Skip to main content

5 great ways you can help homeless animals

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), an estimated 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. shelters every year, and of those, approximately 1.5 million are euthanized. That’s heartbreaking. On International Homeless Animals Day, which falls every year on the third Saturday in August, animal shelters, rescue groups, and animal welfare organizations worldwide work together to spread awareness about pet overpopulation. Following are five great ways you can help homeless animals.

Adopt, don’t shop

If you’re thinking about adding a pet to your family, choose adoption over buying from a breeder or pet store. You’ll find rescue groups for just about any type of pet. And if you’re looking for a purebred dog, remember that there are dogs of every breed available for adoption. The American Kennel Club Rescue Network offers a list of breed rescues throughout the country. Petfinder, an online searchable database of animals in need of homes, is another great place to look for adoptable pets. The site features a wide variety of pets, including dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, birds, horses, and barnyard animals. Here are just a few great reasons to adopt a pet.

  • The best reason is that you’ll be saving a life. According to the Humane Society of the United States, the number of euthanized animals could be reduced dramatically if more people adopted pets instead of buying them.
  • Animal shelters and rescue groups have happy, healthy pets just waiting to share their love with forever families. Many are housebroken, know basic commands, and make wonderful companions.
  • Typically shelters and rescues include the cost of spaying or neutering and first vaccinations in the adoption fee. This is a lot less than what you would pay for these services if you purchase your pet from a breeder or pet store.
Family meeting shelter dog.

Foster a homeless animal

Maybe you’re not in a position to adopt a new pet but could offer a temporary home while a dog or cat is waiting for a new family. Fostering is a wonderful way to give homeless animals a break from the shelter while also helping to socialize them in a home environment. It also frees up space for shelters to take in more animals. Fostering is especially important during kitten season, the annual high-breeding period that runs through spring and summer. The ASPCA estimates that one foster home could potentially help 20 kittens in a single season. Many breed rescue groups operate without shelter facilities and couldn’t save lives without the help of foster families.

Spay or neuter your pet

Many families opt to let their dogs or cats have “just one litter” before having them spayed or neutered. Some say they just want their dogs to have the experience, while others believe it’s healthier for their pet. Even if you think you have homes lined up for the pups or kittens, breeding your pet contributes to the pet overpopulation problem. It’s important to remember that each home where you place a pup or kitten is one less home for a shelter pet. There are also health benefits for your pet when you get them fixed. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, early spaying of female dogs and cats can help protect them from some serious health problems later in life, such as uterine infections and breast cancer. Neutering your male pet can also lessen his risk of developing benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate gland) and testicular cancer.

Volunteer at a local shelter

Animal shelters and rescue groups are always in need of volunteers. Opportunities include walking dogs, cleaning kennels, socializing cats, cleaning litter boxes, helping with office work, gardening, and assisting with fundraisers. Those who prefer to volunteer remotely can help with social media posts, newsletters, or writing pet profiles. Many shelters welcome volunteers who can commit once in a while: for example, helping out at off-site adoption events. Volunteering at shelters is a great way to teach children about helping animals. There may be age restrictions, so check with your local shelter to see if your child can get involved.

Male volunteer socializing shelter dog. i

Make a donation

Animal shelters and rescues rely on monetary donations to save lives and care for homeless animals. Donations help in the cost of running the shelter, including animal food, staff training, upgrades to buildings, veterinary care, community outreach, and animal enrichment programs. Many shelters ask supporters to sponsor special-needs animals to help cover the cost of expensive health care. In addition to financial support, check out your local shelter’s wish list and send or drop off some of the much-needed supplies.

If you don’t have time to volunteer and you cannot afford to donate right now, you can still help homeless animals. According to the ASPCA, rescue groups believe that social media is invaluable in finding new homes for the animals in their care. You can help by following your local shelter on social media and sharing posts of homeless pets. The more exposure these animals get, the sooner they will be living happily in forever homes.

Editors' Recommendations

Vera Lawlor
Vera was the pet columnist for 201 Family magazine and has contributed pet and animal welfare articles to Bone-A-Fide Mutts…
Looking for a fluffy and affectionate pup? Give the American Eskimo dog a try
Considering a spitz? Take a look at the American Eskimo dog
American Eskimo dog smiling at the camera

At first glance, you might confuse an American Eskimo dog with a shih tzu or even a Pomeranian. Or you might mix them up with the Canadian Eskimo dog, a 4,000-year-old animal that's native to America and was bred by the Inuit to pull sleds. But the American Eskimo dog (or Eskie) is a totally separate breed that's both beautiful and family-friendly. While no dog is right for everyone, you should consider this beastie if you want a unique and lovable pup. They might be exactly what your home needs to become complete.
Where does the American Eskimo dog come from?
Don't be fooled by the name, this pup came about in the 1800s and was bred by German immigrants as a farm dog. That means it's one of many spitz dogs, which also includes the malamute, Icelandic sheepdog, and Samoyed. The name was changed because of anti-German sentiments around World War I. Interestingly, this was a very popular show dog, and many performed in the circus and on stage! If you do wind up adopting an Eskie, you could get a regular old diva.
What is this breed like?
These fluffy friends can stay as small as 6 pounds in the toy size or up to 35 pounds, which can be standard, but they all have huge personalities regardless of stature. Because the American Eskimo dog was a working breed, they need a lot more exercise than you'd think just by looking. But they're highly trainable, loving toward people, and very energetic, so you should have no problem taking them on walks and to outdoor gatherings. If your routine already includes hikes or even strolls, the American Eskimo dog might be your perfect companion.

Who should get an Eskie?
This is a family dog through and through. Eskies require a lot of interaction and love — they sometimes misbehave if not given enough attention, which could include chewing up your favorite furniture or barking incessantly at seemingly nothing. That means you want to think carefully before committing to them, as you would with any pup.

Read more
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