August brings International Homeless Dog Day—but every time of year is a good time to help homeless dogs. Each year, close to four million dogs will be taken in by animal shelters, and the numbers on the streets are even more staggering. While about half a million dogs are returned to their human companions, and approximately 1.4 million are adopted, 1.2 million dogs will be euthanized. Some quick math also reveals that this leaves about a million lonely canines in the shelter system.
With that in mind, we’re highlighting 15 ways to get involved helping homeless animals.
1. Educate Yourself About Homeless Pets
Whether it’s the staggering numbers regarding homeless animals (cats alone number close to 70 million, and dogs are indeterminate) or the extent of euthanasia due to overpopulation, take some time to digest the issue. You’ll be armed with the facts as you encourage others to get involved, or at least to spay and neuter their pets.
2. Consider Adopting a Homeless Dog
Obviously, adoption is a clear way to participate. When you adopt a dog from a shelter, you may be saving their life and freeing up space for another homeless rescue.
3. Become a Sponsor
You can’t take every dog home and big numbers and statistics can make your head spin. The next idea is simply to start small.
Many shelters offer sponsorships so you can take care of a single pet’s needs. Maybe it’s a dog with special needs or complications that make it hard to adopt. You can help cover the cost of food, medicine and more with monthly donations.
4. Provide Foster Care for Dogs
Many shelters also benefit from volunteers that will be foster families for pets. Learn more about fostering dogs here. If you can’t provide a forever home, fostering a dog also helps with shelter space and allows more time for a dog, cat, or other pet to find a match with a permanent human partner.
5. Volunteer for Pet Health
Volunteers are welcome! Dogs and other animals often feel lonely and neglected at shelters.
- Petting and comforting provides socialization.
- Grooming makes them more attractive for adoption.
- Walking dogs gets them some exercise and fresh air.
- Training helps them learn obedience and other skills.
6. Volunteer Unique Skills
Are you great with spreadsheets or perhaps with a camera? Shelters often run on a slim staff. You might help in ways that help increase animal health, care, and adoption prospects.
Lending administrative assistance or photo upgrades are only two potentially unique offerings. What are you good at and what does your local shelter need? There may be a match you haven’t considered.
7. Inspire Others to Volunteer
Anything you can do, you and ten other friends or co-workers can do better! Recruit others to get involved with your efforts.
Consider your areas of influence: place of work, neighbors, community center or churches. Who do you know that loves dogs, or other pets, or who will let you champion opportunities to help? Perhaps you know others with unique skills that could serve your local shelter.
8. Connect Kids with Dogs
Real, sustained change takes generations, and that means focusing on the next generation is almost more important than the current state of affairs.
Engaging boys and girls with DIY projects, supply drives, and day camps at your local shelter is a long term investment. The ASPCA offers a list of five ways kids can help homeless animals. You might even reach out to the school and inquire about a bake sale or fundraiser to help homeless pets.
9. Donate to Help Homeless Pets
If you’re upgrading your dog’s pet carrier, or just notice you’re throwing a lot of old newspaper into the recycle bin, you may have a lot to offer your local shelter.
An older crate, toys, old towels, chew toys, even old newspaper and other pet resources may be a great way to help. Call your local shelter and ask about supplies they need.
10. Organize a Drive for Homeless Dogs
You can create an event to fundraise, raise awareness, or create adoption opportunities outside the shelter. This could be a:
- Supply Drive: Ask for donations of food and pet supplies, perhaps near local stores.
- Adoption Drive: Work with a shelter to have an adoption event at a local park or well-trafficked area.
- Volunteer Drive: Host a booth at local festivals to raise awareness of opportunities for all of these kinds of ways to get involved.
11. Use Your Social Network
Sometimes the right picture of a caring canine on Facebook melts our hearts and the hearts of our friends. Network local animals up for adoption, and become a matchmaker for dog lovers and their new best friends.
12. Become a Collection Site
Many shelters can provide a donation box and information to collect change, supplies, etc. Inquire if your workplace, community center, club or religious organization can make this available in their lobby, the checkout area, or another convenient location. You may need to organize how donations get to the shelter as well.
13. Fund Rescue Groups
When shelter resources run low, rescue groups provide additional support for animals, whether it’s special needs or specific breeds.
Are you keen on a particular canine? One Green Planet provides some good connections for groups focused on special needs dogs, and demonstrates how specific these groups get with ideas for greyhounds and beagles. These groups fill the gaps and go the extra mile.
14. Start an Advocacy Brigade
Homeless animals need a voice in government and it’s up to people like us to bark loud enough for their needs to be heard.
Sign up for the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade so you can keep up to date on current legislative measures being taken that impact our beloved animals. This might be anti-cruelty laws or other issues, and you can be a part of the change happening in your hometown, state, and country.
15. Make a Lifelong Commitment to Dogs
Do all in your power to take good care of your dog and support local shelters.
With the above opportunities and more, you can create a positive impact, as well as inspire dog lovers everywhere to help homeless pets.
Travel plans? Next time you leave town, find a dog sitter who’ll treat your dog like family. Rover’s got you covered with loving dog sitters across the U.S. including Houston, TX, Tampa, FL, Portland, OR, Sacramento, CA, and your city.