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How to Help Shelter Animals

Updated on July 7, 2018

Shelters are Overburdened

Overpopulation and over breeding are significant and growing problems within US animal shelters. About 2.7 million healthy, adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized every year in the U.S. alone. Factors contributing to this are illegal Puppy Mills, backyard breeders, dog fighting, and owners refusing or being unable to spay and/or neuter their pets.

There are Animal Welfare organizations such as SPCA, the Humane Society, and PETA that take in strays. However, if these animals do not find a home quickly enough, and most don't, they are euthanized regardless of age. Approximately 55% of dogs and puppies entering shelters are killed, based on reports from 1,038 facilities across America.

Pet Surrenders are also a reason for unnecessary euthanasia of animals in shelters. Families frequently drop their dogs and cats off for various reasons; She's too old, she's too young, she barks too much, she has a medical condition, I can't take her with me to my new home, etc. It is important to remember that pets are family, not furniture. The majority of animals surrendered are euthanized, shelters are overcrowded and puppies, kittens and older, sicker animals are pouring in. More than likely the dog you could not keep because of the new baby was euthanized within 10 days of arrival.

Did You Know?

Approximately 55% of dogs and puppies entering shelters are killed, based on reports from 1,038 facilities across America.

Adopt, and what to expect when going to the shelter.

The first and best thing you can do to assist the shelters in your community is to visit and adopt a pet. Many people believe it is going to be a difficult process, and are apprehensive about adopting because they believe the animals will be sick, or aggressive, or a bad fit for the family. According to Humane Society statistics, 90% of animals in shelters are healthy and adoptable. Most are also already spayed/neutered, received all their shots and medication, and a medical/behavioral exam to make sure they are eligible for adoption.

You can usually expect a tour around the shelter to visit all the animals available, or one to your preference. Do not rush this process, its important you leave with a companion that you will be able to love and cherish forever.

Since the shelter already provides a pet that is completely ready to be adopted with no inconvenience to you there may be an adoption fee. It varies based on the shelter in your area, as well as the type of animal, weight, medical conditions, special needs, etc. This helps with the welfare of the animals as well as the expenses of running the shelter. There may also be a questionaire to fill out, the reason for this is to make sure you will be able to care for an animal, and to pair you with the right one.

If you can't afford to keep a dog permanently, the other solution is to foster an animal. Shelters will allow qualified applicants to foster an animal for several days, weeks, or months until an owner is found for them. By doing this, you help the cause by taking a financial burden off of the shelter for awhile and save a life by making room for other animals who come in off the streets or out of bad homes. If you have children this is a good way to teach them how to care for, and be responsible for a pet without having for very long.

Report Animal Neglect and Cruelty

Many are animals brought into facilities such as ASPCA or the Humane Society due to severe neglect, cruelty, and abandonment. Tooth decay, tumors, abandoned litters and skin problems such as Mange are all common forms of neglect. Also, starvation, dehydration and being left out on a chain with no other contact 24 hours a day, 7 days week IS neglect and needs to be reported.

Illegal activity such as Dog Fighting and Puppy Mills are also very serious contributions to the number of animals being euthanized in the United States. The Puppy Mill Hotline is 1-877-MILL-TIP. If you ever suspect these activities are going on in your area, you need to report it immediately. By doing so, you can save many, many lives. Call The Dog Fighting Hotline at 1-877-847-4787, try to give as much detail about the premises and conditions of the animals as possible. Do not try to handle the situation yourself as you do not know these people or what they are capable of. Dog fighting rings are usually very extensive and secretive, and by taking it to the authorities you may be able to stop the partner rings as well.

The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

— Mahatma Gandhi

Spay And Neuter Your Pets

The first step to no kill is no birth. In Houston, TX alone over 291 dogs and cats are euthanized every day. These are healthy, young animals that simply cannot find homes. Do your part and stop over breeding. Some places will provide you with service for free if you qualify or are currently on government aid/assistance. Spay Neuter Assistance Program provides discounted services such as spaying/neutering, chipping, shots, nail trimming, teeth cleaning, Interstate Health Certificates, and general wellness check ups. I have used them personally and would recommend them to anyone.


Micro chipping your pet is great way to ensure their safety if they are lost. Even if your pet is usually indoors, natural disasters can cause destruction where you live and possibly separate you from your beloved pet.

Chipping is very quick and has no more pain than a regular shot. It is about the size of a grain of rice, and implanted between the should blades. The chip cannot fall out or be removed and is placed just under the top layer of skin. There should also be a way to register your chip online, and a tag to attach to his collar that lets anyone who finds him know he is chipped and to take him to a vet and contact you.

By doing this, you prevent your pet from being adopted out to soemone else or be euthanized in a shelter.

Make a Donation

Most animal welfare organizations are non-profit, meaning the necessary tools and care needed to provide for shelters come soley from donations and volunteer work. By donating food, water, towels, medication, shampoo, sheets, beds, shavings for waste, cages, toys and other items you can actively improve the lives of the animals residing there. Obviously, you can make monetary donations at any time, forms of payment will vary facility to facility.

Never assume that your donation does not make a difference. In shelters that are overcrowded and under staffed, 5$ for a bag of food, a box of treats, or a single toy will make all the difference to one animal. Most of these things are cheap and take little to no effort to find and purchase.

The SPCA, Humane Society, and other organizations often have online stores that you can purchase from as well. They have a variety of products from clothing to jewelry, and a portion of the profits go to charities. I suggest donating directly to your local shelter if you are able, nourishment and hygiene items are always best, but if you only have 5$ here, 10$ there, it still makes a difference.


Lastly, volunteer! Volunteering isn't something that you get no reward from, you can use it as an extracurricular activity when you apply for college or use it as a reference on a job application. By volunteering you help animals and the organization alike. You don't have to go alone, invite your friends and family to come with you. This way you bring in more help and show your community the importance of helping other less fortunate beings, and attract potential adoptions. It's not all work, you can take as much time as you want to love on the animals and spend time with them.

Next time you find yourself sitting at home bored or need some personal references, stop by and see what you can do. You'll feel good about yourself and the animals will thank you. Both of my dogs are rescues and they have been the greatest pets you could ask for.

Would You Ever Consider Fostering or Adopting?

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© 2010 Clovis


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    • equinelover909 profile image


      11 years ago

      Inspiring and useful hub! thanks for the great read!

    • patdmania profile image


      11 years ago from waterford, mi

      I always recommend you go to the humane society to buy a dog. Its sad that we have so many people buying from breeders while so many dogs are being put to sleep everyday. Good Hub!

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 

      11 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Great hub, wish more people would visit shelters before buying fancy dogs. All mine have been wonderful adoptees!


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