Homeless Animals 101: How to Make a Difference / Robyn Arouty Photography Houston, TX


I sure miss the heck out of blogging. Some of you have been following my work since project71. I used to blog every day without fail when I was volunteering weekly for BARC. About 2 years ago, I started taking photos at the shelter of the adoptable cats & dogs…then, teamed up with Craig Malisow of the Houston Press Hairballs blog to promote them. His off-color & hilarious descriptions of the babies were the biggest hit & we were very successful in finding many homeless animals homes.

Most of these photos haven’t ever been seen. They were taken about a year ago at BARC…with the help of my fearless assistant Nicole (who does not know I’m posting them…so if I’m missing from facebook tomorrow…send the troops please!)

The following commentary was taken directly from a facebook post. I asked rescuers to list all the things they could think of that people can do to help homeless animals…in any & all ways. It’s pretty long…but oh, so awesome! Hopefully this makes a difference for some…& more importantly, a lot of animals! Please leave your comments…would love to hear if this helped give you some direction/inspiration/motivation.

By the way…I asked one of my favorite rescue org directors this: “What do u think is the #1 & #2 reasons people don’t do more???” & she responded: “#1. They do not see the need. #2. They feel overwhelemed when they do see the need. The need is HUGE!”



Volunteer, promote awareness, network information out to the masses. encourage donations. Speak at civic center meetings.

Volunteer. That’s the big one to me. At least when I volunteer, I know what good I’m doing. Money is just kind of vague as to what you’re actually helping. Also, make an effort to be educated and help educate others.

Many shelters will take old towels that people don’t need anymore to use as rags for washing animals or (depending on the condition) something soft to have in the cage for them to lay on, rip up, or whatever. It’s better than throwing the towels away, for sure!

I think a great place to start is think about what skills you have…chances are they can be utilized in some form or fashion towards enhancing the lives of homeless animals. construction, web design, accounting, attorney, artist, teacher, etc..

Volunteers can cover a lot of area. They can socialize animals; makes them more adoptable. They can volunteer with daily duites of a shelter or help with fundraising events and mobile adoption events. Volunteers can also man the facebook pages and share posts. We have a group of college volunteers that hang all our event posters throughout the area. Volunteers help bathe animals to make them more presentable for adoption. We also have some that man the shelter during the holidays so regular staff can spend time with their families. Photographers can volunteer to take adoption photos. I could really go on and on.

Talk about adopt versus buying a dog. Donate items: restaurant gift cards, starbucks, game tickets, wine baskets, etc for raffle to help raise money. Almost all of the money we raise goes to pay vet bills. We vaccinate, microchip, give meds and treat heartworm positive dogs. Heartworm treatmt costs about $400 per dog. We also spay and neuter, do dentals, pay for antibiotics, etc. Yes, vets give us a discount, but not much. Never over 40 percent of the bill. Some vets will donate a spay or neuter. People can also volunteer to help transport dogs to and from vets and foster homes. Fundraising and helping out at events like Pet Fest or the Reliant Dog Show, etc is a big help.

Photograph dogs for petfinder and shelter websites, a HUGE job and they need it all the time (like weekly, biweekly would be so helpful to most shelters!). Even if you’re working with a point and shoot, its the TIME you spend getting photos of the dogs that makes the difference for them.

Networking rescues on FB - join rescue lists and your news feed will no longer be full of photos of lunches but photos of dogs that simply need to be networked - shared, tagged with appropriate rescues, and commented to keep their post active enough for someone to hopefully see them before their time is up.

Volunteer at outreach events, there are never enough hands to hold all the dogs and its a great way to meet some real cool people and other rescues.

Offer to transport if your rescue is foster-based, there are always dogs that need to go to the vet/groomer/meet a new adopter, and the rescues and foster homes are often overwhelmed with trying to manage all this. 

Transport dogs who need to get from one rescue to another to save their lives, or from the shelter to a rescue. Pulling a dog from the shelter on its last day, even if you are NOT going to foster it, is probably the most amazing feeling in the world. You just KNOW they are happy to start their life again. 

Your TIME is often worth more than money to these rescues. Many people donate money, it is a wonderful thing to do, but it is the first thing people think of when they can’t rescue or adopt….there are other things you can do to make the LIVES of these dogs better and easier. You can actually train dogs to not jump all over their potential adopters without even opening the kennel! BAD RAP has a great video about it. Walking them is great too of course, some of the shelters are so full they never leave their cage. This kind of time spent with the dogs, especially at high kill shelters, could absolutely change their life and adoptability.

Give $$$$$!

I would guess that at least 30 percent of the rescues we get in are heartworm positive and not spayed or neutered. The heartworm treatment takes approx 10 weeks; dogs must be kept quiet and crated during this time to allow the meds to kill the heartworms. This 10 weeks is a long time to foster a dog, so our foster homes get tied up with dogs having to go thru the treatmt. Our first adopted sheltie went thru the treatmt and he is fine. That was 7 yrs ago. Some of them don’t make it, but at least we try to save them.

Sponsor a dog at a rescue or shelter.


