We envision a future where animal shelters are viewed as a community resource and are supported as such. Successful shelters work to help their community see them as belonging to the entire community. They set hours to make it easy for the public to be a part of the shelter’s work, engaging them as volunteers, and offering assistance with training issues, financial struggles, and any problems that could lead to an owner surrendered animal.
Find ways to invite the public into your building for positive reasons and if you can’t get the public to come in, go to them.
Offering a free children’s program (or any-age program) in the community at a library, church, rec center, or other gathering place, is a way for a shelter to give back. It’s also an opportunity to show the public what is happening in the shelter, introduce them to adoptable dogs, and change the narrative. You can access our complete Kids 4 Paws program here.
Community Service Hours
Many middle and high schools require community service hours annually. Contact the principal and PTA to list your shelter as a place to volunteer. Teens can organize food drives, make toys, fill food bowls and stack them for quicker feedings, do shelter laundry, write an article for the school newspaper, or help with shelter social media (they are usually great at this!). There are lots of ways to involve them in shelter work, help them earn community service hours, and educate the next generation at the same time. You could also invite the principal and PTA to visit your shelter.
Set up a free little library with books about dogs, cats, pet care, training, etc. Ask for book donations or magazine donations. Find more information on how to register your library, library ideas and designs at Littlefreelibrary.org.
Participate in Parades
If your town holds a parade of any kind, enter the shelter! It can be as simple as creating a banner (they are relatively inexpensive on Vistaprint) and walking dogs on leashes. Or you can engage volunteers and staff to build a float or decorate an Animal Control officer’s vehicle. Hand out information about the shelter and/or Animal care flyers.
Gather donations of food, crates, collars, harnesses, head collars, treats, and anything else you know people might need to keep their pets in their homes rather than surrender them. Ask local businesses to donate these items. When people come in because they are struggling to keep their pet, allow them to ‘shop’ your pantry (or select the items yourself). Businesses like to help and often shelters get donations of food/crates, etc., that they cannot use. Once you have your pantry up and running, consider writing a press release to gain a little attention for the way the shelter is giving back to the community.
Contact your local troop leaders and list your shelter as a place to earn service badges or potential Eagle scout projects. Have a ready list of how these groups can help your shelter like setting up a Free Little Library, making toys, collecting donations, building cat perches or Kuranda beds. Invite potential Eagle Scouts to take on a project for the shelter – building a story walk, a cattery, a garden, or other larger project.
Stuffed Animal Adoptions
This event could be held at a library, store, or any community gathering. Instead of real cats (or dogs) bring stuffed animals available for adoption. Along with each adoption, give the children cardboard carriers, official adoption certificate and a coloring book. The also got temporary Cat-toos, made a cat toy, and played in a cat play area. We think this is an awesome opportunity for a dual-purpose fundraiser and a community education event. It’s a great way for the local shelter to engage with the community, teach them about what they do, educate about humane care, raise a little money, and possibly recruit volunteers. You could bring both stuffed dogs and cats, and tweak the event with dog-themed ideas too.
Shelter professionals likely know an awful lot about training dogs. Offer free sessions on basic obedience. Or engage a trainer to come to the shelter to teach introduction to agility, frisbee, or tricks.
A strong volunteer program is critical to the success of any shelter. Click here to find ideas for your volunteer program here.
Many volunteers want to help walk dogs, or play with pups and kittens. Have a list ready for age-appropriate and skill-appropriate tasks for anyone who wants to volunteer, where the volunteer feels appreciated and the shelter gets its needs met. Some examples:
- Youngsters can put the food enrichment items together. (The dogs don’t care if it doesn’t look pretty.)
- Senior citizens can sit in an office and help socialize pups and kittens with just their presence (and not being knocked down.)
Find resources for more community engagement and education:
- Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) https://awionline.org/content/teaching-resources
AWI offers publications at no cost to teachers, libraries, and animal shelters. They have produced children’s activities and free classroom lesson plans for a select number of these publications, with more to come.
- Institute for Humane Education, https://humaneeducation.org/about-ihe/ihes-history/ IHE’s mission is to empower people of all ages to build a more just, healthy, and peaceful world. Its predecessor organization created a certification program for people wishing to become humane educators and created the field of comprehensive humane education. IHE’s online Humane Education Resource Center includes lesson plans, and a link to invite IHE to visit your school.
- National Humane Education Society (NHES) https://www.nhes.org/education-2/ NHES offers free humane education programs for schools, churches, clubs, libraries and other venues serving children, provides educational materials and lesson plans. Go here to request presentations, materials and other resources.
Our mission is to raise awareness and resources for shelter animals and the people who champion them.