Skip to main content

Give back: 5 meaningful ways to volunteer at an animal shelter as a family

What could possibly feel more fun and rewarding than spending time with animals? Helping them, of course!

Many animal shelters, rescues, and sanctuaries across the globe rely on the kindness of volunteers to keep everything running smoothly, so if your family has any interest in becoming animal shelter volunteers — you should do it! Whether you accompany an interested child or want to find something you can all do together, you’d be surprised just how flexible and accommodating some organizations can be. Of course, safety comes first, so they’ll make sure you and your family aren’t in over your head if you decide to volunteer on-site.

Are there age restrictions for being an animal shelter volunteer?

Though the exact rules will vary from shelter to shelter, most have a minimum age requirement to work with the animals. This is out of concern for the safety of everyone involved, especially since many of the animals that arrive at rescues are in extreme distress already. Still, many organizations offer tandem volunteer positions where a parent and child can work together.

For example, the East Bay SPCA opens all volunteer positions to adults 18 and up, though teenagers aged 16 and 17 can also work independently with written permission from a parent or guardian. For those between the ages of 10 and 15, they will need to volunteer “under the supervision of a trained parent or guardian,” with one adult and one child working together.

Despite these limitations for on-location jobs, anyone can help a shelter or sanctuary regardless of their age or physical ability. With a little creativity and resourcefulness, even young kids can make a difference in the lives of rescue animals.

A girl in a neon yellow vest holds a small black dog

Ways to help an animal shelter as a child or family

If volunteering on-site isn’t in the cards for your family right now, try one of these simple yet rewarding ideas. This way, everyone can be involved!

1. Gather donations

Donation drives are some of the most commonly seen fundraisers, and they’re oh-so-easy to organize. All you’ll need to do is decide when and where to collect donations — and where you’ll store them until delivery, of course! Creating a flyer to hand out to friends, family, neighbors, and even schoolmates will help get the ball rolling, too. Whether you collect pet food, beds, toys, or even bags of kitty litter, your local shelter will be so grateful.

Oftentimes, rescues are in need of particular items, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask. This is great information to put on your flyer so folks know what kind of items to donate, too. There may be specific days and times you’ll need to drop off your donation haul, so get all the information you can before you begin!

2. DIY toys and blankets

If anyone in your family is particularly crafty, they’ll enjoy making toys and blankets for the shelter animals. One super easy DIY blanket can be made with nothing more than 2 pieces of fleece, some scissors, and a ruler (marking chalk can be helpful, too). Jodi from Kol’s Notes has wonderful step-by-step instructions to show you exactly how to measure, cut, and tie your blanket together. Even the kids can help!

If the blankets weren’t enough of a challenge, you can even make braided dog toys out of two or more old t-shirts. It’s just as simple to make as the blanket, though it may be a lot more fun for the shelter pups!

3. Host a fundraiser

If you don’t want or aren’t able to donate items to your local animal rescue, they will be equally as appreciative of monetary gifts. You’ll want to double-check with your intended recipient to find out how to give money, whether it be by check or electronically. How you go about fundraising is totally up to you!

For teenagers and adults who are active online, social media is a great way to fundraise. Facebook even lets users “host” a digital fundraiser on their birthday for the non-profit of their choosing—minimal work required. Apart from taking a few clicks to set up the fundraiser and share it on your account, there’s no work needed on your end.

4. Sponsor or foster an animal

If your family really wants to interact with animals but isn’t able to volunteer at a shelter, you can consider sponsoring, fostering, or even adopting a pet. Fostering and adoption are much larger commitments, though, so be sure everyone in your home is on board. Reach out to your local shelter to find out how to sponsor an animal and what exactly it entails; most frequently, your sponsorship donation will go toward that animal’s medical bills and adoption fees so their new owners can start loving on them right away.

5. Educate friends and family

Of course, the best way to spread the word about helping animals is by, well, spreading the word! That can look like a lot of different things, from posting flyers about an affordable spay/neuter clinic to sharing pictures of adoptable pets on social media. You never know what might make a difference in the life of an animal!

From cleaning kennels to walking dogs and even assisting at adoption events, there are so many ways you may be able to get involved. Don’t be afraid to ask your local rescue what kind of help they need and how you can get more information—you won’t want to wait!

Editors' Recommendations

Gabrielle LaFrank
Gabrielle LaFrank has written for sites such as Psych2Go, Elite Daily, and, currently, PawTracks. When she's not writing, you…
All about the incredible greyhound dog
Love the greyhound dog breed? Here's what to know about these canines
A greyhound on a fuzzy rug

The greyhound dog breed has a sweet but noble demeanor. These large-sized hounds are built for speed with a narrow, aerodynamic body perfect for running down prey. History traces these dogs back to ancient Egypt.

Today, the pups like to track down treats. However, the breed has been at the center of controversy -- through no fault of their own. Because of their speed, they’ve been used as race dogs, a practice now illegal in most states in the U.S.

Read more
Here are 60 cute dog names for every aesthetic: cottagecore, grunge, Y2K, and more
These unique dog names are inspired by aesthetics, like barbiecore
A corgi dog standing in front of a pink background looks up and to the side with big eyes

If you spend enough time on social media -- particularly sites like Tumblr, Pinterest, or TikTok -- you'll become at least somewhat familiar with "aesthetics." These are moods or styles that influence art, clothing and decor choices, and even what someone posts online. Any vibe can be an aesthetic if it drives your style choices, so why not let your favorite aesthetics inspire your new dog's name as well?
These canine monikers range from timeless to eccentric (and everything in between), but they all have one thing in common: They're all sure to put a smile on your face. Whether they remind you of something adorable, something nostalgic, or something totally epic, these cute dog names are the perfect wealth of information to start your search with.

Cottagecore dog names inspired by the cute, woodsy aesthetic that's trending right now
Of all the popular aesthetics on the internet right now, cottagecore is arguably the most popular. These vibes can be described as natural, romantic, and vintage -- and they're just about every gardener's dream come true. If you've ever imagined yourself tending a garden and knitting a sweater in the English countryside or foraging for mushrooms in the forest with your animal companion, this aesthetic might be for you.

Read more
These are the 10 most popular cat breeds, as counted by The Cat Fanciers’ Association
Here are the top 10 most popular cat breeds in the world
A Devon Rex cat is held up against a blue sky

The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) recognizes 46 different feline breeds, but not all of them can be the most popular. That's why the CFA took a look into its registries to determine the top 10 most popular cat breeds of 2022. It welcomes registrations from "nonstandard" and "non-pedigreed" cats as well, but those feline friends weren't included in this particular count.

Which types of cats do you think were the most popular in 2022? Whether you can list off every breed or can't even name one, we guarantee there's at least one surprise on this list.

Read more