How to help animal shelters without adopting

As with many animal shelters, Harris County has a chronic overcrowding problem. Each day, dozens of new strays and surrendered pets come through the doors. With hundreds more pets in their care than they were built to handle, there's a constant need for life-long homes.Can't adopt? There are three other ways to help animals in your area:

1) Amazon Wish Lists

Many shelters maintain online "wish lists" on sites like Amazon. Do-gooders can shop from a currated list of needed items that range from food and medications to supplies and toys. The items ship directly to the shelter. Each item is pre-selected by the shelter to ensure it is the right item for their animals.

To visit Harris County's Amazon Wish List, click here.

2) Newspapers

"We use newspapers to pad the kennels for the little pups and kittens," explains Kiersten Thoma. "It cleans up the messes and helps make sure their environment is clean, and that's the key to a happy pup."

Consider coordinating with neighbors to gather newspapers each week and drop them off at your closest shelter location.

3) Volunteer

Even if all you have is an hour each month, most shelters will be happy to have the help. Volunteers can usually register on a shelter's website. In Harris County, you will have to go through a screening process which Thoma says includes a background check.

Once approved, check the Harris County volunteer board to see available volunteer jobs and openings. Opportunities range in time and commitment; from bathing and walking pups to adoption event coordination and animal photographer assistants.

To register as an animal shelter volunteer in Harris County, or learn about the various volunteer roles, click here.

...and then, there is always foster care.

Thoma says pets who are taken into foster are five times more likely to be adopted. Potential parents have the benefit of hearing how the animal behaves in a home environment, and around elements like other pets or children. It also calms the pet, says Thoma.

Foster commitments are not a full time job, says Thoma. She encourages anyone interested in fostering a pet to contact the Harris County Animal Shelter to learn more.

The Harris County Animal Shelter is a public health service in Harris County. To learn more, visit their website