Remember that rescue is a different environment than high kill….high kills (county animal shelters, the “pound” style shelters) often need the help the most but can be a little harder to get into. It REALLY depends on the shelter/rescue, so you gotta feel it out! Check out their events, visit their rescue, if you like what you see and you feel like you click with the other volunteers/organizers, you’ve found your rescue! It might take a few. Some rescues/shelters are a little cold, some are not run very well. Some don’t even seem to encourage volunteers or help. But MOST are full of wonderfully warm people who really love dogs and want to see them thrive in this world, and they DO need help. You can do the smallest things and make the biggest difference for these dogs!

I agree there is quite a disjoint between people who want to help and the rescues who are often to overwhelmed to “recruit” help. Its really hard! It took me almost a year of living in SF to figure out how to even volunteer with the rescues, I didn’t even know half of them existed but once you’re involved in it, you see more and more how much help is needed. I started searching on petfinder and emailing rescues to see if they needed help, so that’s what I’d recommend :) WHOO. Long winded, sorry! Hope this helps someone!

Monetary donations can go directly for a specific reason/animal — eg — the EBD that Robyn, et al rescued last night. Or for a needed surgery or procedure for specific dogs in rescue. Donating for specific things is usually possible with most rescues.

Supplies are always needed for foster homes. Such as: shampoos and conditioners especially for itchy skins, Frontline etc, coat supplements, food, treats, collars, leashes, chew toys, collapsable wire crates, bedding, pretty much anything you think would come in handy as a pet owner we need for our foster dogs. Volunteer groomers are very nice to have especially when you have long haired dogs like shih tzus and lhasa apsos!

You can also donate directly to the vet doing the procedure!! i will post Cyrus’ vet info on monday.

I bet human hairstylists could groom dogs pretty easily…such a need for that…omg!

Fostering is the BEST thing you can do….it is literally a ticket out of the shelter for another dog. Muttville had a lecture the other day about bringing your foster dog to its greatest potential - teaching it little tricks, youtubing it, etc. Its the greatest donation of time and LOVE that you could ever give, and hell yeah its hard!! But saving someone’s life is not supposed to be easy. And its beyond worth it to see them go on to live their own life, with their own family, who will love them just as much as you did. Probably even more, because it is their forever home after all. :)

I foster shih tzus and lhasa apsos and 9/10 that I get have to be groomed and most often shaved to start fresh! They are just as matted here in Okla as they are down there LOL.

Foster or adopt a dog from a shelter = save a life / buy one from a breeder or a pet store = kill a life

Gather the spare change in your car, closet, laundry room and the same for your friends. Spare change can be enough to fully vaccinate a dog. YOu will not miss it.

Have a garage sale and ask friends and family to donate to it. Our last garage sale raised $1000. This was enough vaccinate, spay, microchip and heartworm treat 3 pugs.

Donate old towels, bath mats and bedding to shelters. Most have concrete floors and this can help the animals become slightly more comfortable.

Make snacks for your office and ask people to donate money to the rescue of your choice in exchange for them. Brownie and cookie bars go fast.

Virtually foster an animal. Pay the bills and promote one dog or cat at a rescue or shelter. This allows the rescue or shelter to save one more.

FOCUS on 1 thing people!!


Helping a rescue group makes great projects for classrooms, scouting troops, birthday parties etc. We have had kids who had birthday parties and instead of gifts asked for things for the dogs. If you are a teacher or a scout leader you can adopt a local rescue group :) We also have a junior volunteer program where students from some of the area schools are required to to volunteer work and we are one of their choices. These awesome teens help show our dogs at Petsmart on the weekends. Without them we would be short handed! They walk the dogs on potty breaks, handle them, get them out for potential adopters. Keep the peace sometimes LOL.

Many shelters will have a wish list of items they need ranging from food, toys, towels, blankets, even office supplies. Items donated help save money for medical treatment.

Transportation, application processing, home visits, education, money, food donation, kennel cleaning, bathes, basic grooming, walks, socializing…off the top of my head.

Money for vetting and food. Volunteers don’t get paid at all or reimbursed for time, gas, etc. We do it because we love it. No one I know is making money off of animal rescue.

I adopted 2 brothers, but since I can’t foster or rescue, I volunteer at our local Humane Society’s annual fundraiser, also sell my pawprint jewelry year-rlong with 100 percent of proceeds going to the society!!!

Help with fundraising! Collect things that could be used as auction items - restaurant gift cards, salon/spa gift cards, donations of service (photography sessions, computer IT help, music for weddings etc. etc.) All the money goes to the vet.

Help bath the new guys, help get the little guys preped for events, help promote dogs, go spend playime with them or walk them. Provide high quality food, treats, doggie pads, shampoo, combs, ear cleaner, vitamins, dog bowls, cleaning materials, towels, laundry detergent, paper towels.

There are way to many things to do when you can not adopt any more pets etc. I started a pet food bank for my community with a friend of mine through rescue. We donate pet food to low income, seniors, homeless and disabled who can not afford it. We are keeping pets in thier homes and out of shelters. It’s a double whammie win!! It’s easy and we have so much support - we love it! We also spay/neuter our families pets who can’t afford it. We also donate pet food to rural county shelters and disasters like the tornados in the south.

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