Every year, the ASPCA estimates that 6.3 million dogs and cats end up in animal shelters and rescues across America. And nearly a million are sadly euthanized each year due to lack of shelter space, lack of funding, or the animal rescue not being able to find a suitable home for these lost pets.
Thankfully, researchers at Rutgers University report that more funding and support is “critical” and “directly impacts the number of animals a shelter can take in…and adopt out.” Here’s how you can make a difference today (and it’s not just about money!).
|Consider with CUDDLY: How you can help homeless animalsWhy is it important?How you can helpRecommended charities
Why Is It Important To Help Homeless Animals?
Those of us who have a furry family member already know the beautiful bond that comes with loving them. Yet the economic crisis (NPR reports that being unable to afford pet supplies, vet bills, or pet-friendly rentals is a leading cause of pets surrendered to shelters this year), a surge in post-pandemic pet returns, and similar factors mean there are more homeless pets in animal shelters and rescues than ever.
You’re Saving A Life
An estimated 2.1 million cats and 2 million dogs are adopted from shelters annually, according to the ASPCA, and approximately 810,000 lost animals are returned to their owners. The remaining homeless animals are typically put down unless shelters have enough space, volunteers, supplies, and foster parents.
By supporting animal shelters and animal rescues, you’re keeping these innocent lives from being needlessly euthanized.
You Are Helping Control The Stray Population
When animal shelters don’t have enough support, PETA points out that they’re forced to turn away homeless animals — many of whom end up on the street. Not only are these homeless animals at risk of being hit by cars or dying from starvation, but PETA warns that they also reproduce and exacerbate existing homeless animal populations.
- Stray animals are a safety hazard to themselves, people, and the environment
- It’s a fast-growing problem (one nonprofit estimates that a single homeless, unspayed cat can add 376 more stray cats to the streets in just three years)
- It creates health issues, such as the spread of disease and even rabies among animals and humans
How Can You Help Homeless Animals
Be a voice for the voiceless — your time, energy, and intention can save a homeless dog or cat’s life and break the homeless animal cycle that we’re seeing in all 50 states.
1. Monetary Donations
When a shelter takes in a homeless animal, the lost pet or surrendered animal often needs:
- A veterinarian wellness exam, including a check for ticks and heartworm
- Full vetting by an expert to determine their personality and temperament
- Essential vaccinations, such as shots for rabies, distemper, parvo, and parainfluenza
- Spay/neutering if necessary
While costs vary by shelter and region, one humane society estimates that the initial costs just to take in a homeless animal are:
- $475 for a female dog
- $335 for a male dog
- $332 for a female cat
- $272 for a male cat
That doesn’t include expenses for a shelter’s rent, pet supplies, staff salaries, volunteer training, and caring for the animal until the shelter finds its owner or connects the pet to an adoptive family. Monetary donations — no matter the size of your donation — helps a shelter to take in more animals, and care for them instead of having to euthanize them.
Most animal rescues aren’t just short on money — they’re also short on staff to keep up with the needs of all these homeless animals. Put your time and skills to brighten the lives of these cats and dogs:
- Walk the dogs or play with the cats (it doesn’t just provide companionship for the animals, but also helps socialize them and make them more adoptable)
- Clean kennels and animal play areas
- Assist with office work and answering the phone
- Transport animals to and from the vet, or assist with picking up lost pets
- Help with washing, brushing, and grooming
- Offer property maintenance and labor, such as mowing the grass in the dog run
3. Donate Supplies
Whether it’s brand-new supplies or gently used supplies from your own home, ask the shelter what they’re most in need of. Many animal shelters are short on:
- Pet food
- Pet toys
- Towels and blankets
- Pet crates
- Dog beds and cat beds
- Emergency rescue kits (ask the shelter what they use, but this typically includes small packages of food, a leash, a blanket, and pet bandages)
- Collars and leashes
- Grooming equipment, such as nail trimmers and pet shampoo
4. Advocate For Animals
Help get the word out about your local animal shelter and their needs:
- Like and share the shelter’s social media posts about lost pets or animals that need adoption (a survey by the ASPCA found that animal rescues are increasingly using the Internet to share their needs).
- Educate yourself on what laws, regulations, and advocacy issues are on the horizon — for instance, you can check with the ASPCA Advocacy Center, PETA’s Action Alerts, and the Humane Society’s Legislation/Political Advocacy alerts— and use your voice and your vote to advance legislation and policies that help animals.
- Help families who can’t afford pet supplies or who are facing eviction — right now, 40 million renters are at risk of being evicted, and 72% of them have pets — and need pet-friendly accommodations or temporary pet-sitting (the Human Animal Support Services can connect you to local families who are on the verge of having to surrender their furry family member to a shelter)
- Promote and share local spay/neuter campaigns
- Volunteer at your shelter’s local adoption events
5. Foster A Cat Or Dog
Temporary fosters take in homeless animals, give them a safe space to recover from the trauma of living on the streets, and socialize them and get them re-accustomed to life with humans. It serves many purposes:
- It helps acclimatize homeless animals and make them more adoptable
- It lessens the burden on already crowded animal shelters that may have to euthanize the animal or turn the lost animal away
- It reduces the burden on pet food, supplies, and staff at animal shelters
Other Ways You Can Help Homeless Animals
Besides directly giving to a local animal rescue or shelter, you can also consider:
- Spay and neuter your own animal companions
- Encourage friends and family to adopt and not shop for a new pet at a breeder (you can even help them find the perfect new animal companion by sending them adoption listings or introducing them to a pet that you’re fostering)
- Proactively take action when you see a lost pet in your neighborhood (e.g., distribute flyers, drive around searching for the lost animal, etc.)
- Post photos of the lost pet on social media, such as your local community Facebook group or local Reddit subreddit
- Shop at the shelter’s thrift stores (many humane societies and shelters run their own thrift shops)
- Shop at local retailers who support local rescues through supply donations or monetary gifts, such as pet food stores or mom-and-pop grocery stores
- Support homeless people who have pets — as many as 20% of houseless individuals have a dog or cat — by helping them buy pet food and other supplies
- Set up your own fundraising event (e.g., asking friends to donate to a shelter instead of buying you birthday presents, or organizing a community event or bake sale)
- Show your gratitude to local shelter staff — studies have found that many shelter workers are overworked and stressed — by dropping off coffee or meals, or simply saying “thank you” for their hard work
Animal Charities We Recommend
Do you want to give back to the animals who give us so much, but you don’t know where to start? Cuddly can help:
- Use Cuddly’s Find a Shelter tool to locate verified animal charities, shelters, and rescues who help homeless animals in need
- Support the urgent needs listed by verified animal charities (these are specific homeless animals in dire need of supplies, medical treatment, etc.)
- Fulfill the general wishlists of verified animal shelters who need important, but not necessarily urgent, supplies for specific homeless animals
- Stock the pet pantry of verified animal charities who need general supplies for their shelter
- If you’re seeking to give nationally instead of to a specific local animal charity, use Charity Navigator’s Animal Welfare Fund to find national animal charities that have been vetted to ensure their money is truly helping animals and/or homeless pets (example highly rated charities include Farm Sanctuary and American Humane)
From Your Wallet to Your Time, You Can Help Homeless Animals
When people think of how to help lost pets and homeless animals, they often jump immediately to monetary donations. But don’t let finances stop you from making a difference.
From donating supplies to donating your skills and time, we can all work together to be an advocate for homeless animals and help them find happy, healthy forever homes.