10 Ways You Can Help Your Local Shelter

1. Socialize Pets, Through Play

Helping pets get ready for adoption can be as simple as spending some time with them. Just by playing fetch and giving pets affection, you can help with their socialization. Common ways to help include teaching them tricks or commands, encouraging them to play with each other, and introducing them to as many environments as possible. But let's not forget, older pets need attention too - spending time with them is a great way to help your local shelter.

2. Feeding Time

Bottle feeding kittens is a way to help that shelters consistently need. While their mother's milk provides immunities, she may not have enough for the entire litter, or a set of kittens may have been abandoned. In these cases, kittens need to be bottle fed, and volunteers are greatly appreciated. After just a little instruction, 10-20 minutes of your day can help keep these newborn kitties happy and healthy.

3. Don't Need It? Donate It!

Those of us who aren't able to donate our time probably have plenty of useful supplies lying around. Old towels or blankets we may not need can still be used to help keep pets warm and comfortable. Those squeaky toys, balls and stuffed animals our kids don't play with anymore? Pets still love them! Grooming supplies, collars, beds and placemats are also items that can keep cash-strapped shelters under their budget. Be sure to contact your local shelter for any needs we may not have listed.

4. Plan An Event

We can also help animal shelters by raising awareness among our friends and neighbors. Are a lot of people in your neighborhood looking to get rid of old stuff lying around their houses? Why not host a neighborhood garage sale with profits going to local shelters? Participating in local fairs, organizing fundraisers or even establishing a dog walking event are other great ways to rally support in our communities.

5. Kids Can Help Too

While shelters usually don't accept volunteers until they're about 15, children are as enthusiastic about dogs and cats as anyone. Schools are an ideal place for kids to share information through presentations and discussions. If they want to do more than educate, an adult can help them set up a lemonade stand or bake sale. Maybe they'll even inspire their parents to get involved.

6. Turn to Social Media

Practically all of us use Facebook or Twitter to stay in touch with friends and family, but social media can also help sheltered pets find a new home. By sharing or retweeting profiles of pets in need, you can help these pets be seen by countless people who may have considered adoption but never entered a shelter. Websites such as adoptapet.com help you easily find thousands of pets in need of adoption from across the country, with detailed information for prospective owners.

Several shelters also use social media as a means of fundraising to educate their communities and bring in potential adopters.

7. Educate Your Community

With classes or simply blog posts, you can help change misperceptions that prevent shelter pets from finding homes. For example, historically purebreds have gotten a lot of respect while mixed breed dogs have been labeled as "mutts." In reality, there's no evidence that purebreds are superior pets - in fact, mixed breed dogs may benefit from more genetic diversity. To learn more about changing the perception of shelter pets, play Bowl by Bowl on our Facebook page.

8. Share What You're Good at

Your skill or hobby might be just what a shelter needs. Managers, web developers, gardeners and even psychologists willing to help may find that a shelter could benefit from their expertise. So much is involved in keeping a shelter open and successful that we may not have considered. Contact one near you and find out how you can help.

9. Donate A Car

How many of us have cars rusting away in our garages that we haven't driven in ages? Instead of having it towed to a junkyard, consider how a shelter can use it. There are several available foundations that will accept your donation whether the car is running or not. Even better, the towing is free and it's tax deductible. The proceeds from these donations are used to provide medical treatment, training and outreach for sheltered cats and dogs. The North Shore Animal League recently received nearly 200 cars in just one year, resulting in over $50,000 for pets in need. Let's put those old wheels to new use.

10. Adopt

More than our time, money or word of mouth, these pets need a loving home. Their stay in shelters is only meant to be temporary and there are new pets arriving every day. By adopting from your local shelter, you're not only saving money, you're changing a life.