For the Holidays, Help Homeless Animals on Long Island

homeless animals
Like Noah, many animals on Long Island need our help.

The holidays are a time for giving, and homeless animals could use a helping hand, but it can become overwhelming to know how and where your donations are best suited. To help clear up some confusion, we checked in with Leigh Wixson, L.V.T., animal shelter supervisor at the Town of Smithtown Animal Shelter & Adoption Center. 

What are some of the most needed items at rescues/shelters? 

Every shelter’s needs vary.  Due to the current supply chain issue with many pet foods, shelters are having a hard time finding the foods normally used to feed pets. But to promote GI health and wellbeing, shelters prefer to keep animals on a consistent diet, so not all food donations can be accepted. And with limited space, it’s preferred that people donate directly to pantries when possible.  

To donate gently used goods, keep in mind that items with stuffing (pillows, beds, comforters) are often not accepted because animals can shred them, turning them into a potential choking hazard. Towels, sheets, and fleece blankets/throws and hard plastic pet carriers are of the most value. Many rescues do not permit dogs to wear collars as they can become a choking hazard, however, foster-based rescues may accept them.  

Should people contact rescues/shelters and inquire about specific needs before donating? 

Yes, it seems obvious, but people do not ask and drop off items that end up going directly to the dumpster. If your gently used items have dog hair and stains from the previous pet, they can’t be used. To donate new/unused items, many rescues have Amazon Wish Lists for the items they most desire/need, which can usually be found on their website.

Do municipal shelters tend to have different needs than rescues?

Absolutely! Municipal shelter animals are supported financially by the taxpayers with an allocated budget from their town. The animals’ basic needs are met.  Bedding and enrichment items are usually not covered and what we need most.  Private rescues rely on donations – they need money more than anything. They need to pay medical bills and for the basic needs themselves. Private rescues usually prefer monetary donations and have wish lists for the items they need.

Can a new pet make a good holiday gift?

We strongly advise against giving animals as a gift. The only exception is if the pet is also for you, but it’s also important to make sure that your household meets the animal and bonds with it before you bring it home. This is because people need to meet the pet and feel a connection; what you look for in a pet may not be what your family is looking for. A pet is a serious and long-term commitment. Research needs to be done, assessing if you are ready to change your environment and lifestyle to accommodate accepting a new pet. Another mistake is getting a pet for someone whose pet just died. Everyone grieves differently. If they are not ready, they may not bond with the pet.  

What else should we know?

Many shelters have a very limited amount of storage space and while we love the giving nature of the season, we find ourselves wishing for donations in the middle of the summer. Checking in on wish lists throughout the year helps keep shelters constantly stocked with items they need. Additionally, the vast majority of donations are geared towards dogs, but most shelters have more cats than dogs.   Guinea pig and rabbit rescues are overwhelmed and in need of all of the help they can get.  

Don’t have a favorite rescue or shelter yet? Here are some local organizations that could use a helping hand:

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