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Regift to Animal Shelters This Season

By Colleen Williams
December 18, 2015 • 3 min. read
animal shelters Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – the giving spirit is in full swing and holiday cheer is in the air. But during this season we not only giving gifts, we also receive them. For every shiny new present that comes into our homes, there’s a item soon to be forgotten, pushed to the back of the shelf. Why not regift? Defined as “giving a gift one has received to someone else,” sometimes it can be a selfless act.

animal shelters
“You know, you’re not even using these. Regift them to my old shelter!” (

When our New Year’s Resolutions arrive – clean out your closet! organize the garage! – it’s all too easy to toss unwanted possessions into the garbage instead of donating them to be reused. Those who do donate typically go to a thrift store, but what about animal shelters? Often overlooked for item donations, these organizations are some of the most needy. Basic items like food, bedding and cleaning or medical supplies are always in short supply at non-profit animal shelters. You may have extras of these laying around the house – this is your chance to regift without being rude!

What Donations Do Animal Shelters Want?

It’s always best to check with the animal shelter first, to see what would be most beneficial for them. Many have wish lists on their websites specifying the types of items they accept and in what conditions. For example, many animal shelters will accept donations of used heating pads, towels, kennels, and leashes if they’re in good condition. Avoid regifting items like used dog toys and litter boxes, old medications, or homemade dog food. Let’s put it this way – if you wouldn’t use it for your own pets, don’t donate it.

If you’re a fan of couponing, consider donating your freebies to animal shelters. Check your pantry or garage for extras of any of the following supplies:

  • Towels and blankets
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Rubbermaid tubs (for feral cat shelters)
  • Laundry detergent
  • Office supplies
  • Canned pet food
Purina dog food
If you’re into couponing, consider donating extras of your purchases to local animal shelters. (Wikimedia Commons)

The truth is, what most rescues really want is cold, hard cash; it’s the most efficient, and they can get the most bang for your buck. However, a shelter’s wish list depends on how they function, either as a network of foster homes or with a central shelter location. If it’s the former, as with non-profit group New Rattitude, taking donations of items can actually be cost the shelter money.

“We are a network of foster homes throughout the United States, from Washington [State] to California to Maine to Florida,” explains Sue Kangas, the Treasurer of New Rattitude. “It is time consuming and costly to mail donations of food, toys, blankets, etc. to our foster homes, so instead we operate mainly on a reimbursement model with our foster homes.”

Ask Your Friends, Family and Facebook for Donations

Put together a mini gift drive for your local animal shelter! Send out a group text or email asking friends and family members to go through their homes for items to regift. Post a similar request on Facebook, and be sure to mention the specific nonprofit you have in mind. Ask those donating to put items in a box on the porch for you to pick up the next morning, before you head to the shelter with your own donations.

The power of pets on social media is evident today, positively impacting animal shelters. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram put an adorable face on nonprofits’ requests for donations, allowing them to reach a wider audience. The more animal lovers reached, the more money received. Private donations are the lifeblood of non-profit organizations like animal shelters, so this is especially important.

animal shelters Christmas
Private donations to animal shelters benefit pets like Cole, adoptable through Northbound Pound Puppies. (

Maia Chrupcala, Northern Director of Northbound Pound Puppies, also stresses their importance. “Private donations are the backbone of our rescue. Without them we wouldn’t be able to operate,” she said via email. “Private donations from our supporters, whether buying a $20 shirt or calendar, donating in someone’s name, or supporting a specific pet that is in desperate need of medical care, all keep Northbound running not only financially but emotionally too. When we know we have supporters that share our passion we can push through the exhaustion and continue to make a difference.”

How to Donate to Animal Shelters

First, check the hours of the facility you’re donating to! Most shelters rely heavily on volunteers and so are only open to the public at certain times. Call ahead if you’re dropping off a lot of donations, so staff aren’t overwhelmed by your generosity. Organize items by animal and/or type – such as all dog supplies, dog food, dry food, etc – to make unpacking easy for shelter staff.

Donations to nonprofit animal shelters are usually tax-deductible, so be sure to document the items’ value and collect a receipt!

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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