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10 Ways Children Can Help Animal Shelters

By  Kristine Lacoste, Pets Adviser for Pet News and Views

Animal shelters rely on volunteers as much as donations. Many operate on tiny budgets and can’t hire many staff members, so seeing a volunteer come in to help is a welcome sight.

Did you know that children can volunteer too? Here are a number of  ways kids or students can help their local shelter:

1. Foster an Animal

Kids and pets do go together well. It is best to supervise a small child around a pet.

Fostering helps raise young animals or care for those that may have to be quarantined from other animals. Other reasons for fostering might include the shelter simply being too full. Fostering helps an animal in need and can also teach children about proper animal care. If they have never been around animals as pets, this is also a good way to introduce them to the joy of animals.

Always supervise kids with the animals to ensure their safety and the safety of the animal.

2. Do-It-Yourself Fundraiser

Fundraising is an excellent way to raise money for the shelter. While some programs may offer products to be sold and a portion of the proceeds go to a recipient, you can always create your own fundraiser. The do-it-yourself fundraiser gets the kids to harness their creative side and come up with fun ideas. From lemonade stands and bake sales to car washes and book sales, the possibilities are endless.

Kids get a chance to learn about running a business and help out a worthy cause. Take pictures of their efforts and their donation of profits at the shelter and share them.

3. Get Crafty

Arts and crafts can be a way for kids to explore their creativity while making items for the animal shelter. Scraps of blankets and towels can be sewn together to make a new blanket for an animal. Items like old blankets and towels that normally get thrown away can also become great donation items.

Homemade treats can be a fun project, and of course the animals will love the results. Check the lists of toxic items for cats or dogs, depending on the type of treat you are making, to ensure they are safe.

Another idea I see often at my own local shelter is adoption signs. Kids create and decorate signs that are hung on the cages. A quick walk down the doggie aisle reveals crafty and glittered “Adopt me!” and “Take me home today!” signs.

4. Get the School Involved

Faculty and students may not be aware of the local shelter, and getting the word out at school reaches a lot of people very quickly. Talk to your child’s teachers or the faculty about ideas your child may have to raise awareness and donations for your animal shelter. The school may agree to ideas such as donation drives, art contests, raffles or other fundraisers to help the shelter. Your child can also use assignments like book reviews or show-and-tell to feature a story about an animal. You can also ask about your child being an animal shelter representative to share information, or ask about bringing in an animal to discuss proper care, emergencies and what to do if a child witnesses animal abuse.

5. Share Your Birthday

One thing I love about my local shelter is the birthday parties. Kids can have a birthday party at the shelter complete with food, cake, toys — and animals, of course! There are fun craft projects and goodie bags, and it all helps the shelter. Total win/win. Check to see if your local shelter offers birthday parties (and if not, ask them to start).

If you can’t afford a shelter party but plan to have a small gathering at home, your child might like the idea of asking people to bring items to be donated to the animal shelter in lieu of gifts.

6. Volunteering at the Shelter

There are countless ways kids can help at the shelter itself. Walking dogs, filling water bowls, feeding cats, helping clean up or even organizing supplies can be a great help. Sometimes even just being hugged or having a cuddle can make all the difference to a lonely animal.

Most shelters do have an age requirement,  so be prepared to accompany your child for his or her volunteering visits. The minimum age to volunteer alone varies from 13 to 18 years old and can be different at every shelter. Check your shelter’s website or give them a call to explore your options.

7. Donate to the Pet Food Bank

Many cities have food banks for pets, where people can drop off canned or boxed food, cat litter, treats and other supplies. Check with your local shelter to find out where yours is located. Some programs that deliver food to seniors also include food for their pets if needed. If there isn’t one of these programs in your area, start one!

8. Community Cleanup

Dog parks abound, and more are being created every day. Spending a day picking up trash and waste can help keep the dog park clean for the animals and their human companions to enjoy.

9. Set an Example

Be a responsible pet owner and have your pet spayed or neutered. Explain to your child why this is necessary, and encourage others to do the same.

10. Get Social

Create flyers to be distributed to neighbors and friends to raise awareness about your local animal shelter (parents should accompany children on these outings). Invite relatives and friends to events held by the shelter. If you have a computer that your child uses, bookmark websites that donate food to animals in need through clicks on their pages.

Support sites that support shelters. Petfinder is one name I recommend. They help animals all over, and their donated supplies are constantly seen in my local shelter, further showing that they do deliver what their programs promise. Dog and cat food companies also hold contests and provide donations to shelters regularly.

Find your local shelter’s website, Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts and share their content. Let everyone in your online social circle know that this shelter is important to you, and ask them to help out too. Check out shelter contests and challenges; sometimes just a vote can help a shelter win money and supplies.

