What would you do if you suddenly became a billionaire? If part of your answer is, “build a massive animal shelter” or “buy a huge house so I could have more pets,” you’re our kind of person.
Unfortunately, I just checked my bank account and there’s been no such mysterious windfall for me yet. I don’t, and probably never will, have enough money to do things like fund whole programs or new buildings or hefty vet bills for shelter animals. And no matter how true it is that even small monetary donations can make an impact, it’s easy to feel like there’s not much you can do for homeless animals unless you’re rich. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are a few things you can do to support shelters and rescues without spending a lot of money.
- Start at home. Take responsible, appropriate, and dedicated care of your own pets. Spay and neuter them, microchip them, and commit to them as family no matter what issues may arise. Do your research before deciding to get an animal and be realistic about what you’re able and willing to handle. Will you be committed to this cat even after you have a baby? Does “this dog is like my child” still apply when he’s big enough to counter surf and decides to purloin your entire dinner the second your back is turned? It may not seem like much, but the best way to help homeless animals is to keep your own pet from becoming one of them.
- Encourage your friends and family to do the same. Sometimes, all it takes to convince someone to spay/neuter or microchip their pet is a suggestion from a loved one and a little guidance on how to go about it. While these things might seem like an obvious priority for people who live and breathe animal rescue, for a lot of people, it’s something they just haven’t gotten around to doing or didn’t realize was an option.
- Talk to your friends and family about your plans for what might happen to your pets and theirs in the event of an emergency, major life change, or death. Discuss possibilities for temporary care, such as in the case of major surgery or temporary job or housing upheaval. Discuss permanent solutions in case you are unable to take the pet back. Lay out expectations. Are you hoping they will keep your pet for the rest of their lives or are you okay with them looking for a new home for them? Can you offer any kind of support, such as money for vet care? Talk to them about their pets as well: do your friends and loved ones have plans for their pets? Are you willing to commit to taking any of them? The time to discuss it is now, before it becomes an emergency. Sadly, we see situations like this occasionally.
- So let’s say your own pets are beautifully cared for and even listed in your will, but you want to do more for OTHER animals. Volunteer! Some shelters and rescues, such as Second Chance Ranch, are entirely volunteer-based and volunteers may be responsible for daily care and cleaning. Others, such as Open Door Animal Sanctuary, have a small staff who does most of the “dirty work,” but depends on volunteers to help with vital socialization, enrichment, and training. In fully foster-based rescues, volunteers who are unable to foster are invaluable in other roles, such as helping set up for adoption events, fundraising, social media, or transport.
- Put your own unique interests, skills, or job to good use for your favorite animal charity. Art pieces and handmade crafts make excellent auction or raffle items for fundraisers. Practical skills, such as auto repair or accounting, can be invaluable, especially to a small rescue. If you have connections through jobs, clubs, church, or social groups, use those! You may be able to collect items for fundraisers, host supply donation drives, or gather a group for a volunteer day. Or, if helping on an individual level is more your thing, spread the word about adoptable pets in your area! For a lot of pets, a signal boost is all they need to find their perfect home! Which brings us to…
- Interact with your favorite shelters and rescues on social media! This is absolutely free and takes almost no effort at all. Share, duet, or retweet and ask your friends to do the same. I know sharing stuff on Facebook seems like the kind of thing your aunt in Ohio does when she sees a meme about how things were better in her day, but it honestly does help. Think about it practically: the more people who see an animal, the more likely they are to find that one perfect person. This is especially true with hard-to-adopt animals. If their suitable home is one in a million, that just means you have to reach a million people.
- If you have the ability, foster! I can’t recommend fostering enough. It’s not a huge commitment- you can foster just once and then be done with it if it’s not for you. The rescue generally pays for food and veterinary care and provides essential supplies if needed, so it’s an excellent option if you’re not sure you can afford another pet. You get to meet a wide variety of animals and learn things about yourself and them that will never cease to surprise you.
It doesn’t take much to make a difference in the lives of homeless animals. You don’t have to be rich or special or born with some kind of super-powered heart. You just have to make the decision to do it!
We’re doing our part to help animals in shelters and in their homes! Did you know we have a senior support program? If you have a loved one who is struggling to care for their pets due to age or health concerns, give us a call or check out our services!
Janie founded 4-Legged Kids, Inc in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1997 and provides education through her PetBizHIVE podcast and her PetBizMBA membership and courses. She is a Certified Professional Animal Care Operator, Fear Free certified and a Certified Professional Pet Sitter. Learn more about the Founder, Janie Budnick.