Wednesday, June 19, 2024


Help Your Local Dog Shelter

June 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Dog Health and Nutrition

Whether you bought your dog from a breeder or adopted from a shelter, I think we all can agree that the number of dogs in shelters in the United States is a crying shame.  According to the ASPCA, there are about 5,000 community animal shelters in the United States, and this number doesn’t doesn’t include many of the mom-and-pop rescues that take in animals in need every day.

About 5 – 7 million companion animals end up in shelters every year, about half picked up by animal control officers and half relinquished by families that can no longer care for them.  Of the dogs, 60% are killed, usually only when there is no more room at the inn.  Sure, some are sick or injured beyond repair while others are put down because they are vicious.  But that only accounts for about 1/6th of the cases.  The great majority of euthanasia victims are simply put down due to space and money considerations.

Stop the killing

Obviously, there are two huge things we can do to stop this travesty:  spay and neuter every dog we can, and adopt the dogs who are already in shelters.

Looking first at adoption:  according to a survey done by Ralston Purina, about 15 – 20 percent of dogs are purchased from breeders, while 10 – 20 percent are adopted from shelters and rescues.  The rest of the time (somewhere between 60 and 75 percent), we acquire our dogs from friends, family members, and acquaintances.  I suppose the argument could be made that these dogs would end up in shelters if our friends, family members, and acquaintances couldn’t find homes for them, but at the time most of us adopt our pets, they are already in a family home.

Given that approximately 25% of dogs in shelters are purebred dogs, there’s no real need for anyone to buy from a breeder unless the family is looking for a show-quality dog or is going to become serious about breeding more purebreds.  For the average family pet, there is no need to go to the expense and trouble of interviewing breeders, placing a substantial deposit on an as-yet unborn puppy, and traveling to distant lands to pick up the puppy when he is weaned.

Even if you can’t find the breed you want at your local shelter, there are breed-specific rescues in nearly every region, where they handle nothing but the specific breed for which they are named.  Every purebred breed has a national club that would be happy to point you in the direction of a rescue in your area.

Every dog you adopt from a shelter or a rescue makes room for another dog to be pulled from a kill-shelter and placed in more secure surroundings.

Spay / Neuter

Unless you are a breeder or are showing your dog in conformation shows, there is absolutely no reason to have an unaltered dog.  That message has gotten out to most of us, as the ASPCA estimates that about 75% of owned animals are spayed or neutered.  However, only 10% of dogs taken to animal shelters have been fixed.

Many of these are strays, wondering the streets and mating indiscriminately before they are picked up.  One fertile female dog can produce 4 – 6 puppies each year, and an unaltered male can impregnate as many females as will have him.

One of the reasons people often give for surrendering their pets at animal shelters is because the animal has become unintentionally pregnant.  Did you know the cost of spaying or neutering is less than the cost of raising puppies for a year?  It would make so much more sense to prevent the problem, rather than turning one extra dog into one extra dog plus four to six extra puppies.

If you can’t afford the cost of spaying or neutering, you can find low-cost clinics using the searchable database on

Supporting Your Local Shelter

If you’re not ready to make the commitment to raise another dog in your home, there are still tons of ways you can help out your local shelter.  One of the biggest needs is monetary donations to offset the cost of spaying and neutering, as well as the cost of caring for the animals that keep pouring in every single day of every single month of every single year.  Maybe you think the $5 you can give today won’t make a difference, but if each of us gave up just one cup of fancy coffee or one pack of cigarettes a year and gave the money to a shelter, imagine how much of a difference we could make!

What about aluminum cans?  If you feed canned food or eat soup or drink soda pop or beer, you probably have at least a few dozen cans a month.  Are you currently giving them away to the recycler in your community?  Why not take them to a scrap  yard, then take the money you get for them to the shelter.  Just as with the coffee and cigarette money, every little bit helps.

If you can’t give money, think about giving things you don’t have a need for anymore.  Instead of throwing away old towels, take them to your shelter.  Do you have a dog who has crossed the rainbow bridge?  How about an elderly relative who is moving into a home and will never have another pet.  Why not give the supplies from these sources to your local shelter rather than putting them in a landfill or getting a dime for them at your garage sale.  Leashes, food bowls, brushes, and toys are always appreciated.

When you go to the store, pick up a few extra rolls of paper towels or bottles of bleach for the shelter. Neither of these items will add much to your grocery bill, but will go a long way toward helping the animals at the shelter.

Even if you have something that will not be directly used for animal care, the shelter may be able to put the item to good use.  Old computer equipment, phones, vehicles, and other items all have a value, whether the shelter uses the items or sells them.  Many shelters have a wish list on their websites of things that they need most desperately.  The ASPCA can even tell you how to hold a wish list drive to benefit your local shelter.

Do you ever watch the show Extreme Couponing on TLC?  If you’re not familiar with it, these people have taken shopping with coupons to new heights.  They buy thousands of dollars worth of groceries every week for as little as $10 or $15 through by using coupons, taking advantage of special offers, and shopping when items are on sale.  In most cases, they get 90 – 95% of their purchases for free.  Then they build a stockpile in their homes, which I understand, but only to a point.  I think if I had the time to devote to doing this (many spend 40 – 60 hours of prep time each week),  I would have to give the stuff away.  After all, I got it for free, and I will never use all of it.  If you have the skill and time to be an extreme couponer, why not consider picking up some items for your local shelter?  They can always use pet food, and if you have a way to get it for free, it only makes sense to pass on the fruits of your labor.


Probably the most precious gift you can give to a shelter or rescue is the gift of your time.  If you work with a rescue organization, you may be asked to foster dogs in your own home, which may or may not be possible for you.  However, if you work with a shelter, you have many options.  They need people who are good at clerical work, fundraising, manual labor such as cleaning out cages, and people who will simply spend time with the animals, providing important socialization and daily walks.

If you work with a group of kids through scouts, church groups, or schools, consider adopting a shelter in your area and taking the group to volunteer once a month or so.  It’s a great lesson to teach the kids and provides a valuable service to the shelter.

If you are looking for a way to spend more time with a friend, parent, child, or your spouse, consider making a date with your local shelter.  You might spend time walking together anyway, so why not take a few dogs along with you.

So, you see, each of us can do something to help out shelters and rescues.  Whether you are able to adopt a dog, spay or neuter your own dog, contribute financially, donate goods, or volunteer, your shelter will appreciate every gift, no matter how small.


One Response to “Help Your Local Dog Shelter”
  1. Emma Tameside says:

    People really do forget how worthwhile it is to even make something as simple as a charity donation to their local shelter. The work they do there is beyond incredible, and really deserves more credit.

    Very informative article though, and I’ll definitely be giving your future posts a read!

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