How to Help Animals

Three Methods:Caring for AnimalsMaking Lifestyle ChangesBecoming an Animal Rights Advocate

Animal cruelty takes many forms. It can be a deliberate act of abuse, or an act of negligence that leaves an animal uncared for and in undesirable living conditions.[1] There are many ways to help animals, through lifestyle changes, conscious decision making, and simple animal care. Learning how to help animals live a better life will make you feel happy and confident in the fact that you made a difference.

Method 1
Caring for Animals

  1. Image titled Become a Dog Groomer Step 11
    Adopt a pet. If you're looking for a new pet, there are plenty of ways you can help animals. Rather than buying from a breeder, consider adopting a pet from your local shelter or rescue group. These adoption agencies house many pets that are given away when people move, as well as animals who come from neglectful or abusive homes.[2]
    • When you adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue group, not only are you giving an animal a second chance in life, you'll also save money. Adoption costs are typically lower than what you'd pay for a pet from a breeder, and adopted pets often come with all of their vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery, and microchip procedure already complete.[3]
    • Many shelters and rescue groups have purebred dogs and puppies available for adoption.[4]
    • Shelters and rescues house all kinds of animals. You can adopt a dog or cat, birds, smaller animals like rodents and reptiles, as well as larger animals like horses and livestock.[5]
    • To find a shelter near you, you can browse online or use The Shelter Project's online search engine.[6]
  2. Image titled Tame a Feral Cat Step 10
    Help stray and feral cats. Most cities and suburbs are home to numerous stray and feral cats. While stray cats are typically domestic pets that escaped or were abandoned, feral cats tend to live their lives entirely as wild animals.[7] There are a number of ways you can help these outdoor cats, from reuniting them with their owners to simply providing them with food and water.
    • Consider leaving some cat food and a bowl of water out for stray and feral cats in your neighborhood. Be aware, though, that leaving out food may lure more cats to your yard, as well as other wild animals looking for food.
    • If you see a collar, it probably has an ID tag on it, which means it is a stray or runaway cat. If you can safely approach the cat, check the ID tag and contact the cat's owner.[8]
    • If you have a carrier and can safely get the cat into the crate, take it to a veterinarian or local shelter. Someone at either facility will be able to scan the cat for a microchip to determine if the cat has a registered owner and find a way to contact the owner.[9]
    • If you cannot safely approach or "catch" the cat, write down a detailed description and contact your local veterinary clinics, animal shelters, and rescue groups. Many people who have lost a pet will leave descriptions of the cat with these facilities in hopes that someone might call in a matching description. Let the facility attendants know where and when you saw the cat, and leave an address or phone number so that they can get back to you if an owner turns up.[10]
  3. Image titled Breed Cats Step 14
    Practice trap-neuter-return strategies. Trap-neuter-return (TNR) is a common and beneficial strategy that can help control the stray/feral cat population and ensure some quality of life among the existing population. TNR involves humanely trapping stray/feral cats, having them spayed or neutered by a vet, vaccinating them against rabies, and returning the cats to their outdoor community.[11]
    • Neutered cats are less likely to roam far from their immediate neighborhood, reducing the likelihood of being hit by cars or killed by other wild animals.[12]
    • Spayed/neutered cats will not reproduce, meaning that each TNR cat will not give birth to a whole new litter of feral cats. Spaying/neutering feral cats also reduces the chances of fighting among the cats in your neighborhood.[13]
    • You can identify cats in your neighborhood that have already been spayed/neutered by looking at their ears. Veterinarians and spay/neuter professionals typically use a surgical tool to "tip" or "notch" one of the cat's ears to let other concerned neighbors know that the cat has already been through the TNR process.[14]
    • Use a humane box trap to trap a stray/feral cat that visits your yard. You can then take the captured cat to a vet to be spayed/neutered and vaccinated.[15]
    • Many animal services, such as the ASPCA, offer free spay/neuter services for feral cats. These agencies will also offer vaccinations and/or ear-tipping for a low cost.[16]
  4. Image titled Care for a Pet Duck Step 2
    Create a backyard sanctuary. If you cannot adopt an animal or perform TNR services, there are still ways you can care for animals in your community. Whether you have a yard surrounding your house, a small balcony/porch on your apartment, or a community park nearby, there are many little things you can do that make a big difference to the wildlife in your area.[17]
    • Provide clean drinking water. You can set up a birdbath for birds that visit your yard, or put out a small bowl of drinking water at ground level. Be sure to change the water on a regular basis to ensure that it stays clean and fresh.[18]
    • Hang bird feeders. Bird feeders are a wonderful resource for birds, especially during the winter when food is scarce. Fill the feeder with a healthy seed mix from your local pet or grocery store.[19]
    • Avoid using harmful lawn chemicals, like fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. These chemicals are dangerous to wild animals and also pose a threat to pets and children who play in your yard.[20]

