Finding A Purpose

By Sharon Naylor

May 6, 2014 5 min read

Animal shelters provide better lives for their resident dogs, cats and small animals. However, to meet these animals' needs, they depend upon donations. Not just of money, but also donations of much-needed supplies that can be repurposed.

Petfinder advises contacting your local animal shelter or rescue group to see if it has a wish list of items. This will save time and energy by finding out what they don't need or cannot accept (like children's toys or chew toys made of materials that can damage dogs' and cats' teeth.)

Here are some ways that you can clean out those extra supplies in an eco-smart repurposing to your local animal shelter:

--If your pet has passed away recently, his or her supplies might be handed along to the shelter. Water and food bowls, leashes, collars, unopened medication packs, carriers, crates and pet beds in good condition are needed, as are pet gates and carriers. Used grooming tools and old pet toys are often hotbeds of bacteria, so toss these.

--Donate items your pet doesn't like. If you purchased a dozen cans of a new dog food, only to discover that your dog's digestive system didn't tolerate it well, or he didn't care for it, donate those unopened cans to the shelter. Wet and dry food, and healthy pet snacks, are always needed by shelters.

--Donate gently used bedding and sheets. The ASPCA asks for dog and cat bedding, as well as gently used linen items that can be used to give animals comfort like bedsheets, blankets and towels.

--Donate cleaning supplies. Animal shelters use these mightily, keeping the environment clean and germ-free for their animals and staffers. "I mistakenly bought laundry detergent that wasn't for a high-efficiency washer machine, so I brought that bottle of detergent to the animal shelter rather than dumping it down the drain," says pet volunteer Leslie Amondsen. When donating cleaning supplies, always make sure they're unscented and, ideally, organic. Donate cleaning products, sponges, trash bags, paper towels -- anything you might use to clean your home, including rubber gloves for staffers' hands.

--Donate old newspapers. It may be easy to bundle them up for curbside pickup, but those cage-living pets go through a lot of newspaper.

-- Animal shelters need office supplies, too, like computer printer paper. Color usually doesn't matter, so if you have leftover paper from a school project or garage sale fliers, bring it in. If you've recently upgraded your home computer, you may have leftover, unused ink cartridges. Minimizing the sky-high cost of ink will be greatly appreciated, especially if you donate that old computer to them, as well.

--Plastic foam packing boxes, like the ones frozen steaks are shipped in, are used as storage containers. If you order frozen gourmet foods, this is a smart way to repurpose all of those plastic foam containers in your garage.

--Baby wipes are in demand. St. Hubert's Giralda animal shelter requests organic wipes with aloe for their staffers' use.

--Hand sanitizers are always welcome at animal shelters. Visitors and staffers use hand sanitizer before handling pets. If you're a couponer with an excess stockpile, consider repurposing some to the shelter.

--Animal shelters love receiving new pet toys still in the packaging for the animals' safety. If you see any in storage or spot them at garage sales, add these essentials to your donation collection.

--Outdoors items -- such as hoses, shovels, brooms, heavy-duty trash bags and pet-safe ice melt granules -- help the shelter maintain their grounds and exercise yards. "We upgraded our gas-powered generator to a newer, bigger one after a harsh winter storm season, and we donated our smaller one to the animal shelter after seeing on their social media page that they were desperate during the storms for generators to keep the animals warm and their expensive medications refrigerated," say Lou and Nancy Green.

Since donations may qualify for tax deductions, check out the IRS website for current rules on what can be claimed as a write-off, and for how much, and your repurposing may have an added benefit for you. When you donate, ask the shelter for a donation form to include with your tax paperwork.

As you're mining the new and unused items that you can donate to your local animal shelter, keep in mind that your skills with a digital camera, video camera and video editing software can also be "purposed." Volunteer to snap photos and post videos of the shelter animals to help them find forever homes.

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