Want to help pets and their companions? Here are 11 ideas

As part of our New Year’s resolutions, many of us vow to do more to help others. For pet owners, that can include helping animals and their people.

Volunteering at a shelter or fostering a homeless pet are common ways to contribute to animal welfare, but there are a number of other ways to help.

Time, goods and money are all valuable contributions, whether it’s a little or a lot.

If you have committed to help make the world a better place for pets this year, here are 11 ways to get started:

1. Donate pet food to your local Meals on Wheels program to help ensure that seniors’ pets eat well, too.

2. Keep a supply of gift cards to pet supply stores on hand to give to homeless people with pets.

3. Transport animals from shelters to rescue groups or foster homes. This can be especially helpful if you have a van. “We once loaded up my van with six crates of dogs going to four different rescues,” says Susan Fox of McKinleyville. “For rural shelters like ours, someone who can move a bunch of dogs at once would be welcomed with open arms.”

4. Got a neighbor who’s having difficulty getting around because of an illness or injury? Ask if you can help out by walking, playing with or grooming their dog. “Elderly people may have a hard time lifting medium-size or large dogs,” says Tiffany Gere of Butler, N.J. “Offering to help with vet visits or being their driver in an emergency would go a long way toward giving them peace of mind.”

5. Do your online shopping through AmazonSmile or Register your local shelter or other pet-related organization, and a portion of your purchases will help to support them.

6. Your local shelter or rescue group just received an influx of animals and likely needs money – fast! Help out by running a yard sale or an online fundraiser auction. You’ll need to get individuals and businesses to donate items to sell, publicize the fundraiser and follow up to make sure all the payments come in, the items get sent out to the winning bidders, and the money gets to the rescue in a timely manner. (Get your animal-loving friends to help.) These types of events can also help to support a shelter’s emergency medical fund. “Our shelter has a $250 limit imposed by the county on what can be spent on medical care for one dog or cat,” Fox says. “The fund covers the difference between that and what is needed.”

7. Share your skills. Shelters and rescue groups need volunteers who can write grant proposals, design or manage websites, do accounting, photograph animals available for adoption, make home visits and more.

8. Hand out fliers for an adoption campaign or other event. “I had posters donated for a white rabbit adoption program and someone distributed them to vet offices and groomers,” says Mary Cvetan of Pittsburgh. “It was a huge help.”

9. Help newcomers to your town or new pet owners by making a list you can hand out that includes businesses and organizations such as local veterinarians, emergency veterinary clinics, pet sitters, pet supply stores and low-cost or free spay/neuter services.

10. Take blankets, towels, gently used (or new) dog toys and other supplies to shelters.

11. Got a big heart and a healthy wallet? Help with someone’s veterinary bills. Pam Becker, executive director of the Animal Health Foundation of California, recently received an email from a woman looking for information on low-cost spay/neuter services so she can help a homeless woman get her dog spayed. “She sees the woman every day and wants to help her,” Becker says. To find other volunteer opportunities, visit the website

The buzz

Children with autism can benefit from living with pets, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Living with pets can help to develop and improve the children’s social skills, says Dr. Gretchen Carlisle, research fellow in the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine’s Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction. If they have a relationship with the pet, they are more likely to respond when asked about the animal. Any kind of pet in the home can be helpful, Carlisle found in a survey of 70 families.

▪  As they age, pets are more likely to develop some type of cancer. Signs of cancer include lumps or bumps that grow or change; wounds that don’t heal; persistent or recurrent lameness; unexplained weight loss; lack of appetite; difficulty eating or swallowing; bleeding from the mouth, nose or rectum; difficulty breathing or straining to urinate or defecate; and lack of energy. If your pet shows any of these signs, take him to the veterinarian right away. Cancer is treatable, especially when caught in the early stages.

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with Dr. Becker can also be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.