Final Thoughts

The benefits of volunteering at an animal shelter are endless, and you can help set an example for your child to understand why animals need our help. Check out the requirements for any programs your children are interested in, always accompany them for outings, and monitor their computer usage to make sure the websites they are supporting are safe and trusted sources. Through your efforts and your family’s support, everyone can get involved and encourage others to spend some of their time helping the animal welfare community.

Do you have a great idea not listed here? Have you volunteered in a creative way and want to share it? Tell us in the comments below.

Kristine Lacoste is the managing editor of Pets Adviser, a pet advice site. She tries to find new ways to help out shelters and animals in need. Her love of pets started at a young age with cats, dogs and many frogs. For more great articles like this, check out Pets Adviser.

20 comments to 10 Ways Children Can Help Animal Shelters

  • Rose

    This is just what my local shelter needs. We get requests from kids at schools who want to help. This will be printed out and posted at our shelter.

  • Stacey

    I also wanted to say we are proud failed fosters! The two dogs we fostered are now part of our family.

  • Ellen

    Children can learn so much by volunteering and helping animals.

  • George

    My son and I walk dogs at our local animal shelter. We are getting ready to get him a dog, and this is good training for him.

  • Katherine

    This is something a girl scout or boy scout troop can do. Thanks!

  • Simon

    My daughter and her classmates went down to the local shelter and took photos of all of the pets that are up for adoption. They circulated it throughout the school, and held a bake sale to raise money for the shelter.

  • Mary

    We also held a bake sale at our local scout troop to raise funds for the shelter in our town. My daughter and her friends also wrote to pet food and pet product companies asking for product donations, which they gave to our local animal shelter for their Tricky Tray sale.

  • Simon, taking photos and circulating them at the school — brilliant. Actually, I’m inspired by all of you folks.

  • Rory

    My daughter’s girl scout troop volunteers at their local animal shelter, and makes crafts to sell at the shelter. The crafts are beautiful beaded bracelets.

  • Julia

    My son walks dogs. He is 15 and started two years ago with me. The shelter staff know and trust him, so he can take the dogs out by himself. He is very responsible. My daughter and I play with the cats. Animals can get so bored, and the visits really are so beneficial to them, and to my kids who feel great during and afterwards. The only rule is that we are not adopting any more pets. We have one dog and two cats.

  • Edith

    Great tips. I want to add that we host bake sales at our preschool and donate the funds to the local animal shelters.

  • Kristine

    Thank you for the replies. I love volunteering at my local shelter and enjoy providing ideas for others to get involved too. I think it’s important to familiarize children with animals as soon as possible. I love the responses and the ways to implement these ideas into real possibilities for kids. I think it’s important to list ways to help other than visiting the shelter. Even kids that are allergic can help in different ways. Thank you for reading and responding, and I look forward to hearing about how your kids get involved.

  • This would make a terrific post for Blog the Change today! Might you add your link to the list so others can see? Whether or not you do, I’ll add this to our Twitter feed because it certainly deserves as much exposure as possible.

    Thanks so much for Blogging the Change, intentionally or not!

    Kim Clune
    Director: http://BetheChangeforAnimals.com
    Blogger: http://thisonewildlife.com

  • We’re flattered, Kim. Thanks!

  • I always love reading about those kids who share their birthday with a shelter! Such a wonderful way to shift focus and still have so much fun! @beyond_5 tweeted this great article!

  • This was SUPERB and I have to say that Number 5 is a most clever idea! I never would have thought of it. Shared this everywhere!

  • Lori G

    While I wholeheartedly agree that these are all fabulous ideas, I feel it necessary to point out that most animal shelters have state, county, or city approved budgets to provide for the animals in their care. In my family, we volunteer our time and efforts to our local animal rescue organizations. Rescues are run solely on donations of time, money, and love. Many rescue animals end up in boarding facilities simply because of the limited number of foster homes. These boarded animals need human contact, and funds to keep a roof over their heads. Foster parents of rescue animals often end up spending their own money to cover expenses for their foster pet, because funding in rescues is so limited. Every one of the ideas listed above can be applied to rescue organizations, and I know from experience that they would be beyond glad for the help. I am in no way saying that a person should not volunteer at their local shelter. In fact, I think it’s a great idea, especially for kids. But, please remember to spend some time checking out your local animal rescues as well.

  • This post is amazing! Getting kids involved early is so important. I love the creative ideas you came up with.

    Be the Change for Animals
    I Still Want More Puppies

  • Jessica Sala

    A big thing in our area is local children having birthday parties and instead of gifts asking for supplies or cash donations to be given to the shelter. 🙂

  • What great ideas! I am going to share this info with the volunteer coordinator at my shelter! Unfortunately there’s an age limit of 18 in order to handle the animals unsupervised, but I know they have been working on a Junior Volunteering group so hopefully this will help. 🙂