How to Help Animal Shelters Without Adopting

And even include your dog in your new year giving goals!

Woman in tie-dye shirt sits outside on bench with rescue dog holding Mighty Paw Whole Cow Ear Chews.

Are you thinking about new goals for the year ahead and new ways to give back to rescues you love? We all see the overabundance of rescue dogs who need loving homes of their own and wish we could adopt each and every one. When it's not possible to adopt or you already have a full house with your own rescue dog or dogs, how else can you make a real difference?

Rescue organizations want you to know there are many, many ways to significantly help their dogs. Sometimes seemingly small, everyday things can make a huge difference.

Where to start

First, get to know your local animal shelter or other rescue organizations. If you've previously adopted from a particular rescue and already have a personal success story with your own dog, all the better!

Get in touch with the rescue and let them know you want to help in a way that matters, supports their work, and can possibly take something off their very full plates.

Listen to what they need and see what matches with your talents, resources, and possible connections. Most local shelters are short on space, funds, and time to do everything they need to care for and find homes for all the rescue pets they want to help.

What can you do to help? How can you make their goals your goals?

Let's dive into 7 ways of many you can support rescue dogs and shelters.

Here are some thought-starters:

1) Consider fostering!

Since the pandemic and the wave of “pandemic pups” surrendered to shelters and rescues due to no fault of their own, the need for foster homes has never been greater. It's heartbreaking for rescues to not be able to take in dogs in need because they are beyond out of space.

Fostering allows rescues to save more dogs and gives these pups a safe place to stay while they await their forever homes. Every time you foster it helps shelters free up much-needed space for other dogs in need.

It's also an opportunity for your own dog to be your partner in giving back. Your dog can serve the invaluable role of showing your foster dog the ropes of family life, how to get comfortable sharing with another dog, and more to help them be ready for adoption.

A temporary commitment from you brings lifetime benefits for your foster dog

Fostering is a temporary commitment from you that gives forever benefits to dogs who desperately need that chance. If you are able to foster a dog, your local animal shelter or rescue wants to hear from you today! They'll make it easy for you with the resources to support you and your foster dog. You only have to start with one dog, but don't be surprised if you become a serial foster. It's one of the most rewarding ways to help rescue dogs!

2) Volunteer your time to help at your local shelter.

If your rescue organization has a physical shelter, there is always a need for volunteers to walk dogs, socialize kittens, do laundry, clean kennels, and everything in between. Local animal shelters are always short on shelter workers and happy to talk about what's needed and what you'd like to do.

Walking dogs or engaging with shelter animals in enrichment and play can be great opportunities to capture the personalities of adoptable dogs and cats and share them on your social media (see #7!).

A running chronicle of your volunteer work is a great way to spotlight dogs whose true personalities don't always shine through in an in-kennel meeting or headshot. You'll be helping them find homes and inspiring others to volunteer too!

Person volunteering at animal shelter trains dog using Mighty Paw Treat Pouch.

3) Sponsor a dog.

Talk to your rescue about sponsoring a particular dog or cat. Shelters often share profiles of dogs you can sponsor with an ongoing monthly donation that covers the average amount needed per month for food, vet care, etc. for that dog. Some dogs may need a special diet such as raw food to thrive, and your donation can make fulfilling that need possible. 

You can also sponsor adoption fees for longer-time residents to accelerate making their dream of a forever home happen. And you can take it a step further by offering to walk or have regular play times with your sponsored dog.

Your shelter can provide details regarding your sponsored dog's individual personality, background, and aspirations to find a forever home. You can share the info on social media, with friends and family, or at work. It's a great way to give back if you're unable to adopt right now.

Husky rescue dog sits outside with a donated box of Mighty Paw goodies.

4) Help rescue dogs by transporting them.

Rescues and shelters are often in need of volunteers to transport animals. It might be to bring a dog (or dogs) from a municipal shelter to a rescue or foster home, or from a rural location to a higher traffic animal rescue with increased adoption opportunities. Or it could be helping a dog get across town for a vet appointment.

Whatever the reason for transport, your help when needed can be a godsend for rescues and shelters. Reach out if you're happy to help transport and your rescue will be thrilled to know they can call on you.

5) Do a fun fundraising or friendraising event.

