Lesson Plan Ideas

Lesson Plan Image

Animal Shelters and Volunteerism


  1. Learn why animals end up at shelters.
  2. Understand what should be considered before getting a pet.
  3. Learn what role animal shelters play in our community.
  4. Identify ways in which students can help by promoting animal welfare, volunteering and fund raising.
  5. Plan, implement and evaluate a volunteer project.
  6. Learn what you and your community can gain through volunteering.


Students often want pets but don’t understand that many pets end up in shelters because not all families are prepared for the responsibilities of pet ownership. By helping students to see why pets often end up at shelters, hopefully they will become responsible pet owners in the future.

Students learn valuable life skills carrying out community service projects. It ties into the social studies curriculum and gives students practical experience being good citizens by demonstrating initiative, concern, responsibility, teamwork, and involvement in public life.

Curriculum Connection: Alberta Education Program of Studies

Health and Life Skills

Grade 3: Volunteerism
Grade 4: Volunteerism
Grade 5: Volunteerism
Grade 6: Volunteerism
Grade 7: Volunteerism

Learning Activities

Why do we have animal shelters?

Start a discussion by asking students why animals end up at shelters. Are they all bad animals? Get students to brainstorm reasons for animals ending up at shelters.

Some animals end up at shelters because owners surrender them. Compare your answers to those found in a survey done by The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy. Most of the reasons stated reflect problems other than pet behaviour. In most cases insufficient thought had been given to the responsibility of owning a pet and whether the owner had adequate facilities and time. According to the study most of the pets surrendered were young and had not been with their owners very long. Many of the pets were obtained from friends. 96% of the dogs hadn’t been to obedience classes. Half hadn’t been neutered. Half the cats and one-third of the dogs had not been to a vet.

Source: www.healthypet.com

Besides being surrendered by owners, some pets end up at shelters because they are found as strays. A small number are taken from their owners because of abuse.

Now have the class brainstorm ways that each of the above problems could have been solved or avoided. Solutions can include:

As a follow-up, students could design posters illustrating one of the above examples of responsible pet ownership.

What do animal shelters do?

Many people believe that animal shelters are mainly about euthanizing unwanted pets. Sadly there are still significant numbers euthanized, but numbers have been decreasing. In 1973 13.5 million animals were humanely euthanized at animal shelters in the United States. That number has now dropped to between 3 and 5 million. This positive trend is because of humane education and spay/neuter programs.

Source: Pets for Life - A study and activity guide for high-school students and their teachers by the Humane Society of the United States(56 pages)

At the Cochrane & Area Humane Society more than 1,000 animals pass through our doors each year and only about 5% are humanely euthanized due to health or behaviour problems.

Have students research what animal shelters do. Some could visit the local shelter or have a shelter representative visit the class. Some of the services offered by the Cochrane & Area Humane Society are to:

Use Animal Shelters: Myth or Fact? as a springboard for discussion of commonly held misconceptions about shelters. (Grade 8 reading level)

For a follow-up vocabulary activity, have students do the exercise All about Animal Shelters. (Grade 7 reading level)

Deciding to get a pet

Brainstorm all the things that should be considered before getting a pet. Have a look at:

Some activities for students:

Volunteer projects

Why volunteer for animals?

Cochrane & Area Humane Society: Humane Classroom Program


To help Cochrane & Area students:

  • learn about responsible pet care and humane treatment of animals
  • have fun while undertaking service projects for shelter animals
  • be recognized for their efforts to help stray and neglected animals in our community
  • There are many other humane lesson plan units linked to the K-12 curriculum that you can use to help your students learn how to care for pets and ensure humane treatment of animals.
  • Cochrane & Area Humane Society presenters are available to come to your classroom to teach on a variety of humane education topics, and if appropriate, to bring a shelter pet to meet your students.
  • Your class can “adopt” a shelter animal and follow the pet’s story from abandonment and rescue to finding a new “forever’ home.

We have a variety of programs in place that students can easily participate in:

  • Annual Mutt Strut fundraiser with doggie fashion and talent shows
  • Humane Helpers for young teen (13-15) volunteers
  • Collecting items for our “wish list”
  • Collecting used books for our book sale
  • Contributing to our annual Christmas party for the animals

See the detailed list of possible action ideas below.

The Humane Classroom of the Year Award

Each year we will select a classroom from Cochrane and area that has made a major effort to learn about humane education and help stray, abandoned and neglected animals in our community.

The award will be based on:

  • Time spent learning about humane issues
  • Efforts made to help animals

If there is more than one really worthy recipient, we will consider shared awards or runners up. Every class that applies will receive a special thank you from the Cochrane & Area Humane Society. The winner will receive:

  • An attractive classroom award certificate
  • Recognition in local media
  • The warm appreciation of all our staff, volunteers and pets!

More Humane Action ideas

Some action ideas adapted from the Humane Society of the United States include:

For more ideas and information, have a look at the following three documents that provide lots of detailed ideas for community service work for animal shelters


Have students discuss how the project helped the community. How did it also help build a sense of community in their classroom or school? As individuals how did they feel after completing the project?