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13 Easy Ways to Help Animal Shelters This Winter

Donating a little of your time or money to animals shelters can go a long way.

Winter is one of the worst times of year for animal shelters. Many face overcrowding, and, to make matters worse, it's one of the slower seasons when it comes to adoptions. "I think people get a little nervous thinking about potty training in this cold weather," Zach Nugent with the Animal Humane Society in Minnesota told a local CBS affiliate. "Really it's a great time, any time is a great time to welcome a new family member into your home. … It's so cold out, why not have a little extra warmth in your home and have a new family member that you can love on?" But even if you're not prepared to take a new dog or cat home with you this winter, there are plenty of things you can do to help animal shelters in your community. Keep reading to learn some of the small things you can do to give back that will make a major difference.

Donate old items.

Donation Concept. Woman holding a Donate Box with full of Clothes

Before you throw out your old, stained blankets and other unwanted items, see if your local animal shelter can use them instead. According to the South Boston Animal Hospital, the things that animal shelters need most around the holidays include blankets, tennis balls, paper towels, pens, and wet wipes—and most people have these everyday items just lying around the house.

Offer up your skills.

Woman taking a professional photograph of a dog

Are you a professional photographer by trade? Do you have a knack for social media? If you have any sort of skill that might be valuable to an animal shelter, then you can help out by offering them up free of charge.

Take headshots of the adoptable animals for the shelter to use on the website; give them some tips and tricks that they can use to expand their reach on social media; help them code their website and make it look more professional. If you have a skill of any sort, then it's more than likely that there is an animal shelter ready and able to utilize it.

Sponsor a pet.

Woman reaching out to touch a dog's hand at the animal shelter

Plenty of animal shelters have the option on their website to sponsor a specific pet with a monetary donation or by buying supplies for them from a wishlist. On the Best Friends Animal Society site, for instance, you can choose to sponsor a dog, a cat, a horse, a bird, or even a pig via the "Sponsor an Animal" page. And on the French Bulldog Rescue Network website, you can leave a PayPal donation on any available dog's page that will go toward their bills and care.

Or an entire shelter.

Some cute stray kittens at an animal shelter

If you are a small business owner, then you can do your part to help this winter by sponsoring a local animal shelter. And you don't have to give an arm and a leg to make an impact; most shelters have tiers in their corporate sponsorship programs, through which you can choose to donate as little as $500 or as much as $20,000. Every penny counts!

Organize a pet food drive.

A person handing over a box of donations

One fun way to get your office or kid's school involved in giving back to the local animal shelter is with a pet food drive. All you have to do is talk to your office manager or the school administration about putting out a box for donations, and when that box is nice and full, you can bring it over to the local shelter for all the adoptable animals to enjoy!


Female volunteer hanging out with dogs from the animal shelter

Volunteers are the heart and soul of most animal shelters. And while helping hands are needed 365 days a year, they're especially necessary during the winter when overcrowding is a major issue at shelters. Even just taking an hour out of your schedule to walk a few dogs or clean a few crates could make a world of difference to the dogs and cats awaiting their forever homes and the humans taking care of them.

Help out at adoption events.

Volunteers helping a dog at a shelter adoption event
LightField Studios / Shutterstock

Considering how many animals there are up for adoption in the winter and how few workers there are at the average shelter, it only makes sense that these organizations are in need of volunteers during adoption events. If you happen to be free when your local shelter is hosting an event this winter, give them a call and see if there's anything you can do to help set up or ensure that everything runs smoothly. Even just checking people in or helping unload supplies can make a huge difference!

Transport animals.

Cat in a carrier getting put into a car

If you have a car and some spare time, then you have everything you need to help an animal shelter this season. Animal rescue organizations are constantly looking for volunteers to transport their animals to and from shelters, and animal rescue site Doobert makes it easy to find upcoming transports in your area.

Donate a small amount of money every month.


If you want to give a gift to your local shelter without emptying your bank account, then put aside a bit of money to donate every month until you have enough collected. If you start saving in November, then you'll have a significant sum to give to your local animal shelter come January!

Raise money for supplies and facilities.

Women holding a bake sale for a fundraiser

Don't have any spare change sitting around the house to donate? Instead, you can help by organizing a fundraiser. This is a great way to both get the whole community involved and to give to pets in need.

Share upcoming events and fundraisers on social media.

words that reveal age, Pick-Up Lines So Bad They Might Just Work

Social media has a bigger impact than you might realize when it comes to charitable efforts. As one 2011 report published in The Chronicle of Philanthropy notes, 65 percent of all donors made donations online in 2011, compared to just 4 percent in 2001.

So, what can you do to encourage others to donate? Well, when you see that your local shelter is hosting a fundraiser or looking for donations, make sure that you share their posts on all of your social media pages. Having extra eyes on those posts is sure to generate some interest—and hopefully some charitable contributions, too!

Become a foster.

orange cat and black cat snuggling, animals in love

Animal shelters need fosters almost as much as they need adopters, especially in the winter. And if you're still on the fence about getting a pet, becoming a foster is a great way to gauge whether you can handle the responsibility of being a full-time pet parent.

Adopt an animal!

a couple on the couch with their dog

Of course, the best way to help an animal shelter during any season is by making your house an animal's forever home. However, you shouldn't make this decision without first thinking it over and considering how having a pet changes your life—for the better, yes, but there are challenges, too. If you're thinking about adopting, we encourage you to check out these 10 Things You Need to Know Before Adopting a Shelter Dog.

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