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What Do Animal Shelters Do?

Animal shelters are key to dealing with the pet overpopulation problem.

In 7 years, one cat and its offspring can produce over 400,000 kittens. Thus, a combination of bad pet ownership and uncontrolled breeding has resulted in the animal shelter system.

Shelters exist to take in homeless or stray animals. Animals are nursed back to health and found a home, or in the worst of cases, euthanized.

Shelters are privately-owned or government-run and typically take donations. They have regulations to follow, but it’s important to know what makes a good shelter when you’re looking to adopt a pet.

Animal shelters can be stressful environments for animals and staff alike. There’s always a constant stream of strays needing homes.

If you’re visiting a shelter and looking to adopt a pet, there are a few things to look out for.

Does the shelter take time to place pets in suitable homes?

Do they educate new owners on responsible pet ownership and medical requirements specific to breed?

Do the animals in the shelter look clean, well exercised, and well-fed?

What’s the Difference Between Animal Shelters and Animal Rescue Centers?

Animal rescue centers are a bit different from shelters. Rescue centers are privately owned and use a foster care system for specific breeds.

They usually take pets from environments of abuse and neglect. Moreover, they provide temporary homes through foster families while finding permanent homes.

Rescue centers are able to maintain a more natural environment for their animals. These animals are surrounded by their own breed or still living in a home with people.

Still, animal shelters are more crowded and fast-paced. Sadly in here, animals are at risk of being put down if the shelter can’t find homes fast enough.

For rescue centers without the pressure, they’re able to spend more time placing animals in loving homes. And, they can give potential owners a feel for their pet’s demeanor, provide a medical history, and usually have the resources to check up on its progress after a few weeks.

But, animal shelters may be a cheaper route to take when adopting than rescue centers. As rescue centers rarely receive funding and run on donations, they may ask you to pay medical costs for a pet you’re interested in.

Of course, this is completely dependent on the shelters and centers nearby but it’s worth considering if the cost is a concern.

Volunteering at Animal Shelters

Animal shelters run on government funds or donations, and you can count on them almost always being full. So, how do they afford staff?

Many shelters rely on the help of volunteers who spend their time and energy nurturing stray pets and helping them find new homes.

It’s difficult for volunteers to get to know pets in shelters as well as, say, foster homes do for rescue animals. But, they’re there to help match prospective new owners and their new adorable friends as best they can.

Assessing the needs of a new owner against the animals in the shelter, volunteers take the time to estimate how prepared this new owner is. Is this owner able to care for the animal responsibly?

Volunteers have a hard job. Not only do they balance these requirements, but they also expose themselves daily to sick animals, many of which may have to be put down.

Yet, as much as the work is challenging, it’s crucial and endlessly rewarding when all goes well. Thus, many shelters have a rule that doesn’t allow volunteers to adopt until a specific time has passed. This is to cut those heart-over-head moments.

To match animals with new owners, volunteers also muck in with the daily upkeep of the shelter and its residents. Cleaning, feeding, transporting, and sometimes fostering if an animal can’t be housed at the shelter.

Anyways, wherever you can add value, shelters need that help and you can start as young as 14. Many full-time workers fit in short shifts around their jobs and shelters are flexible to take as much help as possible.

How You Can Support Animal Shelters


The obvious but not the only option. If you’re looking to adopt, consider rehoming an animal that truly needs your love and care.

There are already many sweet pets out there needing help. Thus, the ultimate contribution you can make in support is to take some of them out of the system.

You could make a one-off or regular donation to a shelter. Even if you can only afford something small, make the move, it could be invaluable to an animal.


As outlined in this article, volunteering is a hard gig in the animal shelter environment.

Shelters are also flexible with hours because they need help. Thus, even if you can only offer short shifts here and there, they’ll thank you for it. It doesn’t need medical expertise, only a big heart.

Walk Dogs or Cats

Want some exposure to cute and fluffy animals, but limited on time? Why not see if your shelter needs dog walkers or some professional cuddlers for their cats?

Shelters may be looking to help animals bond with people and become more comfortable. So, you might be able to get involved in a lesser capacity that way.

Spread The Word

Almost everyone has an online presence nowadays so why not use yours?

By sharing the posts of your local shelters via social media, you may pair a pet with its new owner. Or at the very least, keep shelters at the top of your friend’s minds in considering pet adoption.

Offer Your Services

Are you an accountant, lawyer, DIY whizz, or tradesperson?

Have a passion for animals but want to help less directly? Well, you can lend them your expert services in other areas.

After all, they’ll have money to track, legal regulations to follow, and systems that need maintenance. Or, maybe you’re a photographer and can make animals look great for their close-up adoption profile?


Why not raise money through your school or local community to help boost a shelter in need?

This is a great way to raise awareness and get everyone talking about shelters. Moreover, kids can learn, adults can organize, and the pets get a second chance.

Want to Find out More?

To find out more about your local animal shelters, search for your regional animal welfare authority online, (e.g. the SPCA or RSPCA).

They offer the most up to date news on shelters that need help and the best ways to get involved.

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