The Human Society of the United States annually observes National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week during the first full week of November. This is a means of honoring and celebrating the immense importance and service that animal shelters–and their dedicated staff and volunteers–provide on behalf of the animal population in their communities.
Animal shelters are crucial resources for the communities (human and animal) they serve. In addition to providing a haven for animals (lost pets, strays, abandoned, and surrendered animals as well as sick or wounded wildlife), shelters also provide services such as reuniting lost pets with their families, investigating animal cruelty and neglect, teaching people to care about and for animals, and promoting spaying/neutering pets to reduce overpopulation.
Have you been to your municipal or county animal shelter? Now is a great opportunity to do so! Here is a short list of how else you can help your local animal shelter:
- Adopt your next pet from a shelter. Adopt, don’t shop! Interested in a particular breed or type of pet (personality, short-haired vs. long-haired, energy level, etc.)? All kinds of animals wind up in shelters and that includes both purebreds and mixed breeds. Shelter animals deserve loving homes. Even cats that wouldn’t be able to go into a typical home environment may be best suited in a barn cat colony; those animals need to be adopted too!
- Foster a shelter animal. By fostering, you can free up much needed space in a shelter, especially if it is prone to overcrowding. Being in a shelter is incredibly stressful and even traumatizing for many animals, and having the opportunity to go to someone’s loving home, even temporarily, is a welcome respite. Fostered animals get much needed socialization and love, which in turn makes them more highly adoptable.
- Become a fan of your local shelter on social media. Share their posts. Seriously! Use social media for the benefit of others. Shelter animals need all the help they can get to find their furever homes.
- Promote your shelter’s efforts on social media and by word of mouth. You’d be surprised how many people don’t know that their community has an animal shelter nearby.
- Volunteer. You can lend your services in a number of ways, such as (but not limited to) helping out adoption events, socializing and loving on animals, walking dogs, playing with cats, bottle feeding kittens or puppies, and photographing shelter animals. Volunteering is an immensely rewarding experience, an exceptional act of kindness, and a commendable way to give back to your community.
- Be a responsible pet owner. Spay/neuter your pets and make sure they are wearing proper ID. Ask your vet and your local animal shelter what else you can do to be a great pet owner (or pet parent, if you prefer)!
- Donate supplies. Do you have pet toys that your pet doesn’t use? Do you have old towels and blankets that you don’t need anymore? Consider giving these items to the animal shelter. Check with your local shelter to see specifically what they need.
- Join your local Animal Shelter Friends chapter. Friends chapters raise critical funding for shelters, including valuable resources to ensure the animals in their care are healthy and get the veterinary care they need. This medical care also includes foster animals. For example, when I fostered Garrus, the Friends paid for his much-needed dental surgery so he could eat without pain and become healthy again.
- Get the word out in your community. Do you have friends, family members, and/or colleagues who would be interested in becoming involved in or donating to a shelter? You can also team up with a school, camp, library, church, organization, or nonprofit to organize an animal shelter drive.
- Personally thank the incredible people who work at animal shelters. They work exceptionally hard. Appreciating what they do is one small way you can recognize that and give back to your community.