When I mention that I volunteer for animal rescues, the most common response I get is something along the lines of, “That’s so great! I wish I had the time to do something like that.” Of course, sometimes this is just idle conversation, but many people don’t realize that even one hour each week can save lives. If you’ve got just one hour every week, or even every month, you can help homeless pets find homes. Here are ten ways to do so.
10. Pet Cats
One of the most fun volunteer jobs is also one of the most important: Cat petting! If you can spend an hour each week petting cats that are waiting for adoption at your local shelter, you can increase their chances of finding adoptive homes. Cages and noise are major stressors for cats. Calm, loving attention can combat that stress and make them friendlier toward potential adopters.
9. Data Entry
Okay, it’s not as much fun as petting cats or walking dogs, but spending one hour each week on data entry is something you can do even if you’re allergic to pets or need to volunteer from home. Start by picking a rescue you’d like to help, then call them up and ask if you can do some data entry work for them. You may need to attend an orientation or meet with a volunteer coordinator so that the rescue or shelter can get a feel for who you are before giving you potentially sensitive information to enter into the system. Data entry is a huge help to shelters, and volunteers willing to do it are worth their weight in gold, even if they can’t commit a great deal of time.
8. Walk in a Parade
If you’ve adopted a well-behaved dog from a shelter nearby, you might be able to have fun and raise awareness for the organization, with a minimal time commitment. Especially in the summer and during the holiday season, parades are everywhere. Call the shelter from which you adopted your dog and ask if you may walk in a local parade with your dog on their behalf. If you dress your dog up and wear a shirt with the rescue’s name and logo, you’ll catch parade-goers’ eyes and be able to answer questions from people thinking of adopting. Walking in a parade is a great way to meet families looking for dogs, and encourage them to check the shelter before buying a puppy.
7. Sponsor a Pet
It won’t even take you one hour each week to sponsor a needy pet. Most rescues offer programs through which a supporter can make a regularly scheduled donation to sponsor a particular pet until it is adopted. By becoming a sponsor, you not only financially support your shelter of choice, but also help the sponsored pet find a home. Pets that have sponsors are often more attractive to adopters, because there is a perception that a pet someone’s gone to the effort of sponsoring must be more desirable.
6. Give a Foster Home a Hand
Fostering shelter pets is simultaneously one of the most rewarding and most stressful types of volunteer work. If you can’t open your own home to a foster pet, but appreciate the work of those who do, contact your favorite rescue and offer to help with the foster program. You might be asked to pick up a dog being surrendered by an owner and deliver it to a foster home, or take a cat to a spaying appointment, or just walk someone else’s foster dog while the foster parent is ill. A helping hand goes a long way toward keeping foster homes in the program and preventing burnout.
5. Appreciate Shelter Staff
Working at a shelter is a tough and often thankless job. However, employees have a huge impact on adoptions, and the higher the staff’s morale, the more smoothly the shelter will run. Help keep employees’ spirits up by taking an hour once a week to drop by your favorite shelter with a treat for the staff. Baked goodies are always appreciated. Even a card saying “Thanks for helping the pets find homes” can make a huge difference to an overworked, stressed-out shelter employee.
4. Connect Dogs in Danger with Breed Rescues
If there’s a high-kill shelter in your area and you have one hour per week to visit it, you could save lives every single week. Politely find out what day euthanasia is usually performed, and plan to visit the shelter on the day before euthanasia day each week. Ask an employee to show you which dogs are out of time. If any are of a recognizable breed, call rescues in your state and possibly surrounding states to see if a rescue specializing in that breed can pull the dog from death row.
If you want to do this, start by finding someone else who has a similar routine, and shadow them a few times. Pulling dogs from shelters to rescue can be a very delicate situation. No shelter employee likes to feel like they’re being judged for the harsh realities with which they work, and if you’re too brusque with the wrong person, you may find the door suddenly is shut to rescues wishing to pull purebreds slated for euthanasia.
3. Write an Article
I’ve volunteered for shelters large and small, and rescues specializing in everything from horses to rats. One need they’ve all had in common: Good content for a newsletter! If you passed English 101 in college, you’re probably qualified to write an occasional newsletter article. A touching success story about an adopted pet is always nice, or you could offer to profile a special volunteer for each newsletter.
2. Help Plan a Fundraiser
Most medium to large rescues and shelters plan at least one raffle or silent auction fundraiser each year. These types of fundraisers can be highly successful, but they require a lot of work. If you know your favorite rescue group is planning a fundraiser like this, offer to spend an hour each week calling around to solicit donations of prizes. Most businesses will give at least a small donation in exchange for a little publicity and some good karma, and it takes very little time to round up a heap of great prizes.
1. Walk a Dog
It doesn’t take long to walk a dog, but a weekly walk could save a life. Many dogs develop problem behaviors when placed in a shelter environment. Exercise and individual attention go a long way to combat these issues. If you take the time to walk one dog each week at your local shelter, you could transform a bored, barking dog into one who politely pleads for attention and catches the eye of a family looking to adopt.