Make 2023 the year that you commit to practicing kindness toward all animals. Here are 23 things you can do to help animals, big and small, this coming year, from taking actions to help those in your own family to owning — and minimizing — your individual impact on wildlife and industrialized animal cruelty.
Life circumstances bring amazing companion animals in need of loving, new homes to our shelter every day. We work with interested adopters to find the perfect fit in a companion, and these pets get the second chance they deserve. See who’s currently looking for a home and find out how to welcome your newest family member, at humanerescuealliance.org/adopt.
2. Make sure your pet has identification, and encourage others to do the same for theirs
In case your pet gets lost, make sure he or she has a collar and identification tags. Also, get your pet microchipped, and keep your address and phone number up to date in the microchip registration database to help get your pet back home quickly and safely if he or she is ever lost.
3. Foster a pet in need
Foster parents fulfill a critical component of our lifesaving work. On any given day, our foster caregivers double the number of animals we can rescue, and they give an animal the best possible place to wait to find a loving home. You don’t need to have previous animal experience to become a foster caregiver — just a love of animals and a willingness to learn. Learn more about our fostering programs at HRA and St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center.
4. Make a disaster plan for your pet
It’s important to have an emergency response plan in place for all members of your household, no matter what the emergency, whether it is a natural disaster or a serious illness. Leaving a pet behind during a disaster can result in his or her becoming lost, injured or even killed. Avoid these terrible possibilities by having a plan in place, check out HRA’s tips to create your plan and emergency pet kit.
5. Volunteer at HRA
Volunteers are an essential part of the successful functioning of every animal shelter. An active volunteer force makes it possible for us to save 100,000 animals every year across our DC and New Jersey campuses. Volunteers provide a variety of essential services, including training and caring for dogs, cats and/or small mammals; taking adoptable dogs for a run at local parks; helping animals find their forever homes; and supporting community and special events. To become a part of the team, explore volunteer opportunities at HRA and St. Hubert’s.
6. Help make a shelter or rescue group's wishes come true
Animal shelters and rescue groups rely on the community to donate everyday supplies to support their daily operations. Like most animal shelters, HRA and St. Hubert’s provide wish lists of the donations that are most needed at our facilities. Like most animal shelters, HRA and St. Hubert’s provide wish lists of the donations that are most needed at the facility.
7. Help the community cats in your neighborhood through trap-neuter-return (TNR)
TNR is the practice of humanely trapping, sterilizing, vaccinating, and returning community cats to their outdoor homes to help reduce euthanasia, eliminate reproduction, and improve the health of unowned cats. HRA’s community cat program addresses the needs of the unowned community cats who live outdoors in the District and supports members of the public who care for and coexist with them. Through partnerships with local veterinarians, St. Hubert’s also subsidizes low-cost spay/neuter surgeries for community cats and operates its Barn Buddies program to find appropriate homes for cats who aren’t suited for life inside a home.
8. Make a shelter pet’s day by creating enrichment toys
Toys are a great way for pets awaiting adoption at the shelter to have fun and keep their minds occupied. A few easy examples of toys that can be made using items commonly found at home can be found on our website.
9. Plan your garden with wildlife in mind by planting native pollinator and bird-friendly plants
Flowers like sunflowers are a great multipurpose plant that pollinators love when flowering, and many birds enjoy the seeds. Avoid the use of pesticides when gardening, too.
10. Make your outdoor space a respite for wildlife through small changes, like putting out fresh water
All animals need water, and it can sometimes be difficult, particularly for urban and suburban wildlife, to find places to quench their thirst. Many more ideas for how to make your outdoor space welcoming to wildlife can be found in the book "The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife." by Nancy Lawson.
11. Opt for humane options instead of lethal rodent control methods, like rodenticide and cruel glue traps
Glue traps are a particularly cruel form of trap that cause animals caught to die from starvation and dehydration after being stuck. For information on humane rodent control options and prevention and deterrence techniques, visit the Humane Society International's Humane Rodent Solutions.
