For many of us, our dogs, cats and other pets are a very important part of our life. They are true companions and friends who seem to always know when we are down or just need company. Our pets give us so much, and we can pay their goodwill forward by helping other animals in need by volunteering.

Below are 10 great ways to help out pets in need.

1. Volunteer at your local animal rescue/shelter.
Almost every community has at least one animal rescue/shelter that needs help because it is often underfunded and understaffed. Volunteering doesn’t necessarily mean hard work; it can be a fun time spent with the animals. The more people these animals come in contact with on a regular basis, the more adoptable they become. Consider stopping by your local rescue and seeing if they need help walking dogs or playing with the cats.

Fostering a pet in your home is a great way to give back. Many animal rescues have cats or dogs who are not a good fit for living in a shelter environment. These animals may be older and need a quiet place to stay, or they may need a home to recover in after a recent surgery. Fostering also allows a pet to get used to living in a home and gives him time to learn pet etiquette. This makes him more adoptable and less likely to be returned once he is adopted.

Learn more about fostering by reading, “The Joys Of Fostering A Dog Or Cat.”

3. Transporting.
Sometimes it can be a challenge for animal rescues to get a pet to a veterinary appointment, to another rescue group that has room for him or even to a new adopting family who lives out of the area. Many animal rescue groups rely on volunteers to help with these important jobs.

“We know not everyone is in a position to foster, so transport is a great way to volunteer,” says Carol Whitmer, the co-founder of Westie Rescue of Tennessee, Inc. “Our board members all work during the week, so all of our placements, home visits and transports need to take place on the weekends, which spreads our volunteer force very thin. Having transporters frees up our rescue officers to perform our other duties to get our little Westies placed in their forever homes.”

4. Fundraising.
Money is tight for many animal rescues. Any donations are appreciated. Additional funds can help them buy needed supplies or assist with marketing costs to help get their animals adopted. You could also host a charity event to raise funds (for example, a charity walk, dog walk) or ask your company to consider becoming a corporate sponsor.

5. Become a fan on social media.
If you follow a rescue on social media, you can help it reach more potential volunteers or adoptive families. By sharing its social media posts, you can help spread the word about needed supplies, volunteer opportunities and animals needing homes. Who knows, maybe someone will see your share and adopt an animal or volunteer to help. Also, if you are a social media expert, consider volunteering to help the rescue with its social media platforms. The staff at many animal rescues are so busy taking care of their day-to-day operations, it is difficult for them to spend the necessary time to manage their social media accounts effectively.

6. Photograph their animals.
A good photo is so important for animals in rescues and shelters. A photo is often the first impression of these animals to potential adopters. If you’re a shutterbug, consider donating your photography skills and talents.

7. Collect supplies to donate.
Items such as dog/cat food dry & wet, treats, cat litter, cleaning supplies, paper towels and even old blankets are almost always needed for the day-to-day operation of an animal rescue. Consider organizing an item drive with your family and friends. During the holidays, instead of doing a holiday gift exchange at parties you might ask your friends to bring an item to the event for your local animal rescue.

8. Write for your local rescue.
Most animal rescues cannot afford to hire employees to produce a regular newsletter, keep its website updated, or even write press releases for upcoming rescue events. If writing is your talent, consider donating a few hours a month.

9. Host a pet craft night.
Are you crafty? If so, use those talents to make needed items for your local animal rescue. Last year, we coordinated with a local quilters to make fleece blankets. The blankets were donated to our animal rescue group. We gave them out to dogs and their new owners when they were adopted. Perfect for their GOTCHA DAY go home bags.

10. Help your local low-cost spay/neuter clinic.
Spaying/neutering is so important to prevent future unwanted dogs and cats from ending up in shelters. At many clinics, you don’t have to have a medical background to help. If nothing else, you can help by getting the word out about the services the clinic offers. You could post fliers around town and educate your family and friends about the importance of spaying and neutering their pets. If you do have a medical background, I am sure they would appreciate the extra expertise and experience.

There are so many ways we can help animals in need in our community. Volunteer to make a difference depending on your time, interests and talents. Your pet gives you so much; you can pay it forward by helping your local animal shelter or rescue.