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10 Ways To Help Your Local Animal Shelter

After a summer of interning at the Wisconsin Humane Society, I got an inside look at what it takes to care for all of the animals in their shelter. Yes, monetary donations are always appreciated, but I know during these hard times that can be difficult. I also know people who prefer to donate items instead of money so they know exactly what they are contributing. I would like to say that this list is based on what I have seen and some shelters may have different needs or not accept certain items. That being said, always check with your shelter before making the trip or buying items. The Wisconsin Humane Society also offers sponsorships so you can support a specific animal’s vet care, food and shelter.

In Shelter Store

At the Wisconsin Humane Society, there is a store that you can buy all sorts of pet supplies from instead of going to a chain store. There is litter, the cutest cat trees and clothing you can purchase to show your support. They also have an online store that you can check out too, although going to the store was a super cute experience.


Towels are used to keep animals warm and comfortable, especially after surgery. When my boyfriend adopted a kitten, she came home with her towel so she would have something in a new environment that had her scent. She still loves laying on it too!

Insulin Syringes 

I remember unpackaging a ton of these into a bucket for the vet team to use. Insulin syringes are something that shelters constantly need to be replenished, but they are not what comes to mind when donating.  When you do donate them obviously make sure they are unused.

Canned and Dried Food

If donating dry food, please make sure the bag is sealed. From personal experience, we go through a TON of canned food, especially for cats. If you have ever had a cat you know they are picky eaters. We often have to offer pate and shredded meat in gravy options to observe what they prefer to eat. I still remember there was one cat that would literally just lick up the gravy.


We had a surplus while I was there but if you’re considering throwing good blankets out think about donating them first.  All the animals love a cozy blanket to cuddle with and it keeps them warm at night.

Soft Dog Treats

Rewards are the best way to encourage wanted behaviors. It shows the animal they are loved and allows them to be trained.  Treats do also come in handy when having to give oral medication!

Cleaning Supplies

Well, animals are messy. Paper towel, liquid dish soap, liquid hand soap, Ziploc bags (gallon) and disinfectant wipes are always appreciated. I would wash my hands in between every animal touched and obviously with COVID I used hand sanitizer very frequently.

Wildlife Supplies

The Wisconsin Humane Society also treats and releases wildlife! Pedialyte (unflavored), Wagner’s 13008 Deluxe Wild Bird Food, Wagner’s 13004 Four Season Wild Bird Food, Miracle Nipples & syringes, Kaytee Wild Finch Wild Bird Food, Audubon Park 12243 Critter Crunch Wild Bird & Critter Food, Kaytee Wild Bird Food, Black oil sunflower seed, Kaytee Wild Finch Blend and Sherwood Pet Health Baby Rabbit Food are some of the specific items used for this process.

Office Supplies

There is a lot of paperwork and documentation that happens behind the scenes with every surgery, intake and adoption. That being said we go through pens, highlighters, printer paper, post-it notes and paper clips just like any other business.

Girl In Iu Hoosiers Shirt With Dog
Anna Schultz / Her Campus

Last but not least, adopt your new member of your family. There are so many sweet animals just waiting for their new human parents to come to take them home and love them. Before going to a breeder or a pet store, go to your local shelter, please. Not only do many pure breeds have health issues, but many breeders also are not as responsible as we wish they would be. Since you’re reading this you probably already know that.

Give shy cats and jumping dogs a chance. Shelter life can bring out many different behaviors in animals that you won’t see once they settle in. That excited dog? Even with the many walks a day they would love to be able to roam freely around your house, catch a ball and then cuddle you. The shy cat? There are so many weird noises and smells. Go slow with them, talk in hushed voices and let them come to you. As always there are adoption counselors there to help you find your perfect match as their job is to know the animals. 

If you have a home that you could offer to animals temporarily, check out the foster program! If you have some extra time on your hands, see if you could be a volunteer or even an employee. As always any donation is appreciated. Check out your local shelter’s website for more information on how you can help. 

Laura Dirk

Wisconsin '21

Hi! I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin - Madison studying biology. I am crossing my fingers to get into vet school to continue my education and follow my dream! Follow along my rollercoaster of college with me through my articles, learn new tips and tricks, learn from my mistakes, be inspired!
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