Think about skills or connections you have that could make for a different and fun fundraiser that will be a "friendraiser" as well, creating awareness and generating new supporters and adopters while you're raising funds.

A couple examples...

  • A yoga teacher we know has a special yoga class once a month at a local brewery and all fees from the class are donated to a local rescue, with the dog-friendly brewery matching funds. Who wouldn't want to go to that?! It's a win for everyone on all fronts.

If you don't happen to be a yoga instructor, how about reaching out to a friend who is and hosting together? Or take it up a notch and make it a dog yoga class where everyone can bring their well-behaved dogs (if the yogi is up for that)? Yoga may not be your thing, but think about how one of your talents or connections could also inspire an event.

  • If you frequent or work at a winery, brewery, or restaurant, talk with the owner about an event with part of the revenue benefiting the rescue. You and a couple other supporters can be "guest bartenders" with 100% of tips going to the rescue. If the location is dog-friendly, even better. As dog parents, we all know we can't resist events that welcome our dogs - another great chance to include yours!

Another simple way to help raise funds is to use your birthday, wedding, or other special occasion to request donations to your rescue in lieu of gifts. It makes it easy for friends and family and they get to feel great about giving back at the same time!

Important note: Always coordinate with the rescue organization if you're thinking of creating an event (not for your wedding, of course). You want to make sure any event and public communications fit with their plans and their voice, and won't conflict with something already happening.

Also, remember to attend your rescue's existing events. Volunteer to help and donate experiences or goods to their live auctions if you can.

Brindle rescue dog lays on floor with basket of Mighty Paw Yak Chews next to him.

6) Start or share a veterinary needs fundraiser

Funding for veterinary services for homeless animals beyond the usual spay/neuter and routine care is always needed. The need can be large, urgent, and critically important to a dog's health and life. Helping dogs medically or surgically to be in their best health has the added benefit of increasing their adoption chances as well.

Beyond contributing, you can ask how you might start or share a fundraiser the rescue already has planned for social media. They probably already know how they want to tell the dog's story. They'll be happy to know you want to donate and help raise money by sharing on social media.

You can also help by sharing the shelter's wish lists for specific pet supplies, including basics like cat food and dog food.

7) Spread the word!

Be a poster child for rescue and make your own dog an ambassador for rescue dogs while you're at it. All the activities above lend themselves to happy, shareable content on your social media. Share adoptables' profiles, show and tell their stories, intersperse those with "a day in the life of a happily rescued dog" type photos and videos of your dog, share your own "day in the life" as a volunteer featuring adoptable dogs.

And spread the word in real life the old-fashioned way:

  • Donate special vests or bandanas that say "Proudly Adopted from X Rescue"  for adopted dogs to wear when they're out and about with their families. Start with your own dog! This is a great way for proud rescue parents and their dogs to give back by promoting adoption.
  • If your rescue doesn't have "I'm adoptable from X rescue" vests for adoptable dogs to wear as they're being walked and on outings, donate them. What better way to show them off and let potential adopters in the community see these wonderful pups in action?!
  • Help distribute actual posters of adoption events in high-traffic areas.

There are SO many great dogs, and so many stories and images and ways to get them out there.

Here's to a year ahead of achieving our giving back goals together and helping more dogs live the good life they all deserve!

Rescue with Mighty Paw

Here at Mighty Paw, we're dedicated to helping rescues and shelters across the country by spotlighting adoptable pets as models on our social media channels, sending them Mighty Paw goodies so they feel special, and providing funding to 10 rescues every month!

We also started our Chews for Change program in 2023, where we donate hundreds of yak chews to rescue partners across the country every month to provide much needed enrichment to dogs in their care while waiting to be adopted. Our yak chews are long-lasting and provide lots of good mental stimulation which can also help relax the dogs when prospective families want to meet them!

Woman holds recently adopted white puppy in parking lot with Mighty Paw Yak Chew.

Follow us on our social channels to see our spotlight pets looking for homes and watch them in action, loving their walks, adventures, and Mighty Paw treats! You can also help us share these pups and #RescueWithMightyPaw!

As always at Mighty Paw, our commitment is to provide dog parents with high-quality products that are safe, durable, and practical for everyday use. Whether you're cuddling on the couch together at home or heading out for adventures, we've got you covered.

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