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4 simple ways to help your local animal shelter or rescue league

Aurora getting some fresh air in the shelters courtyard
Aurora getting some fresh air in the shelters courtyard
Kaitlin Schneider

Animal shelters nationwide have been bombarded with an influx in the number of animals they are ushering through their doors this year. A poor economy has forced some pet owners to relinquish their pets to a shelter when caring for a pet is no longer financially possible. Humane Societies, Rescue Leagues, Shelters, and Animal Control services nationwide have become the new home for a lot of these displaced pets.

There are many simple (and free!) things that you can do, today (or tomorrow, or the next day), to help out your local shelter/rescue league.

1. Become a volunteer. A lot of shelters need help caring for the animals on a day to day basis. Expect tasks to vary slightly from shelter to shelter, but some common volunteer chores include:

* dog walking & socialization

* cat socialization

* feeding/cleaning help

* donation organization

* fund raising and public awareness events

Volunteering is a great way for college students or others to spend time with animals when living circumstances may not allow a pet of your own. For new pet owners, volunteering and getting some animal experience can be a great way to figure out what qualities you’re looking for in a dog or cat of your own. Some shelters also allow children to volunteer when under the supervision of a parent or guardian. If you’ve got a little one who can’t get enough of dogs- check with your local shelter to find out their specific rules.

2. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and donate! Next time you’re rummaging through your linen closet, digging under that pile of large towels that always seem to get in the way…consider putting them to good use. Shelters go through towels at a phenomenal rate, often faster than they can wash them for re-use & are in constant need of linens to clean cages and animals with.

3. Specific donations. Most shelters or rescue leagues also have a “wish list” available online or within the facility. This is a brief list of some of the supplies the shelter uses frequently. Always consult a wish list first if ones is available to make sure you’re purchasing or donating an item that the shelter can put to good use.

Typically accepted donations include:

* dog& cat toys

* dog & cat treats

* canned dog & cat food

* kibble dog & cat food (restrictions may apply)

* small animal supplies

* used (but clean) cages/terrariums/aquariums

* collars, harnesses, and leashes

* kennels/crates

Gift cards and monetary donations should always be accepted and appreciated by your shelter. Sometimes money can be put to specific uses, like purchasing medical supplies (vaccines, emergency supplies etc).

4. Adopt & spread the word. Providing a loving home to a shelter animal is one of the best things you can do to help out. Lowering the number of animals in the shelter makes space for others in the future, and the less time an animal spends in a high stress situation like a shelter the better off they’ll be. If you cannot offer you home to a new companion, talk to friends and family members and encourage them to consider adoption if they’re looking for a family companion for their own homes.

One of my favorite local shelters is the Animal Rescue League (ARL). With two locations in Des Moines, the ARL is also known for having several of their cats on display at local Petco and Petsmart stores.

You can visit the main ARL building at:

5452 N.E. 22nd St.

Des Moines, IA 50313

Phone: 515/473-9101

And visit them online at for shelter hours, additional locations and up to date list of pets currently available for adoption.



  • Bethany H. 5 years ago

    I also love the ARL! I adopted a rabbit there this past holiday season for my daughters to have a furry companion. Staff was great at helping me to choose the right bunny for our family and answered all my questions about being a first time rabbit owner- great article, we'll be putting the ARL on our yearly donation list this year and many more to come!

  • Talon 5 years ago

    Don't forget the satellite locations. You have the Main location and ARL South (at Southridge Mall). You also have the two satellite locations, ARL West (inside Iowa Pet Foods and Seascapes) and ARL Petsmart (inside the Ankeny Petsmart store).

    Wonderful people doing wonderful work. We donate a lot to them (and others) and have shelter dogs.

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