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What to Donate to Animal Shelters – A Complete List

puppy giving high five to human through fence.

Call me old-fashioned, but I’m of the opinion that if you commit to a pet, it’s a commitment for a lifetime, and I’m so VERY thankful to all of my readers who feel the same way!

I think that’s why I have such a big heart for shelter dogs and especially senior shelter dogs. These dogs all deserve LOVING homes, especially the senior shelter dogs!

And, of course, all of these shelter dogs need to be well taken care of which is why your donations are SO important.

Here is an entire list dos and don’ts to donate to your local shelter. And if you want more ideas make sure you check out Kuranda beds for shelters and homemade dog toys for shelters.

But first let’s go over a couple questions that are commonly asked about donating to animal shelters.

Want to know “How To Donate to An Animal Shelter in Someone’s Name”? Click here to learn more.

Why Should I Donate to Animal Shelters?

Most animal shelters are run on very tight budgets. Donations of time or material goods can help a shelter stretch their budget to give the best lives possible to the dogs in their care.

Donations also help the workers and shelters to know that people care.

(If you’ve ever thought of working at an animal shelter check out my post 12 part time jobs working with animals)

This element of human compassion is important and shouldn’t be underestimated in how much it matters. Your donation can make a BIG difference.

How to Donate to Animal Shelters.

When you’re donating to an animal shelter, your best bet is to find a local shelter to work with. Different shelters have different needs.

You can also use national programs to donate things like Kuranda dog beds. Shelters will often register for these and you can donate them with a click of a button and have them delivered directly to the shelter.

TIP: Before you donate always make sure you contact your local shelter to find out what they need and if they take the type of item you want to donate. Different shelters have different needs.

You can often find out WHERE to donate by searching google with the phrase animal shelter donations.

Are Donations to Animal Shelters Tax Deductible?

I’m not an accountant and can’t give you tax advice, but what I can do is tell you that in the US I have deducted charitable donations from my taxes many times.

According to Doggington Post:

It would be easy to assume that the costs of adopting a dog from a registered non-profit, 501(c), would be deductible – the assumption would be wrong. The cost to adopt a dog is not deductible. However, any donations made in excess of regular adoption fees most certainly are. According to the law, only those donations made where no goods or services are received in exchange (i.e., your new dog) can be deducted. Should you choose to make donations to your favorite 501c dog charity, make sure to ask for a letter of receipt that states no goods or services were received. Donations of both goods and services to an approved charity are tax deductible. When donating goods or services to an approved charity, ask for a donation receipt – you’ll need it if the value of your donations exceeds $250. To deduct a charitable contribution, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A.

How to Donate to Animal Shelters in Someone’s Name.

Woman taking notes in a notebook outside kennel in a animal shelter

If you are looking to do this as an individual then simply contact the shelter. Sometimes shelters have special recognition programs for certain donation levels.

If you are working to organize a group donation, the same thing applies. Contacting the shelter you want to donate to in a loved ones name is the best bet.

Ever wonder why you should donate to animal shelters? Click here to learn more.

What Can You Donate to Animal Shelters?

Frequently, readers write in to ask about what they can donate to animal shelters.

I love that our readers have such big hearts!!  You make us so proud to run this site!

Every pet parent knows how expensive it can be to care for just one or two furry babies.  But shelters must care for hundreds!

So, I did some digging.  I looked at local shelter lists and online guides and I covered the bases for you!

Can You Donate Food to Animal Shelters?

Dog food isle in a grocery store

First, if you have extra food and treats, the residents at the shelter will be so grateful! And so will their caregivers!

Food and treats are probably one of the largest expenses for most shelters.  It makes sense… all those mouths to feed!

I used to be an advanced couponer.  I wasn’t an “extreme” couponer…  my local stores closed all the loopholes.  Plus, I wanted to have a life beyond coupons!!

