How to help the pets in L.A.’s animal shelters

The stories coming out of the city of LA’s animal shelters are heartbreaking for any animal lover: Overcrowding and understaffing have resulted in cramped and dirty kennels and inadequate care, and some dogs go weeks without walking.

Last month, critics questioned Los Angeles Animal Services’ heavy reliance on volunteers to provide “enrichment, exercise and walks” rather than boosting funding for city budget animal shelters.

City leaders are holding public meetings to address the issue. But for people who want to act immediately, donating your time, a few needed items, or money could ease the burden on current volunteers a bit.

Pets in city shelters and those operated by nonprofits are still being adopted, said Ana Bustiloz, communications director for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals LA. But: “The number of adoptions [at SPCA L.A.] is stable but has not reached or exceeded pre-pandemic numbers,” Bustiloz said.

SPCA LA sees many factors at play, but economic challenges are paramount.

“The lack of affordable housing and stagnant wages are affecting all aspects of life, including the decision to bring a new pet into the home,” she said.

In shelters, she added, volunteers are “invaluable and very important to the running of shelters.”

If you’re interested in helping protect animals in and around LA, here’s an overview of the needs of some of the larger public and non-profit animal shelters, as well as tips on how you can help smaller local animal shelters.

LA animal services

What it does: This city agency provides temporary homes to lost and stray animals at six Los Angeles animal shelters. It offers adoption, licensing, and microchipping services, as well as free neutering and neutering for pets of low-income residents.

How can you help: The agency needs volunteers to help animals play, walk, socialize, and engage with humans. Volunteers are also needed to help with adoptions, greet customers, take pictures, groom and more.

Interested parties must complete an application and complete the training once approved. LA Animal Services requires a minimum commitment of six hours per month for six months.

If you can’t keep the volunteer time commitment, you can also foster a dog or cat in your home. You can also make a monetary donation through the Animal Welfare Trust Fund, the Spay/Neuter Trust Fund and the Star Program. If you’d like to help stock the pet food pantry or provide supplies for the Boredum Busters program, check out the Amazon Wishlist.

Best Friends Animal Society Los Angeles

What it does: The nonprofit works with rescue groups, city animal shelters and individuals to prevent animals from being euthanized. It hosts adoption and fundraising events, operates two animal shelters and runs the No-Kill Los Angeles initiative.

How can you help: The center offers onsite and remote volunteer opportunities, including work that does not require training. Onsite work is performed at one of the shelter’s two locations – in West Los Angeles or Mission Hills. Remote volunteering is required to answer the shelter’s main phone line and help with its social media accounts. You can also help with the shelter’s monthly cleaning days or special events.

All volunteers are asked to commit to two shifts a month. First, create a volunteer account online.

You can also make a cash donation that will be used for adoption programs, spaying and neutering services, and No-Kill Los Angeles.

Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control

What it does: The seven county lodgings serve the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County and 44 treaty cities. They provide animal control and rescue services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to providing low-cost spay and neuter services, the county’s animal control officers patrol for lost, injured, and abandoned animals, investigate cases of animal cruelty, and provide emergency rescues during natural disasters.

How can you help: You can donate to a specific shelter location by purchasing items from their Amazon Wishlist. Or you can donate to the Animal Welfare Authority.

The district resumed virtual information events for interested volunteers this year. To start, volunteers aged 18 and over can fill out an application online – 16- and 17-year-olds need parental permission. Once your application is submitted and the training is complete, volunteers must purchase a volunteer t-shirt ($11).

SPCA Los Angeles

What it does: The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles is a nonprofit animal welfare organization that conducts cruelty investigations, disaster response, violence prevention and awareness programs, and animal shelter services.

How can you help: The nonprofit organization needs volunteers to help animals at the shelter, care for animals at home, support youth in the violence prevention and humane education program, help with administrative tasks, help with fundraisers, and take photos of shelter animals.

You can also donate online.

Pasadena Humane Society

What it does: The community-supported non-profit organization provides shelter, foster care and adoption opportunities for animals. It also focuses on programs and services aimed at helping people care for and care for their pets with free and low-cost spaying and neutering services and vaccines. It also has a pet food bank and pet care call center.

How can you help: The organization offers volunteer opportunities for people of all ages. Volunteers aged 15+ are expected to volunteer for a minimum of 2 hours monthly for 12 weeks and may be a shelter greeter or ambassador, or foster a kitten. Younger volunteers can participate by becoming a Shelter Greeter and Ambassador.

If you don’t have enough time to meet the minimum volunteer hours, you can volunteer as a one-time volunteer and help with fundraising, adoption, and outreach events. For more information, email

You can also donate online once or monthly.

Help for local animal shelters

Matt Bershadker said when people support local animal welfare organizations in any way they can, “it’s an act of admirable compassion.” Bershadker is President and CEO of ASPCA (not affiliated with SPCA LA), a national organization dedicated to saving animals from abuse, making humane laws, and sharing resources with animal shelters across the United States

“As many shelters and animal rescues face increasing admission and housing challenges due to longer stays of animals with medical and behavioral needs, pandemic-related staff shortages and fewer adoptions, the support of community members is now more important than ever,” he said.

To support an animal shelter not mentioned above in your community, contact or visit their website. Here are some questions to ask to learn how you can help.

  1. What are the options? (And which ones make sense to me?)
  2. What is the minimum time commitment?
  3. What training is required?
  4. Are there other ways to help (donations in kind, monetary donations, care)?
  5. What does it take to groom a pet?
  6. How can I spread the word about how I can help?

About the Times Utility Journalism Team

This article is from the Times’ Utility Journalism team. Our mission is to be essential to the lives of people in Southern California by publishing information that solves problems, answers questions, and aids in decision making. We serve audiences in and around Los Angeles – including current Times subscribers and diverse communities whose needs have not been met by our coverage in the past.

How can we be useful to you and your community? Email Utility (at) or one of our journalists: Matt Ballinger, Jon Healey, Ada Tseng, Jessica Roy and Karen Garcia. How to help the pets in L.A.’s animal shelters

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