Communities are filled with all kinds of members, including the cute and fluffy kind. Here are some ways to get in touch with your inner animal lover while helping your neighborhood at the same time.


Animal shelter employees and volunteers are a rescue pet’s temporary family before they find their forever home. Agreeing to give your time to a shelter means signing up for the less glamorous tasks (grooming, feeding, cleaning cages) as well as the ones that make it all worth it (like playing with dogs and socializing cats). This gig is especially perfect for animal lovers who can’t commit to watching a pet seven days a week. If you’re interested, check with your local animal shelter to see if they have a need for volunteers.


This is one of the easiest ways to lower the amount of unwanted cats and dogs in your community if you’re a pet owner. Each year, 6 to 8 million pets without homes are taken into shelters, and without sterilization this number would be even higher. On top of keeping stray animals off the streets, spaying and neutering also provides health benefits: Dogs who undergo the procedure live longer on average than dogs who don’t.


In many places, not cleaning up after your dog is illegal, but that doesn’t always stop abandoned messes from creating an eyesore and walking hazard for pedestrians. Picking up what your dog leaves behind and disposing of it properly is a common courtesy that makes your community a better place to live. So next time you take Fido for a walk, don’t forget the waste baggies.


If you’re a true animal lover, your compassion hopefully extends beyond dogs and cats. Do the birds, squirrels, and other wild critters in your neighborhood a favor and dispose of your trash in the trash can. Litter like plastic and cigarette butts can be toxic to animals when ingested, and other items like glass and fishing lines can cause life-threatening damage. So wait to get home to get rid of the scraps you’re holding on to—any humans that don’t like seeing garbage on the ground will also be grateful.


Training a puppy to one day work as a service dog is one of the most selfless things you can do as an animal lover. Volunteer puppy raisers are responsible for providing young dogs with everything they need in the early stages of lives. Once the dogs are old enough to be taken back into their organization, they’re trained to carry out important missions like assisting people with disabilities. While volunteering to care for these dogs when they’re little doesn’t require any professional training skills, it is an essential part of the process.


Pet parents with busy schedules are often forced to drop off their animals at kennels or leave them at home for long periods. If you know someone who lives nearby in this situation, offer to look out for their pet. This could mean letting their dog out for bathroom breaks periodically, taking it for a few walks, or even boarding it in your home during long vacations. Hopefully you can count on your neighbors to do the same for you if you have a four-legged companion of your own.


When you’re considering bringing a new pet into the family, adoption is the way to go. It’s cheaper than buying a cat or dog from a store, and it’s a great way to support your local animal shelter. Rescue dogs also have plenty of love to give, no matter their age, breed, or background.

With the right support, any dream is possible. Discover One Saturday to Dream Fearlessly from American Family Insurance, a traveling celebration of the amazing things that happen when we come together to support, protect, and inspire dreams in our communities. Learn more here.