Sheltering and Caring for Animals

3, 4, 5

Animal shelters have many areas of concern but the mission of all shelters is to care for and place homeless animals. They rely on donations from the public to do their important work. Municipal shelters are funded by the municipality-- but are often underfunded. They often have non-profit arms that are funded by donations. This lesson is designed to give the learners a better understanding of what an animal shelter is, how it operates and how it provides a service for animals as well as the community and the common good. Learners will also develop a better understanding of what they can do to help.

PrintOne 45 minute class period

The learner will:

  • define animal shelter, animal welfare, municipal, and non profit.
  • develop a working knowledge of the types of animal shelters.
  • identify how a shelter operates for the common good of a community.
  • research and share available information found about a local animal shelter’s needs.
  • print information or websites for animal shelters and welfare organizations in the local area
  • teacher copy of Animal Shelters briefing paper: 
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework: Send the letter home to families telling them about the unit and the service learning project. Be sure that the learners share information with their families about what they have learned. (See Attachment One: Letter to Families) This information will be shared in Lesson Two.

  • Koja, Kathe. Straydog. Puffin, 2004. ISBN-10: 0142400718
  • Martin, Ann M. A Dog’s Life: The Autobiography of a Stray, Scholastic Paperbacks, 2007. ISBN-10: 0439717000


  1. Anticipatory Set: Begin this lesson by showing the learners the video clip of the ASPCA’s® adoption center. Note:It is suggested that the teacher preview the video on the ASPCA® website to become familiar with navigating the site and the video clip. After clicking on the arrow to start the video, click on the words YouTube to enlarge the video. There are additional video clips of animals waiting for adoption at the ASPCA® shelter that may also be used.

  2. After viewing the video, tell the learners that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, also called the ASPCA, has built an amazing animal shelter/adoption center in New York City through contributions from people concerned about animal welfare. Engage the learners in a discussion about the video clip. Ask them to share why they think this kind of shelter/adoption facility is needed and any information that they have about animals that are homeless.

  3. Access learners’ prior knowledge about animal shelters by asking them to share their knowledge of shelters in their area, experiences they may have had with shelters and what services they think shelters provide for animals. Write their responses on a display board. Allow the discussion to continue as long as time permits or as long as the discussion is appropriate.

  4. Clarify the information students provided about shelters by summarizing that: animal shelters provide care and treatment to animals needing protection, attempt to find homes for homeless animals, reunite lost pets with their families, and, when necessary, provide a humane death for homeless or unadoptable animals. Through these actions, animal shelters promote animal welfare and humane treatment of animals.

  5. Write the following terms on a display board: Animal Welfare, Municipal, and Non Profit.

  6. Define Animal Welfare as: kind and respectful treatment due to animals.

  7. Define Municipal as: relating to a town, city, or region that has its own local government. Use examples of your local government for clarification.

  8. Define Non-Profit as: an organization whose income is not used for the benefit or private gain of any people with an interest in the company.

  9. Share the definitions that you put on the board. Ask the class to share their ideas of what each word means.

  10. Tell the learners that most animal shelters are operated by a municipality (local city government) or a non profit organization (sometimes called private shelters). Both of these types of shelters provide a service for the community and need help and support from the community.

  11. Teacher Note: Share as much or as little of the following information as is appropriate for your learners: Within the private shelter community there are limited-access facilities, often referred to as “no-kill” shelters. These facilities accept a limited number of animals based on species, age, health, adoptability and space. Once they are at maximum capacity, a limited-access shelter will not take in more animals. “No-kill” shelters will only euthanize animals that are medically or behaviorally unadoptable (ASPCA®). Open-access shelters are mandated to take in all animals that are brought to them and must, at times, euthanize animals to make room for incoming animals. Depending on maturity of the learners evaluate how to handle the topic of euthanasia (mentioned in the APSCA video clip used in the Anticipatory Set). For further information on this topic see Biographical References below.

  12. Distribute the print information about local shelters, or allow learners to access web sites for local animal shelters/adoption organizations.Ask them to read the information to determine the type of shelters in their area, what their focus of service is and what needs, if any, are indicated for the shelters.Students can do this research as individuals or in groups as appropriate.

  13. Hold a class discussion after the research is complete.Add any new information or understandings to the information about shelters noted on the display board. Be sure to list any shelter needs that are discovered.

  14. Give the learners Attachment One: Letter to Families to take home.Have them list what they will share with their families about animal welfare and shelters. Encourage the learners to share what they have learned in class with their family members.


Assessment for this lesson will be primarily subjective based on the learners’ class participation and understanding of the information shared. The teacher will check for understanding of the terms used in the lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Give examples of needs met by government, business, civil society, and family.
    2. Standard DP 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark E.2 Name an example of a civil society charitable organization.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.5 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibility.
    2. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark E.1 Name examples of civil society organizations in the community.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Identify and describe how civil society organizations help the community.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.5 Give examples of actions students can take to improve the common good and list or describe responsibilities that go with those actions.