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10 Ways to Help Dogs in Need

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Man petting a dog near dock with lake in the background

Adoption and fostering are great ways to help dogs in need of forever homes. But there are many other ways to give back, even if you can’t adopt a pet right now.

Here are 10 ways to spread the love and help dogs in need this holiday season—or any time of year.

1. Donate to organizations that help dogs in need

Is there an animal shelter that’s close to your heart? Donating to your local shelter is one of the best ways you can help dogs in need. Giving to a small shelter is often the best way for your donation to have the most impact, but there are larger organizations that help dogs across the country and around the world, too.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some of the organizations dedicated to helping dogs in need:

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was the first humane society to be established in North America and is, today, one of the largest in the world. Their mission is to prevent animal cruelty in the US. The ASPCA works to keep more animals in loving homes by protecting animals from harmful situations through community engagement, preventative action and providing resources and care when needed.

Best Friends Animal Society is a leading animal welfare organization working to create a future in which all U.S. animal shelters are no-kill by 2025. Help support them in their mission by donating or fundraising to help homeless dogs.

Hope for Paws rescues dogs, cats, and other animals suffering from abuse or neglect by bringing them off the streets and providing much-needed veterinary care. You might have seen their videos on social media, raising awareness about the importance of companion animals and inspiring people to support rescue efforts for animals in need.

On Giving Tuesday 2021, Embark donated to organizations that are near and dear to us, including: The Animal Rescue League of BostonGreater Boston Food BankRosie’s PlaceMSPCA, and SPCA of Tompkins County.

2. Sponsor a homeless dog

Another way to donate is by sponsoring a homeless dog or other animal who needs a home. Sponsoring a dog in need also makes for a great gift for the animal lover in your life. Spread a little extra joy by sending the gift recipient a card with the dog’s name and photo. You can also download a sponsorship certificate to wrap and give to them.

3. Organize a pet food drive

If you’re hosting a holiday party, why not turn it into a pet food drive, too? Gather some friends and collect canned food, kibble, and dog treats for your local animal shelter. Hosting a pet food drive is a low-cost way to help dogs in need, and makes it easy for everyone to contribute.

Having a supply of pet food can help families experiencing financial hardship continue to care for their dogs, and can help shelters care for more dogs in need. Get more tips on how to organize a pet food drive.

4. Donate supplies to animal shelters

If giving financially is not in your budget this year, there are many other ways you can support animal shelters that might be short on staff or supplies. Consider donating your old blankets and towels, unopened dog food, or cleaning supplies to your local shelter. You might already have a lot of these items lying around the house.

Needs can change seasonally, so it’s a good idea to call the shelter and see what they need before you donate. Many shelters and animal rescues even have wish lists online to help you decide what to give.

5. Volunteer your time

If you can physically go to a shelter, consider helping with cleaning habitats, filling food bowls, or walking dogs during the day. Many shelters also host adoption events around the holidays, and might need volunteers to help out on the day of the event.

Helping with animal care isn’t the only way to volunteer your time. You can volunteer your skills, too. If you’re a photographer or good with social media, you could offer to help with adoption campaigns or photos for their website. Some shelters need help writing letters or calling donors. Contact your local shelter and see if there are other ways you can contribute.

6. Shop at stores that give back to dogs in need

Sometimes, helping dogs can be as easy as doing your holiday shopping. Choose brands that give a portion of their profits back to dog-loving organizations. For example, with every purchase at The Animal Rescue Site, you can feed at least 35 shelter animals. And The Foggy Dog donates half a pound of food to rescue shelters across America with every purchase on their online store.

We all know that dogs and chocolate don’t mix. But with Rescue Chocolate, your chocolate habit can help dogs in need! 100% of their net profits are donated to animal rescue organizations. Every chocolate bar features a picture of a dog. With names like “Peanut Butter Pitbull,” “Foster-iffic Peppermint,” and “Up & Up PBJ Pup,” each flavor is meant to raise awareness about the issues affecting animals.

Rescue Dog Wines makes it easy to help dogs in need while buying wine for humans. They donate 50% of their profits to rescue dog organizations.

You can support dogs while indulging in your daily ritual with coffee from Hugo Coffee Roasters. A portion of every online purchase goes to support small animal rescues around the country.

If you’re the type of person who loves to match your outfit to your dog’s (or vice versa), Dog Threads might be the place for you. Each matching set sold raises money to feed homeless dogs. Matching outfits also make for a great gift for the dog mom in your life.

7. Foster a dog

Fostering is one of the most impactful ways to help dogs if you can’t adopt right now. There are many benefits of fostering a dog. By giving a dog a temporary home, you’re helping the shelter, teaching the dog important skills, and giving a gift to their future forever family.

Remember to be patient, both with the dog and with the shelter’s process. Get more tips for fostering a dog and find other ways you can help rescue organizations.

8. Support service dogs and military veterans

Mission K9 Rescue honors and celebrates veteran working dogs. Their mission is to rescue, reunite, re-home, rehabilitate, and repair any retired working dog that has served mankind. They’re working to help K9 veterans find homes and give back to the dogs who have given so much to soldiers and first responders.

K9s for Warriors connects highly trained service dogs with military veterans suffering from PTSD or other trauma. They re-home dogs from high-kill shelters, helping dogs and veterans build a lasting bond that facilitates recovery and healing.

You can donate to the program directly, sponsor a service dog, or volunteer your time by helping in the office or hosting an event to support their mission.

9. Walk or run to raise money for dogs

During the holiday season, cities host plenty of organized 5K fundraisers, from turkey trots to Santa runs. See if your community hosts a run/walk for charity that supports a local animal shelter or another cause that helps dogs in need. Get a group of friends together and get outside, all while helping animals.

If you can’t find an event near you, try a virtual event. For example, Best Friends Animal Society holds a virtual walk and fundraising event called Strut Your Mutt that helps cats and dogs in need across the country.

10. Contribute to canine research at Embark

Did you know that one of the easiest ways to help dogs is by taking Embark surveys about your pup? It’s true! By taking our surveys, you’re helping scientists at Embark do research that can unlock future discoveries about dog health. Just sign in to your Embark account to get started.

Mimi Padmabandu Contributor

Mimi Padmabandu is a scientific writer and Senior Content Strategist at Embark Veterinary. Her career includes a decade of experience writing about science and genomics for leading biotechnology companies, including Illumina, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and more. She holds a bachelor's degree in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology from UCLA and a master’s degree in Early Modern English Literature from King’s College London.

Read more about Mimi Padmabandu

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