A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

20 Things Animal Shelters Desperately Need Right Now

Updated: Mar. 13, 2023

Animal shelters and rescues largely depend on the kindness and generosity of animal lovers, especially during the quarantine. These are the things they desperately need to help their animals.

1 / 22
cropped image of two volunteers of animals shelter holding pug dog
LightField Studios/Shutterstock

Why help

Though shelters are generally staffed and funded by municipalities and rescues are primarily funded by donations and staffed by volunteers, both struggle to provide the resources needed to save the lives of animals and help them find forever homes, especially now that the coronavirus has kept people at home. Many shelters have had to suspend all adoptions and even volunteer workers to practice proper social distancing. It has put a huge burden on people that run animal shelters. Of course, money is always desperately needed, but there are countless other ways to help. Here’s what some shelters and rescues say they desperately need from you. No pet lover will want to miss these before-and-after dog-adoption photos that will melt your heart.

2 / 22
Litter of Foster Puppies Playing in Secure Area Outside on Wooden Deck
Anna Hoychuk/Shutterstock

Foster animals

Have a heart for animals, but can’t commit to being a permanent pet parent? Animal shelters and rescues desperately need foster parents to provide a loving and nurturing home to help prepare animals for adoption. The need for foster parents is especially high right now because volunteers aren’t able to go into the shelters to help. And what better time to foster a dog? You’ll be home all day to take proper care of them. A recent study showed that dogs who lived in foster homes had increased odds of getting adopted; after spending time in a nurturing home, animals are happier and healthier and ready for adoption. Most rescues and shelters pay for the food, supplies, medical bills, and even training the animal needs while in foster care. “When you foster, you become a lifeline of support and an advocate for pets without owners,” says Kristin Hassen-Auerbach, director of animal services at the Pima Animal Care Center in Tucson, Arizona.

3 / 22
dog food for sale in pet shop
pedphoto36pm/Getty Images

Bags for curbside pickup

Since families that choose to foster a shelter animal can’t come inside of the shelter to get everything they have been doing curbside pickup. “We are supplying food, wet and dry to our foster homes so, small bags that we can load with supplies for fosters to easily pick up curbside would be helpful. Gallon size and quart-size plastic bags, for example,” says Laurie Newton, Executive Director of Operation Adopt in Burbank, California. 

4 / 22
Pouring pet food into a bowl
Rawpixel/Getty Images

Food donations

Food donations to shelters have slowed down because people are stocking up their own shelves. The cats and dogs still need to eat. “We are seeing more dogs being left because people can’t afford to feed them if they don’t have a job,” says Diane Trull, founder of the Dalhart Animal Wellness Group, DAWGS and author of the recently released book DAWGS: A True Story of Lost Animals and the Kids Who Rescued Them. “So instead of taking them in, we have been providing food.” Shelters don’t have the volunteers and staff needed right now to take in more animals, but they are still working hard to feed them.

5 / 22
Dachshund Mix Dog
Crystal Alba/Shutterstock

Social media manager

Years ago, a visit to a local animal shelter was the first step in finding a furry friend—today, the search for a dog or cat often starts online rather than visiting a shelter or rescue. Facebook and Instagram are indispensable for showcasing the animals available for adoption, so first impressions count. Waters also manages the social media accounts for Pitter Patter. “I come up with different content every day. It can be important facts on how to keep your cat safe or showcase the kittens we have adoption,” says Waters.

6 / 22

Share stories

Speaking of social media, if you love to share funny memes, uplifting-quotes, and viral posts, consider following your local shelters social media accounts. When you see a post of a pet that is looking for a forever family in your feed, share it; sharing the stories of animals for adoption is an easy way to help animals find forever homes. And it makes a bigger impact than you think. “When you share posts, pets get adopted,” says Hassen-Auerbach. Here’s something else worth sharing—13 things shelters dogs wish you knew.

7 / 22

Some animals need special treatments

“There are several dogs in the SPCA of Texas’ care who need special treatment before they can find their forever home,” says Jessica Benavides, SPCA of Texas. For example, one pup, Cupcake, came to the SPCA from a cruelty case and with a fractured jaw, so her food has to be soaked in water and mixed with paste for her to eat it. She is in need of a specialist to fix her jaw. Donations pay for daily needs such as food and routine immunizations, but money is also desperately needed for special treatments such as Cupcakes. No pet lover will want to miss these before-and-after dog-adoption photos that will melt your heart.

