Being a part of a community involves more than just keeping up your front yard or having common courtesy toward your neighbors. It also means you have the chance to make a significant change in the way your community is perceived by others, no matter how small. How can you go about getting started in making a change? It’s easier than you may think.

Next to lending a helping hand to people in need, one of the noblest things a person can do is to help those without a voice; homeless companion animals in the community. By volunteering at your local animal shelter you will without a doubt be making a difference in the lives of animals and in your life as well.

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There are many reasons to volunteer at an animal shelter: you might have a special skill that can help the shelter, you can get the word out about responsible pet guardianship, your family and friends will see all the good you are doing and may want to contribute, you will get free fuzzy hugs, and the animals at the facility truly do appreciate the company.

Volunteering is easy! The first thing you need to do is get online and do a search for a shelter near you and contact them via phone or email. Search sites such as Petfinder’s Animal Shelters & Rescues, the ASPCA’s Find a Shelter, or at AdoptaPet.com. Then, because shelters can always use help, check in to see what volunteer positions are available or offer the skills that you’ve got. In any case, there are a number of ways a wonderful, caring, and passionate person such as yourself can volunteer at a local animal shelter.

1. Walk, play with the dogs

All dogs are different. Some are high energy, always wanting to be on the move, other dogs are more sedentary, while others might need a little encouragement to get out and stretch their legs. Since the number of staff at most animal shelters are small, set aside time during the week to offer dog walking, running, or playing services, so valuable time is not taken away from the staff.

2. Read to cats and dogs

This can be a fantastic experience for adults and children. Reading out loud can be soothing and comforting to shelter animals while also improving children’s reading skills.

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3. Clean the kennels and cages

Dogs, cats, birds, lizards, guinea pigs, rabbits … they all poop, pee, and track dirt in. Volunteer to clean out animal living quarters using donated all-natural cleaning products that are pet safe.

4. Open up your home on weekends

Although maintained and cleaned, those kennels can get an animal a little down. Think about opening up your home periodically to shelter animals for a weekend dog or cat sleepover or simply take a day trip to the park, then lunch at your place afterward.

5. Use social media

Got social media skills? Volunteer to be the shelter’s online community manager to create compelling content, post adoption or found photos, recruit new volunteers, and communicate with the public. Social media platforms are also a great place to post educational information related to pet guardianship and general animal welfare.

6. Write the newsletter

Use your writing skills to communicate with shelter supporters, members, and the public about recent adoptions, donations needed, upcoming events, and pet related articles. Not a writer? Newsletters need volunteers to help with layout, design, and publishing!

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7. Take animal profile photos

Shelters usually have “adoptable pet” profiles on their website. If you are a local animal loving photographer, consider donating a couple hours a week of photo and photo software skills and take fabulous, flattering pet pics.

8. Work at special adoption events

Be an “animal chaperone” at special events put on by the animal shelter that invites the public in to meet and greet adoptable pets. You can also work off-site pet adoption events that are held by other animal welfare organizations, news stations, or at community functions.

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Green Monsters: What are some ways you’ve volunteered? Tell us with a comment below and share with us how awesome your local animal shelter is!

Image source: Official U.S. Navy Page / Flickr