10 Ways To Help Animals Today

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On behalf of World Animal Day which was on October 4th, I challenged myself to think of 10 ways in which we can be a friend to animals. We may think that only going vegan or adopting a pet from the shelter count as ways to help animals, and although these are two great ways to help them, they are not the only ways. After some careful thought, here are my 10 direct and indirect ways to help animals.

1. Drive slower- 

Based on a study done by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, it’s estimated that between one to two million large animals are killed each year in vehicle collisions, although the data may be under-representing the actual number of total animals involved in collisions due the fact that the study only included large animals along with a variety of other factors including the age of the study. (1)

Living in a rural area, it is disheartening to see at least one animal, whether it’s a squirrel, raccoon, bird, rabbit, deer, or coyote lying on the side of the road each morning on the way to school or work. These deaths not only affect the individual animals but can threaten their survival as a species. This chart, from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, shows 21 endangered U.S. species whose survival is threatended by vehicular crashes.

Source: The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration

Drivers also face injury or death and vehicular repair costs if a big animal like a moose or deer collides with your car. Overpasses and underpasses for wildlife have been used in Europe for decades and some U.S. states including Washington are finally starting to catch on and build these structures, however being aware of your driving speed in areas where the animal activity is high is still an important part of reducing these numbers.

Key Take-Away: By driving slower, especially early in the morning, between 5-9 am and in the evening, between 4 pm-12 am, and during fall and spring seasons when animals are most active, you can do your part to help them to maintain their local populations and protect yourself. 

2. Avoid buying products that contribute to deforestation

Deforestation is a multi-factorial issue that includes economic factors, legal systems, and global supply and demand and is too complicated to go in-depth within this article. Essentially, deforestation is the process of clearing away forest lands in order to make land available for raising livestock and growing crops, which are in demand by our growing global economy. Some of these in-demand products include soy, palm oil, wood pulp for paper, and beef. (2) (6)

Deforestation destroys habitats for many unique species of birds, mammals, amphibians, and insects which uphold the planet’s decreasing biodiversity. Deforestation happens mainly in developing countries of central and South America, Africa and Southeast Asia, which hold the tropical forests including the Amazon rainforest. When forests become cleared, trees that filter our air are also removed and the soil becomes increasingly arid, all of which are contributing components to climate change.

By relying on such a few products globally, not only are we contributing to deforestation and climate change but we’re putting many of our eggs in just a few baskets. One example is palm oil, which shows up in not just food products but in cosmetics, petroleum products, animal feed, and more. See the chart below for common names for palm oil.

names for palm oil
Source: Green Palm Sustainability

Key Take-Away:
Although it’s tough to completely avoid many of these products because they are so interwoven into our daily lives (eating, driving, using paper) having an awareness of where these products come from and trying our best to reduce our consumption of these items is a good place to begin.

3. Donate to small local animal aid organizations before larger ones

Before sending in your check to the Humane Society or the ASPCA, which isn’t a bad practice in itself, take a minute to Google “local animal rescue organizations.” You’ll likely find at least a few small, individuals taking it on themselves to care for animals in your local community. In many cases, these organizations are created by caring people who end up being stretched beyond capacity because they have a big heart and have a hard time saying no to another animal. They are often caring for these animals with their own funding and can benefit from your help far more than larger organizations. By donating your time or money to local animal rescue groups, you’re going to be helping the caring people within your community and making a bigger difference for your local animals.

Key Take-Away: Pause before automatically donating to larger organizations, Google “local animal rescue organizations” first.

4. Switch to cruelty-free beauty products or make your own

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 100,000-200,000 animals die around the world each year just to test cosmetics. (4) And millions of others are involved in cruel and painful tests, according to PETA. (5) Animal testing is required when testing a new product that doesn’t have scientific backing to be released into the market. Companies that don’t use animal testing rely on products that have been proven safe over time. 

There are many new scientifically advanced tests that don’t involve animals and provide more reliable results for uses on humans. By not supporting companies that test their products on animals you’re voting with your dollar to support companies that no longer rely on cruel and outdated animal testing. Today there are more cruelty-free products than ever before. 

Here is a link to see if the products you’re using now are cruelty-free: https://www.leapingbunny.org/guide/brands/list

Making your own skincare products is another option, plus you can reduce the number of chemicals you use on your skin. If you’re interested in learning more about this, I’d recommend checking out Madeleine Olivia’s DIY beauty recipes or her ebook, Minimal Beauty for more detailed recipes. 

Key Take-Away: Check out this link to see if your favorite products are cruelty-free before buying. https://www.leapingbunny.org/guide/brands/list

5. Foster a shelter animal  

If you’re a pet lover and have space in your home or apartment, you could be a suitable candidate to foster a dog or cat. Fostering is temporarily housing and caring for an animal that is looking for it’s forever home. Fostering helps the animal to develop social skills and prevents them from developing depression and other issues associated with being in the shelter system. You’re also helping the shelter to find homes for more animals, as they are not designed for the long term care of animals. 