But one of my greatest joys in couponing was the amount of pet food I dropped off at my local shelter once a month.  Even if you’re not an avid couponer, it’s a huge help to any shelter when you bring in a few cans or a bag of food.

Can You Donate Bedding to Animal Shelters?

Besides feeding all those furry loves, shelters must also keep them comfortable.  If you’ve purchased a new dog bed lately, you know how quickly the costs can add up.

You have no idea how happy you can make a shelter director by simply donating things they can use for bedding.

Can You Donate Towels to Animal Shelters?

Yes! Towels fall into the overall bedding category and are used by shelters for bedding, for drying off dogs, and for cleaning them up when they get dirty or muddy.

Colorful stack of bath towels

Make sure any towels you donate are either used or well laundered.

Can You Donate Pillows to Animal Shelters?

Yes! Pillows make fantastic dog beds as well and can be a huge comfort to a lonely shelter dogs. Just like towels, if you donate pillows make sure they are new or well laundered BEFORE donating.

Can You Donate Blankets to Animal Shelters?

Yes! I love donating no sew fleece pet blankets to shelters, but you can also donate other well laundered used or new blankets to shelters and rescues.

If you have any old receiving blankets laying around, these make especially great donations for smaller dogs, puppies and cats.

Next time you update your towels, send the old ones to the shelter.  The same with upgrades in bedding, pillows, etc.  Just make sure they are clean and well laundered.

The pups at the shelter can curl up warmer on your old decor than they do on the cold concrete floor of their enclosures.

And don’t forget that you can also donate your dog’s used bed when you get them a new one.

Have a love for animals? Why not learn how to open an animal shelter. Click here to learn more.

Can You Donate Puppy Bottles and Puppy Nursing Formula to Shelters?

newborn puppy drinking from a bottle.

Yes! You can. 🙂

Sometimes shelters find themselves with puppies or kittens who are too young to be separated from their mothers.

Whether someone found an abandoned “nest” or something tragic happened to Mom, shelters need to be able to respond.

But like human baby formula, formula for pups & kits can be expensive.

One friend rescued a litter of kittens one time and had extra formula when they were old enough for solid food.  She told me that the caregivers at the shelter were over the moon when she donated the leftover formula and the bottles to them.

Can You Donate Old Newspapers to Shelters?

large stacks of old news papers


Shelters have a lot of bottoms to clean up after.  They often resort to the same thing we do at home during house training — the trusty daily paper.

Not only do the papers provide an easier way to keep enclosures sanitary, but it also offers a bit of padding for the dogs to walk on in their areas.

Plus, they become dirty quickly and so are changed often.  I have yet to have a shelter turn away my newspapers.

Just like other types of donations, it’s important for newspapers to be clean. If you’re newspaper has coffee spills on it then you should probably recycle it instead.

Can You Donate Collars, Harnesses and Leashes to Animal Shelters?


Have extra collars or leashes around and looking for a way to clear out the clutter?  Your local shelter would be happy to take these items.

Shelters like to take dogs out on walks when they can.  This means they need collars, harnesses, and leashes. Make sure to run any used items through the wash and check to make sure they are in good condition before you donate.

Plus, sometimes adoptive families don’t have these items yet.  When this happens, shelters send the pups home with one of theirs.  They’re happy to be sure the pup is safe, but it leaves them short when they need one later.

Can You Donate Dog Shampoo and Other Grooming Supplies to Animal Shelters?


It takes a lot of shampoo to keep that many pups clean.  Shelters are always happy to take the shampoo that you decided you didn’t like.

Flea and tick treatments are also welcome.  Close quarters mean that a minor issue can get out of hand quickly without the right treatments.

They can also use your extra grooming tools like combs and brushes, scissors and trimmers.

By keeping up their grooming, the shelters are keeping their residents comfortable and happy.  Plus, they’re keeping them all fresh and clean — and adoptable!

Can You Donate Toys to Animal Shelters?

assortment of balls for dogs


Most of our dogs have too many toys.  They get bored, so we buy them more!

