Helping animals is a great way for your family to give back and make a noticeable difference. From forest-dwelling rodents, to farm animals, to your pets at home, even our biggest four-legged friends need a little tender loving care now and then. Shelter pets are looking for permanent homes while wildlife still struggles with man-made trash littering their natural habitats.
Animal welfare may seem like a massive task, but the smallest actions can improve the lives of animals in significant ways. Here are five:
1. Volunteer or Donate to a Shelter
Animal shelters are always in need of a helping hand. Whether it’s taking dogs for a walk, cleaning out cages, or answering the phone, your free time can be used to help shelters keep the doors open so potential pet parents can connect with their new family member. Consider PAWS Chicago, which works to address the overpopulation of homeless animals and improve animal welfare through a variety of volunteer positions—each of them allowing you to work hands-on in Dog Town or Kitty City, or spend time as a desk volunteer.
Wherever you’re located, items like towels, old newspapers, food, and kitty litter go quickly, so when your schedule doesn’t allow time to volunteer, consider donating these goods instead. If your local shelter doesn’t have donation or volunteer terms on its website, give them a call. They’ll be delighted to share a few ways you can help. You can also check into similar opportunities with the Animal Humane Society.
2. Preserve a Preserve
A great way to help animals in the wild is to spend a Saturday or Sunday picking up litter at a nearby forest preserve or national park. Every fall, Yosemite National Park, along with the Yosemite Climbing Association, hosts an annual facelift to clean up trash, litter, and debris from around the park following the busy summer season. In 2013 alone, this cleanup day resulted in the removal of over 22,000 pounds of trash and debris (80 percent of which was then recycled!).
Local parks and wooded areas can also use a good once-over, so consider organizing your own cleanup day with your family and neighbors. Use it as a hike or dog-walking opportunity. Nothing brings the community—including the wildlife—closer together than taking pride in a clean living environment that belongs to your community.
3. Raise Money in Your Own Backyard
As with many nonprofit organizations, animal foundations like the World Wildlife Fund and The Humane Society are always in need of money to assist them in their goal of helping animals. Next time you’re hosting a summer barbecue or backyard get-together, make it a fundraiser to help your favorite animal welfare organization. Collect cash donations or ask local businesses to get in on the action by contributing gift cards or products to be auctioned off.
4. Go Cruelty-Free
According to Cruelty-Free International, all kinds of animals—monkeys, horses, rabbits, mice, and many more—are subjected to animal tests in which a “live animal is forced to undergo something that is likely to cause them pain, suffering, distress, or lasting harm.” Many of these tests are done on cosmetics items like makeup, lotions, and other skin care items.
One of the easiest ways to help these animals is to shop for Leaping Bunny-certified products, which weren’t tested on living things. Tom’s of Maine meets this important standard, as well as PETA’s cruelty-free certification. If you aren’t sure if your favorite products are cruelty-free, reach out to a representative for clarification.
5. Limit the Meat in Your Diet
According to Meat Free Monday, a nonprofit organization founded by Mary, Stella, and Paul McCartney, “billions of animals are farmed and killed for meat each year.” Many of the animals spend their short lives in cramped cages before being slaughtered. Eating less meat not only limits this suffering, but it also helps reduce global greenhouse gas emissions associated with factory farms—creating a happier, healthier atmosphere for animals and people alike.
Making the decision to purchase free-range, grass-fed meats, eggs, and dairy products is another small adjustment that helps promote animal welfare in the food industry. If you’re in need of some easy vegetarian meal ideas, many plant-based recipes are at your disposal.
Small steps can go along way in helping pets, wildlife, and farm animals. If you’ve ever wondered how to help animals, try some of these ideas and prioritize animal welfare with easy actions. How do you like to help the animals in your community? Let us know on Twitter!
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.