5 min read

9 Ways to Help Your Local Dog Shelter



Feeling inspired to lend a helping paw to your local dog shelter? There are plenty of other ways you can help without adding another four-legged fur-baby to your family. Read on for some ideas from Wag!'s team of pet lovers, including Emily Gantt, a content creator with Wag! who also volunteers at her local shelter!

Contact the shelter and ask what's needed

You won’t know the best way to help until you ask, so contact your local rescue shelter to find out what they need. Maybe they could use an extra pair of hands to help care for rescued animals. Maybe they’re short on food, toys, or bedding for the canines in their care. Or maybe they’re just searching for anyone who can spread the word about the important work they do.

Whatever the case may be, a quick phone call or email is the simplest way to find out how you can make a difference in the lives of animals in need.

Ask any shelter boss what their rescue group needs most, and it’s a safe bet that “more money” will be right near the top of the list.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to help your local dog shelter is to make a donation. Many shelters run on a shoestring budget, relying mainly on the hard work of dedicated dog lovers to continue caring for dogs in need.

Shelters and rescue groups can use donated funds to train staff, buy food and essential supplies, cover the cost of veterinary treatment, upgrade their facilities, run education programs, and do so much more. And in many cases, your donation may even be tax deductible.

Running a shelter requires a lot of equipment and supplies. Dogs need to be fed, the facilities need to be kept clean and hygienic, and staff members need to make the shelter a welcoming and safe place for dogs of all ages.

group of animal shelter volunteers posing with donated pet supplies including tennis balls and water bowls

Emily Gantt (far left), content creator with Wag!, poses with the staff of The Humane Society of Greenwood, SC. In October 2022, Wag! donated bandanas, collapsible bowls, tennis balls, and other supplies to the shelter.

Towels, toys, food, bedding, and other supplies are often needed urgently, so a donation of any or all of the above will be welcomed with open arms. Many shelters publish wish lists on their websites detailing the supplies they need. If not, you can always contact the shelter directly to find out what’s in short supply.

Share adoption posts on social media

Social media is a powerful marketing tool that makes it easy to raise awareness of great causes. You probably already follow your local dog shelter on all their social pages, but you can take your support to the next level by sharing and engaging with their content.

All you have to do is share the shelter’s adoption posts with your own followers. Let’s face it, everyone needs more cute pups in their feed. And who doesn’t want to help give an adorable dog a second chance at happiness? Who knows? Someone in your network of friends and family, or maybe someone they know, could be the “pawfect” match for a pup looking for a home.

Need some inspo? Check out our adoption post for The Humane Society of Greenwood:

Volunteer in person

Keen to take more of a hands-on approach to helping dogs in need? You could always volunteer to lend a paw at the shelter — just be aware that you probably won’t get to spend all day long cuddling cute puppers. 

While you might get a chance to give the shelter dogs some much-needed love and attention, chances are there will always be plenty of hard work that needs doing. You could be asked to walk dogs, clean kennels, help out at an adoption event, do some behind-the-scenes work on the shelter’s website, or tackle many other jobs.

That doesn't mean that it's all hard work and no play, though. Just ask Emily, a content creator with Wag! who also volunteers with her local animal shelter, The Humane Society of Greenwood. She spent a sunny afternoon taking photos of dogs in need of a "furever" home and rewarding them with plenty of playtime.

But while the work may not always be glamorous, every little thing you can do will help.

Related: A Day in the Life of an Animal Shelter Volunteer

Take the wheel

Got a car, a driver’s license, and some free time? You could always volunteer your services as a pup chauffeur. The shelter may need assistance transporting dogs to veterinary appointments and adoption events, delivering animals to foster homes, and even collecting rescued pets.

If your vehicle is suitable for the job, you might find yourself called into action to provide crucial transport services.

Foster a pet

Adopting a dog is a big long-term commitment and one you simply may not be able to make. But you can still help your local dog shelter and change the life of an animal in need by fostering a pet. 

This lets you open your home to a pet in need. In some cases, the dog will be one that simply can’t cope with shelter life; in others, the animal may need special one-on-one care to help improve their overall health. You’ll also be freeing up a spot at the shelter that can go to another dog. 

You might be worried about forming a bond with your foster dog and then one day having to say goodbye. But while that may be hard, playing your part to help a dog find a forever home is very rewarding indeed.

Related: 10 Tips for Fostering a Dog [Advice from Real Pet Parents]

Get creative

Love tackling craft projects? Another way to get your hands on supplies you can donate to a shelter is to make them yourself. Check your local shelter’s wish list of goods to see what supplies they need, and then think about which of those you can make with your own 2 hands. 

For example, maybe there are some shelter pups in need of warm knitted sweaters for those cold winter nights, or maybe some homemade chew toys would be well received, or maybe you could turn your hand to crafting blankets and bedding.

Related: 5 Easy Crafts to Make for Your Local Animal Shelter

Host a fundraising event

Hosting your own fundraising event is a "grrreat" way to share a feast with your loved ones and raise some money for an extremely worthwhile cause.

When determining the type of event you'd like to host, consider what you're skilled at and what you enjoy doing. Bake sales and potlucks are obvious choices, but if you're not a strong chef or baker, you can get creative.

And you don’t necessarily have to host a fundraiser in person. In the digital age, there’s no better time than now to host an online fundraiser.

Encourage friends and family to support your shelter and spread the word on social media to attract as many donations as possible.

What's your favorite way to help out your local animal shelter? Share your thoughts in the comments or on Instagram!

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