Have you ever watched a story on your local news about the discovery of an abused dog, or come across an article reporting how the local animal shelter is overflowing with unwanted kittens, and wondered how you could help? There’s no better time than right now to get in the giving spirit––here are three ways to get involved and make a difference:
1. Give your time
As spokeswoman for the SPCA of Wake County in Raleigh, North Carolina, Mondy Lamb’s workdays consist of educating others on the benefits of pet guardianship and helping prospective parents adopt new furry family members. When she discusses the nonprofit’s various programs and services aimed at finding decent, loving families for the nearly 200 dogs and cats available for adoption at her facility at any given time, she notes that it’s the volunteers that make it all possible.
“We couldn’t function without them,” she says, adding that of the approximately 600 people who volunteer at the SPCA annually, 200 are considered “very active.” The volunteers oversee specific tasks month in, month out, thereby freeing the paid staff to devote more time to other matters, like emergency care and assessing adoption applications. According to SPCA of Wake County volunteer director Jan Hill, volunteers walk dogs, give the animals baths, and yes, clean up a lot of poop.
To learn more about how you can help animals in your area, contact your local animal shelter and inquire about its volunteering programs. While some facilities require people to be a minimum age to volunteer, others encourage families to give their time and generosity together, so if you can, make it into a fun family activity.
Visit the TAILS Resource Database to find a shelter near you.
2. Give a home
Jennifer Bell knows all about fostering animals: Vice president of the all-volunteer Clear Creek County Animal Rescue League (CCCARL), located 20 minutes west of Denver, Bell assists in organizing fosters for the organization and is a pet foster parent herself. “Fostering makes me feel like I am making a difference in the world,” Bell says. She notes that nothing compares to the joy that overtakes her when she saves a dog from being euthanized at a local shelter. In any given year, her organization typically rescues 100 cats and more than 250 dogs.
To help decide if fostering is right for you, first consider how much time, energy, and money you can devote to caring for the pets you’ll bring into your home. For the time they are in your home, foster animals are just like any other pet, and they require the same level of care and responsibility. It’s also a good idea to take an inventory of your living area–do you have room for another pet (plus another pet bed, bowl, etc.)?
Do keep in mind that it’s easy to get attached to pets you foster, but a little sadness when it’s time for the pet to go to his or her new home is a fair tradeoff for knowing you did such a wonderful deed. While many animal agencies would love to have foster parents keep the animals they’ve taken in, some strongly discourage foster parents from adopting the pets. A woman representing an animal-rescue group in Columbus, Ohio, who asked to remain anonymous, says, “It’s too hard to find families to foster dogs, so we value each foster family a lot. We don’t want them to adopt the dogs and then quit fostering,” she says. Make sure you understand the rules and limitations associated with fostering before you take on the responsibility and the pet.
3. Give a donation or charitable gift
After Hurricane Sandy, animal lovers all over the world made a difference (and continue to make a difference) by donating aid to organizations caring for animals lost and/or suffering as a result of the storm. The donations have enabled rescue volunteers to save thousands of animals. Even in times of non-emergency, donating money, supplies, food, etc. to animal shelters and welfare organizations saves innumerable innocent lives.
The IRS requires nonprofits to make their financial records available to the public upon request, so if you’re nervous, you can always check to make sure your donation is being put to good use. It’s also a good idea to check the organization’s website to see how much of a donated dollar goes toward the group’s mission statement and what percentage of a donation pays other costs, such as rent for the organization’s offices. You can also visit a website like Guidestar.org, which gathers and publicizes research on nonprofits.
Whether donors give from their wallets or of their time, Jan Hill says she’s pleased. “We can’t buy the devotion of our volunteers, but we also can’t pay employees or buy medical supplies without donations.”
Looking to get involved, but still don’t know where to start? Visit VolunteerMatch.org to find a non-profit that works for you!