Animal shelters need help all year round. They rely heavily on the generosity of their local community, as well as others. When winter nears, the animal shelters can get into near crisis mode, as people turn their attention to holiday needs of their own. Lack of funds can devastate shelters, as food and supplies for the #Animals gets lower and lower, with no funds to replenish them. Spread some holiday cheer by sending the shelter a #Christmas gift basket.

Check with your designated animal shelter first

Before you decide what to put in your basket, contact the shelter you plan to give it to. You can either call or look on their website or Facebook page to see if they have a list of things they need.

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Items like dog and cat food are always welcome. Most shelters stick to one kind of food so as not to upset the digestive system of the animals, so be sure to ask their preference. If you can’t afford animal food, there are many less expensive but needed supplies you can fill the basket with.

Use a large laundry basket for your Christmas gifts, a dog bed, or even a small kennel. Any of these three would be useful to the animal shelter. Shop at dollar stores for inexpensive toys, leashes and collars. Small feeding bowls are helpful too, just make sure they are stainless steel and easy to clean.

If you are using a laundry basket, consider lining the bottom and sides with towels for a festive look. If you prefer, buy new towels for yourself and donate a few of your old ones to the shelter. They won’t mind them being used, so long as they are in good shape and thick enough to absorb water quickly.

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Another idea is to buy a bright red or green fleece blanket to line your gift basket with. They can be purchased for under $5 at dollar stores.

Gift certificates and coupons are always welcome at animal shelters

Once you have checked to see what kind of food and supplies the animal shelter uses, you can search newspapers or the internet for coupons to print and clip. Purchase gift certificates either online or at a local store. Place all the coupons or gift certificates in a Christmas card and add it to the holiday basket.

If you have the time or interest, create a personal gift certificate offering your services to help at the shelter. Shelters need all kinds of help, from playing with puppies and kittens, to walking #Dogs, to helping to feed them at meal time. If you are not into that, perhaps offering to clean an area, or answer phones for a few hours would be more to your liking.

Encourage others to add to your gift basket

Get your friends and kids involved. Tell them what you are doing and encourage them to add to your basket or to make their own. This is good for children, as it teaches them that holidays are about giving as well as getting. Encourage your kids to gather up some stuffed animals they no longer play with, or ask them to take one thing off their “Santa list” and spend that amount on shelter supplies.