Skip to content Skip to navigation

Animal Sheltering’s 2017 gift guide

Holiday gifts for your favorite shelter and rescue humans

From Web Exclusives

Americans love animals to the tune of 90 million dogs and 94 million cats in homes across the country, and yet many know very little about the daily work that animal control officers, veterinarians, volunteers, adoption counselors, community cat coordinators, kennel managers, behaviorists, shelter directors and humane educators do to help the people and animals in their communities. Because much of shelter and rescue work isn’t well understood, the exhausting, never-ending task of saving animals can feel thankless—excluding, of course, all the thanks that a wet nose or a sloppy tongue can convey.

It’s important to take care of one another, so this holiday season, we asked some of the many people who contribute their expertise to Animal Sheltering to send us gift ideas for their fellow animal welfare volunteers and professionals. Unsurprisingly, their answers were compassionate, thoughtful—and all about animals. (Also, we'd be remiss if we didn't suggest a gift subscription to our magazine.)

For your adoption counselor, who steered that rowdy family away from the skittish beauty to the goofy-looking lovebug in the last kennel:

“I think I speak for many animal welfare professionals when I say we often feel guilty because we work long hours helping to save homeless pets, and we never have enough time to give our own pets as much love, attention and exercise as we'd like. There's nothing more special for me than when someone gives me something for my own pet. I really love cool enrichment and puzzle toys, fun feeders and other things to keep my own dogs happy and entertained while I'm out saving lives. It means a lot to me when people recognize how important my dogs are to me. Any gift for them is the best gift you could give me.”

– Kristen Auerbach, director of Pima Animal Care Center

“Personal gift certificates to a spa, movie, recreational activity, store, coffee shop, etc. are most appreciated. At our facility, some of us try to give gift certificates to deserving staff and volunteers as prizes or to show appreciation, but we usually purchase them on our own. It’s important to show appreciation and acknowledge staff and volunteers for their hard work. Personal gifts can improve morale and loyalty. A happy employee or volunteer will have greater job satisfaction and performance, which ultimately goes back to helping more animals.”

– Deann Shepherd, director of marketing and communications, Humane Society of Utah

“When I managed the staff at Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society, they really enjoyed it the few times I brought in a massage therapist in place of our staff meeting. That was a really nice surprise. I also think having a personalized gift really makes a difference. Some staff members would like a session with an animal communicator, some like craft beer, etc. In the case of gifting staff, it really is the thought that counts.”

– Stacey LeBaron, creator of The Community Cats Podcast

For your shelter behaviorist, who trained a deaf dog using doggie sign language:

“A great gift idea for someone who works with animals would be help with their own veterinary costs. As we all know, when we work in animal rescue, we tend to put all of our financial focus on our pets. Especially since we all end up taking at least one "special needs" animal in, before we know it, our veterinary bills are racked up higher than our own medical care expenses. If you go to any animal shelter, chances are you will find staff members driving beat-up cars, eating cheap frozen lunches, and wearing the same jeans for 8 years because their money all goes to their animals that were left unwanted by someone else. Even if it meant our shelter staff receiving enough flea/tick or heartworm preventatives for the year for their animals, it would save them hundreds of dollars!”

– Amber Dvorak, shelter director and humane officer, Monroe County Animal Shelter

For your kennel manager and foster coordinator, who are always swapping book recommendations during lunch:

“I love animals and I love reading! Reading is one of the best ways to relax after a stressful day at the shelter.

Here are a few books that I would highly recommend as gifts for my fellow animal welfare professionals—these books are all informative, well-written and well-researched. They all helped expand my understanding of animals outside the shelter walls. They will transport you from Hawaii to Swaziland to the Gombe National Park. They will give you an escape from the daily grind while still expanding your knowledge about a topic you love.

Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins by Susan Casey
The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony
In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall 
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck 
Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers
Part Wild: One Woman's Journey with a Creature Caught Between the Worlds of Wolves and Dogs by Ceiridwen Terrill
Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich and Mel Foster"

–  Allie Mayer, foster and rescue coordinator, Louisiana SPCA

[Editor's note: Use Amazon Smile and Amazon will donate to the organization of your choice when you make a purchase.]

For your star volunteer, who somehow has energy left over to spend trapping cats on the weekend:

"In my experience, what rescuers most often lack is time. So any gift that saves time would be a good choice.

I do trap-neuter-return as a volunteer and having the right equipment on hand saves me endless hours driving to the shelter or other people’s homes to borrow and return equipment. For my last birthday, my boyfriend bought me a motion-activated night camera, because I was often borrowing one from another TNR volunteer who lives in another town.

Over the years, birthday and holiday gifts have helped me build a nice arsenal of TNR equipment. I now have my own humane box traps, drop traps, feral cat dens, and trap dividers. There is always new technology coming out, so a TNR advocate might appreciate getting a piece of equipment that she doesn’t already have, like a trap with a clear acrylic back door or a drop trap that can be activated with a remote trigger. A few years ago, I bought a friend a “fat cat trap” as a gift.

There are also less expensive ways you can make a cat trapper’s life easier: for example, a friend who has a sewing machine created half a dozen colorful trap covers with hemmed edges and handle cut-outs for me. No more searching through my linen closet to find sheets, towels or tablecloths that I can cut up! And everyone who cares for community cats can always use a gift of cat food.”

– Julie Falconer, senior editor of Animal Sheltering magazine and TNR advocate, The HSUS

For your shelter or rescue partner, whose staffers took in local dogs and cats when disaster hit:

“If we have received donations above and beyond what we can use, we'll send them to other shelters or rescues who can use them before they expire. We hold an annual shelter swap after our holiday donation drive where everyone can bring items and trade for others.

Of course, any donation for our animals is a gift to those of us who work hard to help them every day, as well. We love receiving new blankets, toys, milk replacement formula, food, litter, etc. We have a donation wish list on our website with items needed for the animals as well as medical items for the clinic, cleaning items, office supplies or even computers and camera equipment.”

– Deann Shepherd, director of marketing and communications, Humane Society of Utah

“1. Vaccinations/Microchips - as one of the shelters to house and care for furry Harvey refugees, our medical inventory is depleted and our medical supply bills inflated
2. Stamps - with year-end donations coming in and thank you letters and donations pleas going out, we go through quite a few stamps!
3. Kuranda beds - for our larger residents to rest their sleepy heads.”

– Monica Lee, PR and development director, Humane Society of Southeast Texas

About the Author

Bethany Wynn Adams is a senior editor at Animal Sheltering, a quarterly magazine for anyone who cares about the health and happiness of animals and their people, and animalsheltering.org. From tales of shelter mascots to guidance on backyard chickens, Bethany works with experts from across the country and within the Humane Society of the United States to bring wide-ranging, engaging print and web news to the animal welfare community. Winner of the Cat Writers' Association's MUSE Medallion, she lives in Maryland with her husband and two naughty rescue dogs.