Animal shelter volunteer.

If you’re anything like us, you can’t get enough time with animals. You’ve invited them into your home as family members. You spend all your spare time doling out treats, going for walks, and giving belly rubs. Still, you want to do more for the animals in your community. After all, animals make our lives immeasurably better. Giving back is important to you, but you’re not sure where to begin. Should you learn how to volunteer at an animal shelter? Donate money? What about getting involved in animal rescue services? Here are 5 ways to get involved.

4 Ways to Help Animals in Your Community 

1. Volunteer at an Animal Shelter

Volunteering at an animal shelter is one of the first ideas people get when they ask themselves, “How do I volunteer with animals near me?” 

There’s a good reason for this. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that 6.3 million animals enter shelters in the United States each year. 

Shelters need volunteers to help with everything from picking up poop to helping pets develop their social skills to preparing animals for adoption. Chances are that if you love animals and have extra time to spare, your local shelter could use your help.

2. Become a Foster Pet Parent

If you’ve got space for an extra dog bed or two, fostering pets is another rewarding way to volunteer with animals near you. With all its foreign sights, sounds, and smells, an animal shelter can stress some pets out, causing behavior issues. Fostering gives these animals a chance to thrive in a loving home before they find their forever family. 

Along with meeting your foster pets’ basic needs, you’ll be involved in emotionally supporting, training, and socializing them. And while you’ll eventually have to say goodbye, being a foster pet parent often means you’ll help match your foster pets to the perfect permanent home.  

3. Help Out at a Wildlife Conservation Center

In addition to asking Google how to volunteer at an animal shelter, ask the all-knowing search engine if there are any wildlife conservation centers near you. One type of conservation center is a wildlife sanctuary, which takes in wild animals too sick or injured to survive in their normal habitat. Much like volunteering at an animal shelter, you might find yourself feeding the animals—then cleaning up what’s left of the food after it exits the other end. Or you may spend your time taking adorable pictures of the animals to help educate the community about its local wildlife. 

It’s safe to say that while you probably won’t do much cuddling with wild rescues, you’ll get to spend plenty of time bonding with them in other ways. 

Volunteering at wildlife refuges, national parks, and state parks is another way you can contribute to wildlife conservation. Whether you’re picking up trash, helping with animal rehabilitation efforts, or writing grants, there’s plenty to do. 

4. Donate or Fundraise to Help Animals

Sometimes, life gets so hectic that the last thing you want to do is heap another commitment onto your plate. That’s okay—there’s still a way to help! Consider making a recurring donation to your favorite local animal shelter or rescue group. 

No matter the size, monthly donations are incredibly helpful, as the organization can expect the same amount of money at the same time each month. You can also try using a birthday or an organized event—think a sponsored charity walk—to raise money for a pawsome cause.