12. Avoid the use of products like unnecessary single-use plastics, and help to clean up community litter
Pollutants like plastic bags and straws that find their way into natural habitats and bodies of water frequently injure and kill the wildlife and marine life who ingest and become entangled with them. Look for opportunities to replace these items with reusable and sustainable products.
13. Support local businesses that share your animal welfare values to support
Discover the variety of products and services that animal-friendly businesses in your area provide. If you're local to the DC, Maryland or Virginia area, visit our blog highlighting nine Black-owned, vegan businesses.
14. Choose cosmetics and household items that haven’t been tested on animals
Five hundred thousand mice, rabbits, guinea pigs and rats are killed every year after being used in painful laboratory testing that exposes them to cosmetic ingredients through practices like rubbing chemicals into their skin or eyes to test irritation and subjecting them to force-feeding studies. You can find certified cruelty-free products by looking for the Leaping Bunny logo when you shop for cosmetics.
15. Be chic in fur-free fashion
An increasing number of retailers and designers have pledged to go fur-free in their clothing products, as consumers are learning about the cruel treatment of the millions of minks, foxes, rabbits and other animals on fur farms who live in cramped cages for their entire lives before being painfully electrocuted or gassed for their fur. When shopping for fur-free products, be wary — unfortunately, there have been documented cases of real animal fur being sold as faux fur on fur-trimmed products. Resources to create your humane shopping list and guidance in how to ensure that a product labeled as faux fur is truly free of animal fur can be found many places online, including www.humanesociety.org/all-our-fights/going-fur-free.
16. Move plants to the center of your plate
Reducing our meat consumption is not only proven to be better for our bodies and the environment, but it also helps reduce animal suffering. The vast majority of meat that Americans consume comes from animals raised on factory farms, where industry standard practices include such unnecessary cruelties as confining chickens to cages so small they cannot spread their wings. At HRA, we have a policy of serving only plant-based meals at our events; it’s just part of our mission to create a world where all animals can thrive. There are tons of great plant-based recipes available online, including some alternatives for your favorite animal products.
17. Take a virtual tour of a farm animal sanctuary
Take a virtual or in-person tour of a farm animal sanctuary to experience the unique personalities that individual pigs, goats, chickens and cows express when they are cared for and able to live out their natural instincts and actions. Two phenomenal sanctuaries that offer experiences with rescued farmed animals are Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville, Maryland and Tamerlaine Sanctuary and Preserve in Montague Township, New Jersey.
18. Commit to learning and thinking more about animal welfare through a virtual book club
You can explore a great variety of writing on specific animal issues with a group. Some suggested title include Among Animals: The Lives of Animals and Humans in Contemporary Short Fiction; The Secret Lives of Bats: My Adventures with the World's Most Misunderstood Mammals; Why Animal Suffering Matters: Philosophy, Theology, and Practical Ethics ; Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees
19. Help a young mind develop compassion and kindness toward animals
Make sharing examples of kindness toward animals a part of your conversations with the children in your life. You can find great reading recommendations for all ages on HRA’s Animal Academy, plus projects and educational resources designed for animal-loving youth on St. Hubert’s website.
20. Work for the passage of animal protection legislation
As the enforcement agency for DC’s animal laws, HRA has the unique perspective of seeing the law’s deficiencies and identifying needed updates. Email us at [email protected] to learn how to become a member of HRA’s Animal Advocacy Alliance. As a member, you’ll stay up to date on our work to make needed updates to the District’s animal welfare laws and help to ensure that DC resident animals have the protections they deserve. In New Jersey, you can email [email protected] to learn more about our efforts to advocate for animal welfare legislation and to help us protect animals in our state and beyond.
21. Share what you learn, and spread the word about animal welfare issues and needs
Share social media posts and requests from HRA and other animal welfare organizations, contribute information to community listservs and websites, and provide animal-related resources to others.
22. Be responsible with your pets and wildlife.
Keep your dogs on a leash or restrained in a fenced-in yard when they are outdoors, and keep pet cats who aren't community cats indoors.
23. Participate in or organize a cleanup day of a nearby forest preserve, park or other natural space
Cleanups help protect the habitats of imperiled species and other wildlife and have a massive positive impact on environmental health and the well-being of local ecosystems.