Those toys your dog isn’t interested in anymore can be valuable to a dog stuck in a shelter.  They get bored too!

They can also be scared and looking for a security toy.

It’s a good idea to make sure the toys are in “like new” condition when you donate them.

So, donate your dogs extra and gently used toys to dogs in need.  You can even donate many children’s toys, too. Or you can make a project like “smelly” sock toys to donate to your local shelter.

When I couponed as a habit, I used to find discounts on toys all the time.  Your bonus points can make a dog’s day!!

Can You Donate Stuffed Animals to Animal Shelters?

It Depends.

Many shelters will take stuffed animals, but the parts in stuffed animals aren’t always great for dogs. Check with your local shelter on their policy (always a good idea before making donations).

If you do donate stuffed animals, make sure they have no rips or tears and are new or have been washed and dried.

Can You Donate Crates to Animal Shelters?

yellow labrador dog on a red pillow in a crate with door open


Shelters often have to transport their residents.  It may be that the pup has medical appointments off-site.  Or maybe they’re heading to a foster placement.

But the ride can be scary when you don’t know where you’re going.  So, for their safety, shelters always use crates and carriers to transport the dogs.

If you have a crate or carrier that is in good condition, consider donating it to your local shelter.

Can You Donate Cleaning Products to Animal Shelters?


You can imagine all the messes that happen in shelters.

I won’t go into all the possible messes.  As dog parents, I’m sure you can imagine.

Needless to say is that cleaning products are in high demand in shelters.

They need everything from paper towels and ordinary cleaning supplies to laundry supplies (particularly bleach), to mops, sponges, and broom.  Feel free to donate rubber gloves, garbage bags, even plastic shopping bags!

Basically, if it cleans a floor, window, bathroom, or bedding — they need it.

Oh — and hand sanitizer and soap are welcome, too!

Can You Donate Office Supplies to Animal Shelters?

Assortment of office supplies scattered on a desk


You may not think of office supplies when you think of shelter donations.  But you should.

Shelters have tons of paperwork to cope with, and they have to keep it all in order.  From licenses to adoption papers, there’s plenty of copy paper, post-its, staples, pens, and pencils used at shelters.

Can You Donate Heating Pads to Animal Shelters?


Shelters need pretty much anything you use for your dog at home.

So, be sure to donate bowls and feeders if you have them.

Another thing that shelters find useful are heating pads.  Some dogs are prone to chill when they’re stressed or sick. Shelters like to keep heating pads on hand to help keep them comfortable.

Can You Donate a Couch to Animal Shelters?

It depends.

Some animal shelters will be happy to take a couch that is in good shape, while others – not so much. This is one you want to call before hand on.

Can You Donate Money to Animal Shelters?

coins being stacked by hand


Material donations are awesome, but money donations are even better. Because then the shelter can buy exactly what they need for the animals in their care.

Can You Donate Time to Animal Shelters?


Almost all animal shelters need extra help. If you can volunteer for a day it’s great! If you can volunteer on a regular basis it’s even better.

Some areas where shelters typically need help:

  • Filing paperwork
  • Maintaining records
  • Walking dogs
  • Cleaning kennels
  • Fostering Animals

There are often other areas where volunteers are useful as well. Call your local shelter for opportunities.

What to NEVER Give to An Animal Shelter

The basic rule of thumb here is that anything you donate should be clean and in good condition.

If an item is overly worn or very dirty then you should recycle or toss it rather than donate it.

Summary: What Things to Donate to Animal Shelters

Dog and Kitten sleeping

If an animal can use it or if it can be used to maintain or clean the shelter than it is probably an item you can donate.

It’s always a good idea to call ahead to your local shelter to see if you can donate an item BEFORE you take it over. Shelters often take a wide variety of different things, but every shelter has it’s own set of rules and requests.

Click here for information health & safety, read The 6 Most Common Household Toxins for Your Dog or Pup Finance – Be Prepared for Emergencies.

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