Can’t Adopt Or Foster? Here’s What You Can Do To Help Animal Shelters During The Pandemic

Homeless dog behind bars in an animal shelter.

(Picture Credit: Pekic/Getty Images)

It’s probably safe to say we’re all experiencing a sense of restlessness and anxiety right now during our nation’s various stages of shelter-in-place to stay safe amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. Beyond that, we’re feeling the urge to do something to help.

Animal lovers are likely feeling a little helpless because their usual methods of supporting shelters, like volunteering or going to shelter events, are on pause at a time when they may need our help the most. And some of us just don’t have the resources to foster or adopt. So what can we do?

“We know it’s hard times for everyone now, but the animals are still counting on us,” said Marcia Coburn, president of Red Door Animal Shelter, a no-kill shelter in Chicago for dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens–basically, any animal in need–in an interview with DogTime.

Here are some tips on what we can do to support animal shelters right now–and if you have more ideas to share, please let animal lovers know in the comments section below!

Instead Of Events, Direct Donations

Because of restrictions from groups gathering, most animal shelters around the country have had to cancel their usual fundraising events, like photos with the Easter Bunny, spring dog socials, etc.

“In order to protect the health of our small staff, Red Door has closed temporarily to the public and to volunteers. The animals rely on our staff to feed, medicate and exercise them. So Red Door has become a no-kill shelter that is sheltering-in-place,” said Coburn.

“That means all our fundraising events for the foreseeable future have been canceled, and all our adoptions are on hold. Also, all the rabbits who were scheduled to board during spring break have canceled. So our income is down.”

The “easiest” answer to this problem would be to donate money if you can. You can likely donate directly to your favorite shelter’s website, one time or as a recurring donation. Red Door has an easy option, including donations as a memory or tribute.

Facebook also has a wonderful donation capability for registered nonprofits that does not incur a processing fee.

Or Make Your Event Virtual

Female Artist Drawing At Home In Company Of Her Cute Poodle Dog

(Picture Credit: hobo_018/Getty Images)

Some shelters are having virtual fundraising events, or you could even create your own!

Consider creating a fundraising page for your favorite shelter on Facebook or GoFundMe–both are good options for no transaction fees–in place of a birthday party, a spring party, or just because.

A lot of shelters have 5K walks or runs to generate money. Instead, you or your favorite shelter could make it an online 5K pretty easily. Just follow the same steps of creating a fundraiser page, and announce how many miles you and your pup will commit to walking.

People can pledge their donations right on the fundraiser page. It can be fun to post Facebook or Instagram Live updates to your personal page–it makes your supporters feel like they’re right there with you!

Sponsor A Buddy

If you can’t adopt or foster right now, this is a great option for you. Many shelters offer ways to sponsor an animal in need.

“You can virtually sponsor a shelter animal through our Be a Buddy system,” said Coburn. “With the Buddy system, someone picks the kind of animal they want to sponsor (cat, dog, rabbit) and pays $28 a month.”

Red Door’s Be a Buddy sponsorships can be for just one month or as long as you’d like. Your local shelter may have a similar option in place, so make sure to call and ask how you can help.

“We select an animal and post its photo online with the sponsor’s name. Sponsors can purchase Buddy virtual adoptions as a gift and we can personalize the message, so it’s great as a birthday present, anniversary gift, or just a ‘Cheer Up!’ effort,” said Coburn.

Donate Supplies

Dog bowl is a hungry German Shepherd waiting for someone to food in his bowl.

(Picture Credit: David Baileys/Getty Images)

If you’d like to give items as donations, rather than money, shelters would benefit greatly from that, too.

It can be frustrating to get to the grocery store right now and not find the usual necessary items, like toilet paper or paper towels, for us humans. Multiply that by dozens when you have animals depending on you.

“Red Door is in need of bleach and paper towels–tough items, we know, to get right now, but any help in this regard would be greatly appreciated,” said Coburn.

Also, many shelters, like Red Door, have Amazon wishlists. “We’ve pared it down to essentials right now,” said Coburn.

You can even see notes next to each item, of what the shelter needs most and why. This can be a very easy way to help while still practicing your own social distancing. Check to see if your favorite shelter has a wishlist or if they’re calling for item donations.

“Our animals still need food, hay, and litter, too–gift cards from Jewel or Oxbow Hay or Small Pet Select would be of great use.”

Find Some Website Give-Backs

While you’re ordering your online items, check out some neat website give-back options.

Amazon, for instance, has an amazing program called Amazon Smile, where 0.5 percent of every purchase is donated directly to the nonprofit of your choosing, with no extra cost to you.

My husband and I use this all the time, specifically for Red Door Animal Shelter, and we love seeing the yearly updates of how much has been donated to the organization!

Before you start online shopping, just type in “smile.” before the Amazon URL (so go to smile.amazon.com) and select your chosen nonprofit to be associated with your profile. Make sure you start each Amazon shopping transaction with a smile–literally–by typing in “smile.amazon.com” every time.

Another great give-back site is iGive.com. This site is affiliated with thousands of retailers. When you register and shop, it gives a portion of sales directly to your chosen nonprofit–again, at no cost to you. You can also download an app for your smartphone and shop that way. Learn more about how iGive works here.

What’s It Like for Shelter Animals Right Now?

Taking the dog for a walk in the city

(Picture Credit: byakkaya/Getty Images)

Some shelters, like Red Door, have had to close temporarily to visitors and volunteers, so the animals are not getting as much attention as usual, even though staff are still caring for and loving these animals as much as they can.

If a nearby shelter does allow fosters or adoptions, now may be a great time to welcome another friend into your home.

“It’s different now because the animals are missing seeing everyone and getting some loving attention! So it’s very quiet without visitors and dedicated volunteers,” said Coburn.

“People can still see some of our cats in our windows at 2406 W. Lunt Ave., Chicago. But it’s low-key inside and the animals certainly notice the difference. We hope we can get back to normal soon.”

Certainly, shelter animals are just as hopeful for the pandemic and shelter-in-place orders to pass quickly as we all are!

“We know it’s a stressful time for everyone now–employment issues, health issues, just general fear of the unknown,” said Coburn. “But homeless animals still need help–they count on people. So any effort anyone can make towards Red Door’s animals will be greatly appreciated.”

To learn more about Red Door Animal Shelter, please visit their website.

If you have additional ideas on how people can help animal shelters during this time, please comment below!

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