7 Ways You Can Support Your Local Animal Shelter Without Spending a Dime

The first week of November is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week. If you want to celebrate but are unable to donate money to your local shelter, here are seven ways to show your appreciation (and you’ll likely be appreciated back).

1. Volunteer your time.

Animal shelters are often understaffed and can always use volunteers in various capacities. Just an hour or two of your time each week can really make a difference.

“Whether you walk dogs at your shelter, stuff envelopes for an educational mailing or assist with a fundraising event, you can make a difference in the lives of animals,” says the Humane Society of the United States.

To find out about volunteer opportunities, contact your local animal shelter or do a search on volunteermatch.org.

2. Foster a pet.

Pets have a much better chance of finding forever homes when they can be taken from scary shelters and placed in loving foster homes, where they learn basic obedience skills and good manners.

When you foster a cat, dog or other pet, you will provide love, care and attention for a certain period of time or until the pet is adopted. You also open up a space in the shelter for another homeless pet, possibly saving a life. Sometimes the cost of food and veterinary care is covered by the shelter or a local rescue, or it may be tax deductible.

Fostering “is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have (other than adopting, of course),” according to Petfinder.com.

3. Donate old towels, blankets, pet items and more.

Along with towels, blankets, sheets and old newspapers, you can donate your pet’s gently used bed, bowls, toys and other items. Be sure to call the shelter first or check its website for a wish list to find out exactly what is needed.

4. Share photos of the shelter’s pets on social media.

Use your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media accounts to post photos and information about pets available for adoption from the shelter. Ask your friends and followers to share the photos so they’re seen by as many potential adopters as possible.

5. Make pet toys from scratch. 

Even if you’re not especially crafty, you can create toys for shelter dogs and cats from old sweatshirts and other materials you probably already have around your house. (Check out these ideas on Pinterest.)

6. Host a fundraiser.

On behalf of your pet’s birthday or another special occasion, throw a party and ask your guests to bring cash donations – and/or pet food — for your local shelter. For your own birthday, you can launch an online crowdfunding campaign on a site like GoFundMe.com and ask for shelter donations instead of gifts.

7. Spread the word about the importance of spaying and neutering pets.

Every year, millions of homeless cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters. This could easily be prevented if people would spay or neuter their pets to prevent unwanted litters. Tell your friends, co-workers, neighbors and everyone you know to spay and neuter their pets.

“Cats are 45 times as prolific, and dogs 15 times as prolific, as humans,” notes SpayUSA, North Shore Animal League America’s nationwide network and referral service for affordable spay/neuter.

“They do not need our help to expand their numbers; they need our help to reduce their numbers until there are good homes for them all.”

Photo Credit: Austin Community College


natasha p
.2 months ago


Melinda Melhus
Melinda Melhusabout a year ago

wonderful contribution

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

BJ J2 years ago

I do several of these as often as I can. Local shelter has changed from a hellhole to a real shelter the past year, thanks to a great new management staff and of course, the many wonderful volunteers.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

Good suggestions.

caroline m.
carol m2 years ago

Sometimes stores have a buy one get one free. Shelters need cleaning supplies,paper towels (one shelter wanted fish pills which I got this way)school supplies like pens,paper clips paper etc all I have seen at one time or other as buy 1 get 1 free.

Fi T.
Past Member 2 years ago

Helping would never cost much

Lolli M.
Lolli M2 years ago

I support a local shelter by restoring second hand furniture that they can sell in their second hand shop to raise money. Of course I do it for free and I buy the paint and material myself. usually I can use leftovers - paint, wood etc

Michaela Stoffels

Very good article!!!
I have 8 rescued dogs, 6 of which I rescued myself, 2 adopted from shelters, and there were many more who already passed away. I am also a volunteer for a local rescue organization and constantly have between 1 and 4 foster dogs (currently 2). Fostering is the most rewarding thing to do! But it requires time and dedication. I've had 20 foster dogs over the past 4 years, anything from a tiny chihuahuaX to a great dane, many were sick initially and required a lot of care and many trips to the vet. But there is nothing better than to know that you saved a valuable life, to see the animals blossom under your care and then go into a good forever home!!!

Karen F.
Karen F2 years ago

fostering requires a certain mindset, and is not for everyone, but it is one of the most loving things you can do for animals. Check with your shelter before making donations, some accept blankets, some do not, some appreciate stacks of clean newspaper, others don't. Most appreciate donations of paper towels, quality animal food and old towels, and cash or gift cards are welcomed by all. If you have a skill or a business, make donations for silent auctions and other fund raisers. I have a friend who sets up his massage chair at adoption events and gives 15 minute massages in exchange for cash donations to the shelter. Another visits businesses and solicits gifts for the raffles and auctions. She can't afford to donate much herself, but she has convinced local businesses to donate thousands to the local rescue. Call your local shelter or rescue group, and ask what they need... you'd be surprised at the number of ways you can help.