Method 2
Making Lifestyle Changes

  1. Image titled Be a Lacto Ovo Vegetarian Step 1
    Stop eating meat. Over 99 percent of commercial animal products come from factory farms. At these large industrial operations, animals are often neglected, abused, or left to live in cramped and/or unsanitary cages.[21] One of the best ways to help reduce animal suffering is to give up meat by becoming a vegetarian or give up all animal products by becoming a vegan.[22]
    • Even dairy and egg production can cause suffering for animals. Chickens and cattle are forced to produce more eggs and dairy (respectively) than they naturally would, all while being housed in cramped, uncomfortable living quarters. Additionally, many chickens have their beaks cut off or burned off to reduce the chances of "nervous pecking" in the tightly-packed cages.[23]
    • If you're not sure you want to commit to a meat-free diet, try participating in meatless Mondays. It's a great way to try out a meatless diet one day each week and experiment with different meal options that you may not otherwise have tried.[24]
    • There are a plethora of vegetarian and vegan recipes available online and in printed cookbooks. Learn how to make delicious vegan meals at home, or find restaurants that offer vegetarian/vegan versions of your favorite dishes.
  2. Image titled Persuade Your Parents Let You Wear Makeup Step 9
    Commit to cruelty-free cosmetics. It's a sad fact that often goes unmentioned, but many cosmetic products are still tested on rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, and rats. These animals are often blinded, poisoned, or killed while testing cosmetic products and the ingredients used in these products.[25]
    • Animal testing is currently legal in approximately 80 percent of all countries worldwide.[26]
    • Look for cruelty-free products online and in stores. Buying cruelty-free cosmetic products helps reduce profits that would otherwise support animal-testing industries.[27]
  3. Image titled Choose no to fur
    Reject fur products. Cutting out fur products from your wardrobe is one of the easiest ways to help animals by reducing their needless suffering. Over 50 million animals are mistreated and killed each year for their fur coats, even though many non-fur alternatives keep you warmer and look even more stylish.[28]
    • The Humane Society compiles a running list of brands, designers, and retailers that have halted or are actively phasing out the use of fur in clothing products.[29]

Method 3
Becoming an Animal Rights Advocate

  1. Image titled Save a Stranded Dolphin Step 7
    Help a stranded animal. If you are ever at the beach and see a marine animal stranded on-shore, there are ways you can help. For safety reasons it's best to stay far away from the animal (at least 150 feet), but you can call your local marine animal hotline to report your sighting.[30]
    • Find your local marine animal hotline online by searching for emergency animal assistance in your area. For example, the New England Aquarium (based out of Boston) has a 24-hour Marine Animal Hotline at (617) 973-5247.[31]
    • Do not be alarmed if you see a seal on the beach. Seals will often swim onto shore to sleep, nurse, or warm up in the sun. If you see a seal, simply leave it be.[32]
    • Sea turtles, whales, dolphins, and porpoises do not belong on shore, and will only be out of the water if they are seriously injured or become beached after the tide washes out. If you see any of these animals, call to report the sighting immediately.[33]
  2. Image titled Catch a Pet Lizard or Skink Step 10
    Report neglected/abused animals. Whether it's a neighbor whose yard you see everyday or a coworker who talks about the way he treats his animals, at some point you may encounter a case of animal abuse or neglect. It's best to proceed with caution in these cases to ensure your safety as well as the animal's safety. Do not try to confront someone who abuses animals yourself, as the individual may be dangerous.
    • If you encounter or know of an emergency situation in which an animal's life or health is in serious jeopardy, call 911 immediately.[34]
    • If you suspect neglect but there are no signs of abuse or violent tendencies, some experts recommend having a polite conversation with the individual. You can offer assistance, like asking if the individual needs help walking his dog, for example. Or you can mention that perhaps the animal would be better off in a more appropriate home where the animal could receive adequate care and attention. However, you should only approach the individual if you're certain that he will not react aggressively/violently or engage in any kind of harassment against you.[35]
    • If the individual is not approachable, or if you believe the animal is being abused, call your local law enforcement or your local Humane Society or SPCA to report the situation.[36]
  3. Image titled Be a Lawyer in The Next 7 Years Step 8
    Petition politicians and legislators. If you're interested in making a real difference for animals, you may want to consider writing to your elected local, state, and federal officials in charge of policy making. You can sign petitions, or create your own petitions to be delivered to your chosen elected official(s).[37]
  4. Image titled Care for a Pet Duck Step 3
    Support a shelter or animal rights agency. There are many ways you can help your local shelter or animal rights agency. You can give monetary donations to help cover the costs of operation, or you can volunteer your time and energy to the agency. Many animal shelters are in need of dog walkers, feeders, and other volunteers to help around the shelter.
    • Look up your local shelter or animal rights agency online and call or email them to ask about volunteer opportunities.
  5. Image titled Become a Dog Groomer Step 3
    Take courses in humane education. If you're interested in teaching others about humane practices and lifestyles, you may want to consider taking courses in humane education. For example, the Humane Society offers a number of courses leading to both the Certified Humane Education Specialist (CHES) and Certified Animal Welfare Administrator (CAWA) credentials.[38]
    • Humane Education Specialists work with teachers, school administrators, and outreach personnel, as well as shelter directors and community advocates and law enforcement officers, to teach community members about how to be humane citizens helping animals at home and in the community.[39]


  • The more passion you can express when explaining animal neglect and cruelty to others, the more sympathy and support you'll receive.
  • Be positive and believe in yourself and others that you can make a difference.
  • Be imaginative. Come up with plenty of modern ideas that will attract people of all ages to join in and raise money/help for animals.
  • Go Vegan! A vegan diet, along with other animal-friendly lifestyle changes, can help make a big difference in the world and prevent the suffering and death of many animals.
  • Never give up! It will take hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world to completely stop animal neglect and cruelty, so don't be discouraged if things aren't changing immediately. You're contributing to a larger cause, and your contributions are important.


  • While you may love to care for all animals, do not go near stray/feral animals. It could be potentially dangerous. It's best to call your local animal shelters, as they will have trained professionals who are skilled at approaching and handling stray/feral animals.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (36)

Article Info

Categories: Animal Rescue | Animal Welfare Activism