8 / 22
Pregnant Fawn Colored Terrier Mix Dog Relaxing on White Sheets
Anna Hoychuk/Shutterstock

Foster pregnant moms and litter

One of the most challenging and rewarding foster assignments is fostering expectant dogs and cats. Moms and litters are less stressed in a caring foster home than a noisy shelter. Plus, newborns have limited immunity, and living in a foster home helps protect them from disease and illness. Laura Klink, a public information manager at the Oregon Humane Society, says there is always a need for foster parents of pregnant cats and dogs, especially larger breed dogs, that require more space. If you can’t resist puppies, you’ll swoon over the 50 cutest dog breeds as puppies.

9 / 22
amazon on ipad

Shop for a good cause

Cash is king, but shelters won’t bite the hand that shops on Amazon. Check to see if your shelter participates in the AmazonSmile program. It’s an easy way to donate money to a shelter or rescue and it doesn’t cost you a dime. Simply shop on Amazon using the AmazonSmile link provided by your local shelter, and the Amazon Smile Foundation will donate 0.5 percent of your purchases to the shelter or rescue. Or if writing a check seems impersonal, ask your shelter for its Amazon Wish List link and pick and choose the items you would like to purchase and donate.

10 / 22
Dogs traveling by airplane. Boxes with live animals at the airport.
Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock

Donate a plane ticket

Sometimes animals are transferred to another shelter or rescue for a better chance at being adopted. For the Kauai Humane Society, it’s a matter of numbers. For example, the population in Kauai is so small there aren’t enough adopters to provide forever homes, so about 1,000 animals a year are flown to their rescue and shelter partners on the mainland, explains Mirah A. Horowitz, executive director of the Kauai Humane Society. Natural disasters often render animal shelters uninhabitable too. Some are transferred to other shelters, but becoming a foster pet parent is just one of the many ways you can help after a natural disaster.

11 / 22
Beautiful black lab puppy lying on the front porch.
Michelle D. Milliman/Shutterstock

Help under-resourced pets

Monetary donations also help animals already with a forever family stay in their homes when hard economic times hit. The Maryland SPCA Community Partner’s program with Charm City Companions and B-More dog, two non-profit organizations that facilitate pet wellness in under-resourced neighborhoods. “The Maryland SPCA adds value to these two existing programs by supplying vouchers and transportation for free spay/neuter surgeries, as well as providing staff, including veterinarians and vet technicians, who administer free examinations and vaccines,” says Katie Flory, community relations director, Maryland SPCA. Find out 9 powerful ways to give to a charity without emptying your wallet.

12 / 22
Human hand is touching a cute little doggie paw through a fence of a adoption centre.

Donate special needs foods

Ordinary kibble or cat chow just doesn’t cut it when it comes to providing proper nourishment to aging pets, pets with medical conditions, or tiny puppies and kittens. The Kauai Humane Society has an ongoing, desperate need for kitten milk replacement and bottles all year round. Generally, the kitten season is March through October, but in warmer climates, kittens are born year-round. A cat’s reproductive cycle is influenced by the amount of daylight in a 24-hour period and warmer weather. Crazy as that sounds, here are 17 other bizarre and interesting things about cats you didn’t know.

13 / 22
caucasian woman in the street wearing protective mask and walking with her dog. corona virus concept
Eva Blanco/Getty Images

Things you can do after the COVID-19 crisis…

Even after the coronavirus crisis is over, animal shelters—along with many other businesses—will still continue to need help. Read on for nine more ways you can continue to help shelters in the future.

14 / 22
photographer in dog shelter
Gerry Broome/AP/Shutterstock

Take pictures

Roxann Waters wears many hats as a volunteer for Pitter Patter Feline Rescue in Stamford, Connecticut—including fostering kittens. Another role she often fills is “photographer.” Pictures are hugely important, especially for animal rescues that don’t have a shelter where people can visit. Prospective pet parents are looking for that heart-tugging photo of a friendly and relaxed animal looking into the camera. Waters often visits the home of other foster parents to take pictures.”Good photos are important for social media since we don’t have a shelter. Those pictures are how we market the kittens,” Waters says. If you have an eye for capturing an animal’s potential, ask if your local shelter needs someone to take pictures. You could capture a happy ending just like these heart-tugging before and after cat adoption photos.

