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How to Help Animal Shelters (Volunteering, Adopting, and More)

I have created a new career for myself in retirement as an animal advocate. I write articles to create awareness of shelter pets.

It Takes a Village

It takes a village to provide for shelter pets, and several organizations are instrumental in providing needed items for the Manatee County Animal Services shelter in Palmetto, Florida. Nobody's pets are everybody's pets, and when communities join together they can make a huge difference in the lives of animals waiting for their forever homes.

Method #1: Donate Materials

Shelters can benefit from many types of material donations, but I'd like to share an example of a very creative and useful donation that has become an ongoing project.

In 2012, animal advocate Jane Sanks launched a project to make comfortable pillow beds for needy animals in local shelters and rescues. She moved the project to the American Red Cross facility in Sarasota in 2014, where she partnered with other local organizations to provide beds for the shelter pets that reside at Manatee County Animal Services shelter.

Approximately 15 volunteers join Jane each month to make the beds. Jane receives supplies from a variety of sources. Each bed is made with soft stuffing and covered with a removable washable cover of fabric that is both beautiful and durable. The beds are distributed to several shelters and rescues.

In 2015, the group distributed 758 beds. They are able to make an average of 90 beds each month, and the group works year-round.

The Manatee County Animal Services shelter looks forward each month to their delivery of these beds. The pillow beds are used in both kennels and in the new living room area that is now in use at the shelter to help the dogs adapt to living in a future home.

Innovative Living Room Space for Shelter Dogs

Dogs that reside at the Manatee County Animal Services shelter have a new living room that is used to help them adapt to a home environment while waiting for their forever home. Volunteers from the group Friends of Manatee County Animal Services provided furniture, rugs, and a comfy chair to complete a living room that resembles a home environment. Large pillow beds are also used in this area where dogs can relax, climb on real furniture, and play in a homelike environment. This living room area is another example of a need being fulfilled by dedicated volunteers who provide a good quality of life for the animals that are waiting to be adopted. Interested persons can learn more about the Friends of Manatee County Animal Services by visiting the sites listed in the "Resources" section at the end of this article.

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Method #2: Volunteer

In addition to donating materials or money, people can help animal shelters by volunteering. Volunteers can help with:

  • Walking dogs
  • Supervising play groups
  • Helping with socialization

Dog walkers provide the dogs with exercise, and as a walker also can benefit from the exercise. Dogs that do not get out of their kennel for walks and playtime in the yard become depressed and anxious in the noisy surroundings. Dog walkers are urgently needed to help with this task. Playgroups are also in need of help to supervise the dogs while at play each day. You can make a difference in the life of each dog that is waiting to be adopted by volunteering to help. Interested persons may contact the shelter at 941-742-5933 to learn about volunteer opportunities.

You can volunteer to walk shelter dogs.

You can volunteer to walk shelter dogs.

Method #3: Adopt a Shelter Animal

Manatee County Animal Services shelter depends on responsible families who are able to adopt and provide a forever home for these animals that find themselves in the shelter for a variety of reasons. You can find photos and stories written by volunteers about the dogs at a variety of sites. You can find photos of successful adoptions and dogs that are still waiting for their forever homes by visiting the Resources links at the end of this article.

Please open your home to a shelter dog that is waiting for a responsible forever home. Shelter staff and volunteers are always available to help your family choose the perfect new family member. Meet and Greets for your chosen dog can be arranged to ensure that you have chosen the right fit for your family.

Shelters save lives.

Shelters save lives.

Volunteer, Donate, and Adopt



This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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