Yesterday a fourteen year old girl told me that she loves animals and wants to help them, but there was nothing a kid her age could do to help, was there?
Yes, of course there is.
At the shelter:
If your mom or dad will go with you, you can walk dogs, play with the cats, wash and groom dogs, do laundry, and help clean. If you’re good with a camera, you can take pictures of the adoptable animals for their website, which makes it more likely that the animals will get adopted. Some shelters might be able to allow a fourteen year old to volunteer alone (with a permission slip), but many insist that an adult come with anyone under sixteen.
There are hundreds of animals in shelters, and the employees have all they can do to handle paperwork and necessities. The employees have to do intake paperwork, adoption paperwork, clean and sanitize the cages, runs, and floors, deal with the public, decide which animals are adoptable, order supplies, train volunteers and employees, and countless other mandatory tasks.
Volunteers are essential. They provide the rudimentary comfort that the overtasked employees literally cannot. The dogs NEED access to fresh air and sunlight. They NEED affection and time with humans. It keeps them healthier and happier, and thus they are more adoptable.
Outside the shelter:
You can collect donations. Shelters need towels, decent quality food (for dogs, cats, kittens, puppies), crates, toys, collars and leashes, Dawn shampoo, grooming supplies, cardboard trays, cat litter, litter boxes, food dishes, and above all else, MONEY.
How do you collect them?
If your school allows it, you can do a drive for supplies. I have a group of students that do a food drive for our local shelter every year. Last year, they collected over 1700 pounds of food, which sounds like a huge amount until you realize that the shelter uses that much food EVERY SINGLE WEEK. You can also organize an animal welfare service club to volunteer at the shelter or at shelter events, and that club can help gather supplies. Club bakesales are an easy and effective way to accumulate money you can donate.
You can also ask the companies where your adult family members work if they will match donations. So if your school community raises $1,000 for a shelter, you might be able to get a company to donate a matching amount.
If you belong to a church or synagogue, they might be willing to help you accumulate donations of food, cash, or supplies. My church does an annual blessing of the animals; if yours has a similar event, it’s always a great idea to tie a fundraising effort to an event like this one.
There are dozens of ways a fourteen year old – or even younger kids – can help animals. For some of them, you may need an adult to work with you. If your parents are not able to help, you might ask a teacher, a neighbor, or even a friend’s mom if they would be the adult presence you need.
How do you know what shelter or group to help? Check online to see if your community has a local shelter. The nearer the facility is to your home or school, the easier it will be to get an adult to help you. If there isn’t, check online (Petfinder.com is a good resource). You can probably find a rescue group in your area. If you volunteer to wash dogs for a rescue group, believe me, they will be very grateful!
One last thing – if you can’t find an adult to help, don’t be discouraged. There are so many things a kid can do. What are your interests? If you like to cook, do bakesales. If you like to talk to people, you can ask people and businesses for donations. You are limited only by your creativity. If you love animals and want to help, there is always something you can do. It might just take you a little while to figure out what the best way is for you.