15 / 22
Close-up of female hands. Woman writing something and looking at mobile phone screen sitting at her office

Process adoption applications

Shelters and rescues top priority is caring for the basic needs of animals, like feeding, grooming, walking, training, and cleaning kennels. While a municipal shelter has employees that help carry the load, rescues are usually staffed by a few dedicated volunteers. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to answer email and process adoption applications, even though adoption is the primary goal. Volunteers comb applications ensuring deserving pets find a well-suited home, and that takes time and training.

16 / 22
Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Play with animals

Most pets living in shelters spend 23 hours or more of their time in their kennel, says Hassen-Auerbach. That’s a heartbreaking amount of time for pets, especially those who have just lost their family for a variety of reasons. “Volunteers provide much needed-exercise, enrichment, and love for dogs and cats and help them find their new homes,” says Hassen-Auerbach. Whether it is dog walking, cat enrichment, or even grooming, volunteers lend a hand in providing desperately needed time out of the kennel, socialization, and love. More than toys and treats, these are the things your dog really wants from you.

17 / 22
Working at doggie daycare
M_a_y_a/Getty Images

Office administration

Fostering animals is the number one need at Lucky Day Animal Rescue of Colorado, a foster-based rescue, but Lucky Day also has a desperate need for volunteers willing to take on office administration tasks. Volunteers can offer their occupational skills in bookkeeping, newsletter writing, coordinating adoption events, updating websites, and more. Just ask any shelter or rescue if they have a role that needs filling.

18 / 22
Young woman with worker choosing which dog to adopt from a shelter.

Adoption counselors

“These volunteers walk with potential adopters through the kennels and provide insight into the unique personalities and assets of each pet housed at the shelter,” explains Gail Lane, Gwinnett County Department of Community Services, Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in Lawrenceville, Georgia. And a volunteer can’t provide this valuable insight just by reading an index card—adoption counselors spend time socializing with the animals and provide kennel care with fresh food and water and a clean litter box or kennel.

19 / 22

A street cat female is having a rest with her kittens in the street

Reduce street cat population

Shelters and rescues across the country are utilizing The Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program, endorsed by the ASPCA as a humane way to reduce the number of homeless cats. For example, Pitter Patter volunteers trap street cats and feral cats, without harm to spay/neuter them, Waters says. After recovery, they are released back to their cat community.

20 / 22
Lonely senior woman with a small black dog sitting on a bench by the autumn lake or river in a city park. Relaxation. Loneliness concept.

Help feed the pets of senior citizens

When volunteers for Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland noticed their clients were sharing their meals with their pets and not getting enough to eat, it created Kibble Connection to help senior citizens help feed their beloved companions. The Maryland SPCA collects food from the public, and the Meals on Wheels distribute it to the clients. Before you adopt a pet find out how much it really costs to own a dog.

21 / 22
Two Young Dogs Enjoying Sunny Weather in Off-Leash Park Standing on Large Rock
Anna Hoychuk/Shutterstock

Take a dog on a field trip

The Kaui Humane Society created a fun program for people who love dogs and walking adventures— and for dogs who need a change of scenery and a break from the shelter. Shelter Dogs on Field Trips, matches you with the ideal outgoing four-legged walking buddy for a few hours of fun. A $25 donation is appreciated and residents and tourists are welcome to participate. Any time outside of the shelter has health benefits, but a pilot study showed shelter dogs cortisol ( a stress hormone) levels significantly dropped when they had a sleepover with a foster. If you’re interested in that, Best Friends Animal Society offers this program.

22 / 22
shelter dog
Yuri Kochetkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Visit a shelter

Even if you’re not able to adopt a pet, think about visiting a shelter or rescue to get a fresh perspective. “In the old days, most people avoided visiting the ‘pound’ because it was just too sad,” says Hassen-Auerbach. But today’s shelters are places of hope, not despair. Inquire about how the staff and volunteers care for the animals and help animals get a second chance of finding a forever home. Then take that info and become an ambassador and share your experience with friends and family. It might not be obvious immediately, but there are definitely some surprising benefits of adopting shelter dogs.