If you’re interested in helping to save a highly vulnerable population, you may consider neonatal kittens or very young kittens who are frequently euthanized if brought to a shelter because the shelters aren’t properly equipped to provide the round the clock care these kittens need. Kitten Lady is by far the foremost resource on neonatal kittens. I’d recommend her book, Tiny But Mighty and her YouTube video library for more on this topic.

You can help to save many lives by fostering because you’re given them a chance to get back on their feet in a way while they wait to find their forever home.

Key Take-Away: Visit your local shelter to ask about fostering opportunities and/or see Kitten Lady’s videos if you’re interested in neonatal kittens.

6. Help with TNR in a feral cat community 

A feral cat feeding station

Do you have a feral cat colony in your neighborhood? The first step is to respect them and to make sure they are protected and safe within their environment. To learn about the differences between stray cats and community cats see my previous post. 

Community cats are unowned cats that form colonies with other unowned cats. Community cats can be feral, or unsocialized to humans or completely socialized (typically a stray) or fit a range in between. If not sterilized (spayed and neutered), community cats will continue to procreate, which produces more unowned cats. Community cats are more susceptible than indoor cats to catching diseases, being hit by cars, being harmed by humans and simply not finding enough food, water and/or shelter. Not surprisingly their life spans are shorter than owned cats, yet they still deserve to live out their lives with respect. 

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) has been shown to be the most effective way to humanely control community cat colonies. The process includes humanely trapping each cat, bringing the cats to a veterinarian who then performs a spay or neuter surgery and tips their ear (while under anesthetic) so they can be identified as having been through the TNR program. The cats are then returned and are free to live out their lives in their colony without producing any more kittens. If you’re able to TNR your local community cats you are humanely controlling the colony’s growth by preventing hundreds of new kittens from being born.

Key Take Away: Watch Kitten Lady’s videos and read her book, Tiny but Mighty if you are interested in learning how to TNR your community cats.

7. Follow animal advocates on social media 

These animal experts are leaders within their fields and you can learn a lot from what they share online. They are also up to date on the latest news on animal welfare policies and ways in which you can help make a difference. If you’re an animal lover, here are some good influencers to follow:

  • Dr. Evan Antin – veterinarian, with a focus on conservation and wildlife @dr.evanantin 
  • Kitten Lady – neonatal kittens, kitten care @kittenxlady 
  • Jackson Galaxy – all about cats @thecatdaddy

Key Take Away: Start following these influencers and/or any other the you’re aware of.

8. Pet sit for your friends or family member’s pets 

Don’t fall for the myth that cats don’t need attention and can be left by themselves for days on end. The next time your friend or family member is going away for a few days or longer, and you’re able to, offer to pet sit for them. It will be a help for them as they will have someone they know and can trust watching their pet and home, and it will give you a chance to spend some extra time loving on their animals. An animal will be anxious with their owner gone but by you going to their home, they will be more relaxed because they won’t have to spend their days at a boarding facility. You’re helping out your friend and their pet while they’re away. 

Key Take Away: Ask your friend if you can pet sit while they are away.

9. Follow animal welfare organizations and support their work

With social media, you can contribute to the efforts of animal supporters around the world by signing and supporting pledges or making donations to move forward in the path of greater protection for animals. Here are some organizations I follow:

  • Animal Hope and Wellness  – Legal advances for animal welfare cases around the world (California-based) @animalhopeandwellness
  • Soi Dog Foundation – Rescue for homeless and abused dogs and cats of Asia @soidogfoundation
  • Milo’s Sanctuary – A rescue organization for special needs cats @milos_sanctuary 
  • Paws Kuwait – Providing veterinary care to abused animals in Kuwait @paws_kuwait

Key Take Away: Start following some of these organizations or any ones that you’re aware of.

10. Donate your unused or lightly used pet bedding to local shelters

Contact your local shelter or low-cost spay and neuter clinic to see if they accept donations for pet bedding. After spending many hours volunteering at a spay and neuter clinic, I can tell you that they go through A LOT of laundry, mainly consisting of pet bedding and dirty towels used to clean up after pets. Your bedding will definitely get used and go to a good cause.

Key Take Away: Visit a local shelter with your unused or gently used pet bedding

That’s it for my suggestions for different ways of helping out animals, there are many more but this is just a start! Now start with one and begin helping animals today!

Sources:

  1. Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Reduction Study: Report To Congress. (2008, August). Retrieved from: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/08034/exec.cfm
  2. Deforestation and food. [Blog Post] (2018, March 19). Retrieved from: https://sites.psu.edu/foodsustainability/2018/03/19/deforestation-and-food/
  3. What is palm oil used for? (n.d.) Retrieved from: https://greenpalm.org/about-palm-oil/what-is-palm-oil/what-is-palm-oil-used-for
  4. Humane Society International (2019, March 6). About Cosmetics Animal Testing. Retrieved from: https://www.hsi.org/news-media/about_cosmetics_animal_testing/
  5. PETA. Experiments on Animals: Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-experimentation/animals-used-experimentation-factsheets/animal-experiments-overview/
  6. Causes of Deforestation: Direct Causes. (2007, March 30). Retrieved from: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/Deforestation/deforestation_update3.php

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