4 Ways to Give Homeless Pets a Chance at Happiness

Even if you're not ready to adopt a rescue animal, there are many ways you can help shelter dogs, cats, and other animals that don't require huge commitments. Here are a few options.

Here on Gimundo, we’ve featured plenty of stories about loyal dogs, lifesaving cats, and other heroic animals. But regardless of whether your pet knows how to recycle or would wait for you at the train station every day for decades, all animals are special and deserve an equal shot at a happy life.

Unfortunately, they don’t all get that chance: According to shocking statistics from the ASPCA, 60 percent of all dogs and 70 percent of all cats surrendered to animal shelters are ultimately euthanized.

We would love to see that number go down to zero, and we’re sure you would too. Here are a few steps for getting there.

Adopt from a rescue organization instead of a breeder or pet store.

There are as many as 7 million animals in shelters every year—and if they don’t find homes quickly, they often won’t survive. Use websites like Petfinder and Petango to discover which animals are available in your area; you’ll be able to search by features such as age, breed, and whether the animal is good with kids. Even if you’re seeking a specific breed, you can still find a rescue animal that’s right for you: Many breed rescues, such as Small Paws Rescue (for Bichon Frises) and Change of Heart Pit Bull Rescue work tirelessly to find specific breeds in rescue organizations all around the country, and keep them safe in foster care until the rescue group is able to find them new homes.

Not ready for a long-term commitment? Foster a pet.

Right now, we have an adorable mixed breed puppy named Kala in our house. She snuggles up on our couch, plays with our dog, and loves to kiss our faces. As sweet as she is, we know we’ll need to give her up as soon as she finds a forever home, and we’re okay with that.

We’re working with a wonderful rescue group called Puppy Love, which rescues dogs from shelters in Louisiana and transports them all the way up to Maine. Some are adopted off the bat, but others go to foster homes, like ours, until someone submits an adoption application.

As a foster parent, you’ve got the best of both worlds: The chance to gain a great new four-legged friend, without the expenses and commitments that go along with full-time pet ownership. Generally, you are responsible for providing food and bedding, but any vet bills will be taken care of by the rescue group. You will have the right to veto any potential foster that doesn’t seem like a good fit, if you’re worried about how the animal will behave around your children or other pets. The time span of a foster can vary: Some might stay for just a few days, while others can remain with you for months or even a year before finding a forever home.

Of course, we’ll be sad when we need to say goodbye to sweet Kala. But when she goes, we’ll have the space to let another rescued dog into our home and hearts, and help that pet find a forever home, too.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to foster pets, check out the local rescue group listings on Petfinder. Many organizations are always looking for volunteers to foster, and will be thrilled that you’re interested.

Pay a visit to Best Friends Animal Society.

If you’ve seen the TV show Dogtown, you’ve already visited Best Friends Animal Sanctuary virtually—so why not a real visit?

The sanctuary, located in stunning Kanab, Utah, is the country’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary, housing rabbits, pigs, horses and more, as well as cats and dogs. Many of the animals have special needs and are not able to be adopted, while others are still seeking homes.

The sanctuary is open to visitors, and welcomes volunteers. If you visit, you can participate in feeding, grooming, and walking the animals. You can even take one of the adoptable pets out of the shelter for a sleepover at your cabin or hotel, or go for a hike around the canyon together. And, if you’re ready to adopt, you can take your pick of the adoptable animals there.

Take the dogs for a walk.

So, you’re not ready to adopt, your landlord won’t let you foster, and you don’t have the vacation time for a trip to Utah right now? No problem, you can still help. Just head over to your local animal shelter—chances are, there’s one just a few miles away.

Animal shelters are always looking for volunteers to take their dogs out for walks, to get them out of the super-stressful shelter environment and give them a bit of exercise. You can also help with grooming and cleaning crates, or even answer phones to help out with processing adoptions. If you have kids of school age or higher, there are probably ways you can volunteer together—it’s a great opportunity to bond and help your children learn compassion.

What other suggestions do you have for helping rescue shelter pets? Feel free to share your tips in the comments!