Thousands of dogs are euthanized daily while thousands more sit in overcrowded shelters that lack the means to care for them.  Even the smallest of gestures can make a difference in the life of a dog in need and even help reduce the number of animals euthanized for lack of a loving home. Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, author of  DEVOTED: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty, and Life with Dogs outlines for us below 20 ways you can help a shelter dog in need. Feel great about reaching out with one of these quick and easy ideas (not one of which requires more than 20 minutes or $20):  

1.       Make the Cut – Spay or neuter your dog, which not only protects against accidental litters but also significantly lowers the risk of your dog developing ovarian or testicular cancer. Organizations like the ASPCA have mobile vans and programs that offer the service at no or reduced cost, and many veterinarians will perform the operation at a discount for rescued dogs.

2.       Strip! (Your bed) – Your old sheets, blankets and towels are another dog’s luxury linens. Most shelters rely on donations to provide dogs with bedding. Package yours up and drop them off.

3.       Have a One Night Stand – Sign up with a local rescue organization to foster a dog in need for as little as one night or a weekend. Often, that’s all the time that’s needed for a rescue to be able to pull a dog from the euthanasia list and set up transport to its forever home.

4.       Post It – Visit a shelter’s home page or a Facebook page like Bruised Not Broken. Once a week, pick a dog to repost and champion on your own Facebook page.

5.       Keep it Interesting – Send a box of rugged toys and rawhide bones to your local shelter, most of which cannot afford more than the basics. To a dog stuck in a kennel for days, distracting treats can make all the difference to its mental health and help keep it adoptable in a stressful environment.

6.       Knit One… Form a knitting club with friends to create and donate dog coats in various sizes. Many strays are underweight and have a difficult time enduring cold weather.

7.       Get Under Your Dog’s Skin – Microchip your dog so that in the unfortunate event that he or she gets lost, the shelter can immediately contact you. In a crowded kill shelter, a lost dog who sits for days waiting to be identified means other dogs are euthanized for the space.

8.       Play Ball – Call your local tennis court and see if they would be willing to donate their used tennis balls so that volunteers can exercise and entertain shelter dogs during their precious time out of their kennels.

9.       Make Food for Thought – Ask your children’s class to make homemade biscuits and donate them to your local shelter or a rescue group that the children identify and like. Discuss with them why these dogs are homeless and what they can do to help.

10.   Walk the Talk – On your next run or even walk around the block, consider taking it in the companionship of a shelter dog. Many shelters rely on volunteers to walk the dogs, which means they can sit for days without getting out of their cage.

11.   Get Snappy – If you are handy with a camera, volunteer your services. Dogs waiting for homes are adopted much faster when their best face is put forward.

12.   Hit the Road – Rescues are always in need of people with a car willing to transport a dog to its forever home, which is often out of state or at least across town. Offer to do a leg of the trip, if not the entire one.

13.   Be Neighborly – Get to know the dogs and owners on your block and volunteer to be backup in case of emergency. Many dogs end up in shelters when their loving owners go into the hospital and there is no one to take care of them. You can also feel good about keeping pets and their families together during hard times.

14.   Take Up Box-ing – Start a drive at your office or your gym. Set up a donation box and encourage people to drop off food, toys, and linens. At the end of the allotted time, drop the loot off at your local shelter or preferred rescue.

15.   Visit the Principal’s Office – Suggest to your local school that they schedule a free humane education class with Animal Farm Foundation, which offers free classes to children about animal care, respect, and working to overcome breed discrimination. ( In some cities such as New York, there are laws mandating humane education be a part of the school curriculum, but they are rarely enforced.

16.   Pump Up the Volume – Contact your local vet and see if he or she would be willing to do a community pet day, offering discounted spay/neuter/microchipping.

17.   Call in Sick – Contact a hospital near you and ask if you can pick up their discarded linens once a month to take to your local shelter.

18.   Drink Up – Organize a “dog days” happy hour with a group of friends at a bar, asking that each donate $5 or a can of dog food at the door.

19.   Play to your strengths – Rescues and shelters are often in need of what you have to offer, from legal advice to accounting and graphic design. Don’t assume that because you do something completely un-animal related that it won’t be useful: It could be just what the dogs need.

20.   Become a Prop Master – Go to a 99 cent store and stock up on bandanas and boas to donate to your shelter or a rescue; dressing for success is all the more crucial for homeless dogs having their pictures taken!

Rebecca Ascher-Walsh is a New York-based writer who volunteers at a high-kill shelter and started the Deja Foundation to help rescue dogs from high-kill shelters. She's the loving adoptive mother of two pit bulls.