepared to provide a rescue animal with a home for life, congratulations. This is the biggest form of help to the community, and one that will change your life forever. 

If you’re interested in adopting, browse the adoption profiles to have an idea of which dog or cat you are eyeing. Visit the shelter and spend time with the animals you are drawn to, so you can see for yourself which one would be the best match for your temperament, lifestyle, and living conditions. 

By giving some of your time, talents, or resources to an animal shelter, you help the hardworking staff, the rescue animals, and yourself. In these difficult times when so little is under our control, you would be surprised at how empowering it is to help others.