Kids love pets. Owning them, petting them, and cuddling them. And, so many pets would benefit from kids taking care of them, particularly those in rescue shelters. The challenge is many facilities require volunteers to be at least 16 years old. So if you have younger kids, where do you begin? With the help of a wonderful organization, www.adopt-a-pet.com, a nonprofit that helps get homeless pets into caring homes, we have some great tips about where you should start and how you can follow through. First, double check with your area rescue groups or pet adoption agencies about their age limits for volunteers. Many will let 12-year-olds volunteer. And, younger kids may be allowed, as well, if they are accompanied by a parent. Next, see which of the following ideas are right for you and your kids of all ages:
Donate supplies: Shelters usually have a wish list of supplies they need. Go through your house with your kids to see if you have any items needed at the shelter. These can range from blankets to a computer printer to an old crate and more. Your kids could also decide to use some allowance or holiday money to purchase much-needed grooming supplies. A well-groomed animal is far more likely to be adopted than one that is scruffy.
Work an adoption event: Shelters frequently host adoption events to help animals find homes. Your kids can hand out flyers that publicize an upcoming event at school, around the neighborhood, or during extracurricular activities. At the event itself, kids can help parents attract people to the information table. Older kids can walk, groom -- and yes -- clean up after the animals on site. All necessary parts of caretaking!
Give some TLC: While shelters are safe havens for homeless animals, they can also be stressful places, too. They are foreign environments filled with many anxious and loud animals with a constant flow of strangers. Petting and comforting animals is a wonderful way to ease their anxiety and make your kids feel pretty good at the same time. Adopt-a-pet.com also suggests a few fun twists. Bring a bunch of friends and soothe the animals together. Or, hold a "pet-a-thon" where your kids can get family or friends to sponsor them for each animal they pet. The money raised can either be donated to the shelter or used to purchase needed supplies off of a wish list.
Use technology skills: The internet has revolutionized the pet adoption process. Posting photos and descriptions of animals in need of homes can increase the likelihood of a successful placement. Find out if a local shelter would benefit from your kids' taking video of the animals to bring to life the online listings. Kids (with parent permission) can also do some "social PETworking" by posting a link to a shelter pet on your Facebook page or via TwitterACritter to spread the word about specific pets to hundreds or thousands of people. If you have a personal website, consider adding a link to a pet search site as well.
Adopt a shelter worker: People who work in shelters have extremely difficult jobs with long hours and little or no pay. They often witness challenging circumstances that can be draining and disheartening. Showing them a little appreciation can go a long way. Your kids can stop by to say "thank you," drop off a note, send an email, or bake some treats for a pick-me-up.
Not every kid can bring a pet home. But any kid who is a pet lover can give some care and attention to an animal in need of a home. Start by contacting your local rescue shelter, humane society, or pet rescue program today!
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