Anyone who loves animals has likely at least considered donating to their local animal shelter. We know that in stark contrast to the lives of our pampered pets is the sad plight of all the homeless pets across the U.S. And, based on the fact that an astounding $62.75 billion dollars is forecast to be spent in 2016 in the U.S. pet industry (APPA), we have the resources to help. But, just how great is the need and where should you start?

We rely on animal shelters to do the hard work associated with caring for strays. There are approximately 13,600 independent community animal shelters in the U.S. that exist to rescue, nurture, protect and ultimately find homes for as many animals as possible. Their job is an exhausting one with about 7.6 million companion animals entering shelters nationwide every year.

In addition to animal shelters an important form of aid is provided by pet pantries. More and more pet pantries are popping up across the country to help families who struggle to afford food and supplies for their pets. Without these pantries, many of these beloved family pets would end up in animal shelters.

A YouGiveGoods drive is a great option for you to support an animal shelter. It is a form of virtual volunteering since you don't ever have to leave your house! And, it is the most efficient, engaging way to get most-needed items delivered to the charity. Start a YouGiveGoods drive to raise everything your shelter needs including cat food, dog food, toys, bones and treats, kitty litter, leashes, collars and cleaning supplies. Individuals, groups, companies and schools can make a difference in the lives of homeless pets. See how the students of Franklin and Marshall College in PA raised 1,500 items for their local animal shelter. Start a drive today and enlist the support of your family, friends and colleagues.

Pet pantries and animal shelters operate largely on donations from the community. So just how can you show your support? There are five main ways you can help your local animal shelter:

  • Run a drive. A YouGiveGoods online drive is a great way to raise much-needed supplies for your local animal shelter. YouGiveGoods handles all the logistics so all you need to do is promote your drive via email and social media and ask your family and friends to shop online to support your cause. No more damaged or otherwise unusable donations. No more sorting, lifting or transporting. All brand-new items are shipped directly to your chosen local animal shelter at no additional charge at the close of the drive. See how supporters of The Goathouse Refuge in North Carolina used YouGiveGoods to raise almost 2,500 bags/cans of food and cleaning supply items.
  • Cash donations. Any amount large or small can make the difference in the life of an animal.
  • Volunteer. Contact your local animal shelter and schedule time to help out at the shelter.
  • Donate items. Every item donated frees up cash for other areas of the shelter’s operation. While individual animal shelters have specific needs, the following are top items that are generally in high demand at all animal shelters: cleaning supplies (bleach, laundry detergent, soap, garbage bags), treats, toys, and pet beds and linens. Or, visit YouGiveGoods and donate to an existing animal shelter drive.
  • Virtual volunteering. People are just getting used to hearing this term which means using the internet to support a charity. Perhaps you can do some bookkeeping from your home computer or help with their website or run an online drive.