If you didn’t know, it’s National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day, a day designated for raising awareness of shelter animals. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates 6.5 million animals are taken in by U.S. shelters each year. In 2020, the Houston ASPCA helped 44,933 animals, adopting out 6,248 pets from its shelter.  

However, many people aren’t able to adopt a pet right now—perhaps your apartment annoyingly doesn’t allow animals, or your spouse is allergic to cats. Or maybe you don’t even have your own life together (it’s been a rough year, we feel you) and can’t fathom caring for another one. Whatever the case may be, if you still want to help but can’t adopt today, here are a few things you can do:

Volunteer for your local shelter or rescue group.

In pretty much any city you go to, there’s bound to be a slew of animal shelters and rescues, and they always need volunteers in some capacity. At the Houston Humane Society, for example, there’s lots you can do when you become a volunteer. Apart from the typical dog walking and room attendant jobs (What will you choose? Kittens or puppies?), join the animal enrichment team, where you’re tasked with collecting materials and creating engaging toys and activities to keep the animals entertained while waiting to be adopted. Or, help an underweight dog put on some much-needed pounds through their Chow Hound Program—you’ll make their special meals and cheer them on as they gobble it up. You can even become a matchmaker: One of the most important Humane Society volunteer activities, you’ll help adopters find the right pet.

Some Volunteer Opportunities:

Try fostering, a sleepover, or a playdate. 

This is the opportunity for the folks who aren't sure if they’re ready to adopt, but want to give it a try. Most shelters have foster policies. Typically, all it takes is an application, an interview with a foster coordinator, and an approval, and then you’re allowed to lend your home to a foster pet or two until they are adopted—that kennel life can be hard on the animals. However, if you don’t want to commit to a full foster, some shelters, like the Pasadena Humane Society, offer over-the-weekend stays. The Pasadena Humane Society also offers foster field trip opportunities where you can take a dog out from the shelter on a relaxing doggy day date. The pups will even wear some “adopt me” swag. 

Fulfill your local shelter’s Amazon Wishlist.

Virtually every shelter has an Amazon Wishlist, detailing everything our furry friends need, like food and treats, plus other items you may not even think of, like cleaning products for accidents. And it's super convenient; simply go to the shelters’ wishlist, buy straight from it, and Amazon will do the rest. Though, if you’re old school and Amazon isn’t your thing, we’re sure shelters would still appreciate walk-in donations. 

Local Wish Lists:

Share shelter animal posts on social media.

Shelters are always posting available pets on social media to help them find their fur-ever home. While no one wants to turn Facebook into one of those depressing ASPCA advertisements with Sarah McLachlan's “Angels” playing in the background, sharing these posts may help a pet find their new family, and that’s important. All it takes is one click for an animal to potentially find a new home, plus your Facebook friends likely won’t start any unruly arguments over a cute pup or kitty post.