Rescued by rembrandt
A female shelter staff member feeding brown-speckled dogs in a caged-in area while another looks on.

Animal shelters and rescues play a crucial role in our society by caring for some of the most vulnerable creatures. The problem is they’re usually underfunded and overwhelmed, trying to provide for a growing number of abandoned pets. They rely heavily on the community’s generosity to keep their animals safe, healthy, and happy. And that’s where you come in. By learning what animal shelters need, you can offer meaningful support to these amazing organizations!

11 Important Things Animal Shelters Need

What animal shelters need is help from compassionate animal lovers like you. And that help can take many different forms. But when your goal is to make an impact, it’s worth knowing the specific types of items they require most.

If you’re eager to support a shelter or rescue that does good work, here are some things you can give that will be greatly appreciated. 

1. Financial Contributions

Monetary donations are incredibly valuable to animal rescues and shelters. That’s because they have limited budgets to work with. General donations give organizations the flexibility to apply funds where they’re needed. By contributing financially, you can help a shelter do the following:

Don’t underestimate the importance of donating money—no matter the amount. It’s one of the best ways to support shelters and animal welfare in general

2. Pet Food

Shelters spend a lot of money to feed the animals in their care. Food alone can take up the majority of an organization’s budget, especially if they have a large number of different animals. However, due to high “petflation” rates, many are struggling to cover the costs of pet food. That’s why donating food can be a great way to help. 

Consider buying high-quality pet food to give to your local shelter. If possible, pick up some for special diets, as many shelter animals suffer from health issues. Some shelters may accept open food that hasn’t expired whereas others won’t, so it’s important to check the shelter’s policy. It’s also a good idea to look at recalls on sites like Dog Food Advisor and Cat Food Advisor to ensure the food you give is safe. 

Tip: If you want to go the extra mile, you could provide stainless steel or ceramic food and water bowls too. 

3. Toys and Enrichment

A shelter volunteer using a wand toy to play with cats.

Shelters are always looking for ways to keep animals active, entertained, and happy. But most can’t afford to purchase new toys, training tools, or enrichment activities. That’s where donations can be beneficial. By purchasing things animal shelters need for playtime, you can help lift a rescue animal’s spirits and even improve their behavior. 

Here are some examples:

Be sure that any new or used toys you donate are clean, durable, and in good condition. Avoid those with small or loose pieces that could be swallowed. You may want to do some research and look at reviews before buying anything you plan to give to a shelter.

4. Collars and Leashes

Typically, shelters use collars, leashes, and harnesses for their animals. These make walking and playing with the animals easier. Plus, they prevent escape and ensure safety. 

Since not every animal comes to the shelter with a collar, it requires an investment on the shelter’s part. Depending on the number of animals they have, this can add up. So, it’s worth purchasing such items for a shelter in need. 

Consider buying adjustable collars for various sizes, strong leashes, and cat/dog harnesses. You can also donate used collars and leashes, but it’s recommended to clean them first. 

5. Grooming Products

Shelters are responsible for keeping their animals well-groomed. Dogs and cats that have spent time on the streets are especially prone to dirt and matted fur, requiring a lot of grooming. Unfortunately, this can be difficult without the necessary supplies. 

You can ensure a shelter has everything they need by donating the following:

Tip: Shelters that care for more exotic animals have unique needs. So, keep that in mind if you want to donate to an organization that rescues birds, lizards, or horses—as an example. They could benefit from items like beak trimmers, reptile-safe bath treatments, or hoof picks.

6. Blankets and Towels

Every shelter animal deserves comfort. Whether it’s drying off after a bath or resting in their cage, they should feel safe. That’s why shelters frequently use towels, heating pads, and blankets. And they can always benefit from more. 

You can contribute soft materials like these to your local shelter. They don’t have to be in like-new condition either. They can be helpful for softening the bottom of cages, mopping up spills, and more. 

7. Cleaning Materials

With so many animals coming in and out, keeping a shelter clean is a big job. Staff members need all the cleaning materials they can get. As you know, these products can be expensive, which is why you should consider donating the following items:

Rest assured, the shelter staff will appreciate the supplies!

8. Medical Supplies

Animals that are rescued and turned over to shelters often suffer from neglect. They may come to the facility with injuries or health problems—or develop others later on. That’s why medical supplies are among the most important things animal shelters need.  

First aid supplies like gauze, cotton swabs, tweezers, and adhesive tape are a great contribution to make. Also, heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives can go a long way toward keeping animals healthy.

9. Office Supplies

Rescues and animal shelters are like any other organization in that they require office supplies. However, this is an administrative need that most people overlook. You can help a shelter by donating copy paper, printer ink, pens, markers, notepads, file folders, storage boxes, and sticky notes. 

10. Potty Materials

Toilet accidents are common in shelters. Many animals arrive without proper house training. Plus, overworked staff members can’t always get to animals in time to take them on walks. On top of that, some animals, especially older ones, may suffer from incontinence. 

It makes sense that shelters need potty materials like the following:

Although this may seem like a minor contribution, it can go a long way toward keeping animals and their areas clean. 

11. Crates and Carriers

Rescue shelters need various sizes of travel carriers to transport animals to and from the facility. Also, some use crates to make kennel units cozier and provide a place to retreat. Unfortunately, these items tend to be on the expensive side, so organizations are limited in how many they can buy. Purchasing a crate or carrier for your local shelter is a great idea. You can also donate any used ones you have. Just make sure to clean them thoroughly.

Provide Shelters with What They Need!

There are many things animal shelters need to continue their important work. Any contribution you make—whether money or supply donation—can be a tremendous help. So, when you ask yourself, “What do animal shelters need?” remember that they need you and your support.

Want to make an even greater impact? Donate to help animal rescues and shelters with Rescued by Rembrandt!