Celebrate the Season While Helping Dogs in Need

Like many animal lovers, dog bakery owner Trina Messano wants to spread holiday cheer to orphaned pets during the season of giving.

Messano, who runs Doggie Cakes in New Port Richey, Fla., is opening the doors of her business to a fundraiser for the SPCA Suncoast Shelter, a nonprofit animal shelter supported through donations. Santa Claus is posing for pictures with pets, while a raffle will also feature handcrafted dog toys, pet beds and a dog-edible gingerbread house that Messano is baking. 

"I'm a huge pet lover," explains Messano. "I have three dogs and six cats. They're all adopted. I can't save them all, but I wish I could. So I had to find other ways to help."

Many animal shelters across the country need to raise money to support their good work helping homeless pets during the coming year. You may be surprised at how you can turn some of your holiday activities -- such as baking cookies, shopping and even socializing -- into fundraising for your local shelter.

Holiday Help for Homeless Dogs
Consider these six activities:

1. Find homes for hounds. While making the rounds of holiday parties, open houses and dinners, spread the word about homeless pets. In 1999, the Helen Woodward Animal Center, a nonprofit, no-kill shelter in San Diego County, Calif., teamed up with 14 other area shelters to start the Home 4 the Holidays program. They found homes for 2,563 orphaned pets that year, according to John Van Zante, a shelter spokesman. The program has since grown into the largest pet adoption drive in the world. This year, they hope to facilitate 1.5 million adoptions.

2. Shop for Fido. Many shelters participate in programs through iGive, an online fundraising organization that gets such retailers as Amazon, eBay, the Gap and Home Depot to donate a share of your purchase to a favorite cause, such as the Brockton Blue Dog Shelter in Brockton, Mass., or Oregon’s Hood River Adopt-a-Dog Foundation.

3. Organize a dog food drive. Help your school or company to set up a dog food drive. Some, such as Helen Woodward, operate food banks for pet-owning senior citizens who are having economic difficulty or who can't go to a store. "Get a giant box and put it in the lobby or send information in the company newsletter," suggests Tim Crum, of The Philanthropy Team, a fundraising and marketing company for animal shelters.

4. Collect pennies for pups. Recruit your elementary and middle school students to collect coins to help a local shelter. "Make it a contest between classrooms or between schools," says Crum, who worked with one school in Pittsburgh that raised $2,500 in pennies for the Animal Rescue League a few years ago.

5. Bake cookies for canines. While baking holiday cookies, fruitcakes or other delectable treats, make enough to hold a bake sale to raise funds for a shelter. If possible, set up at a local library or in the school cafeteria.

6. Give gift cards to shelters. During your holiday shopping outings, don't forget to pick up a gift card for your local shelter. "If you know a shelter shops at a particular store, get them a gift card or certificate," says Kimberley Intino, a certified animal welfare administrator and the director of shelter services for the Humane Society of the United States. The options include pet stores, office supply stores or discount chains.

Spreading Holiday Cheer
In addition to hosting picture-taking with Santa and baking the gingerbread house for the holiday raffle, Messano is doing what she can to be one of Santa's elves for the orphaned pet population in Florida. She says, "I try to spread awareness to all my customers that there are wonderful pets that need adoption at the shelter, since I can't take them all home with me."

by Elizabeth Wasserman