SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Whether you are looking to adopt a new friend or not, there are many ways you can support animal shelters in their effort to find stray pets a home. In honor of National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day, here is what Utah did to celebrate and a few suggestions on how to support shelter animals going forward.

Over 6 million pets enter shelters in the U.S. every year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Of those animals, just over 4 million are adopted, with the remaining 2 million almost evenly divided between pets returned to their owners and euthanized.

To celebrate this national day and usher in Mental Health Month in May, the Utah Pride Center partnered with Best Friends Animal Society to offer free adoption of fully vaccinated cats and dogs over the weekend. The event’s purpose was to make pet adoption easy for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Queer people often deal with higher rates of anxiety, depression, and isolation. Pets provide unconditional love, connection and support. Pet ownership has been shown to help alleviate symptoms of these illnesses,” Utah Pride Center Representative Jackson Carter said. “The fact that we can help find homes for vulnerable pets in our neighborhood is icing on the cake.”

As this year’s celebration of the national day wraps up, here are some ways to help animal shelters throughout the year.

How to help shelters

1. Adopt a pet

The most obvious way to help shelters is by adopting a pet. According to PETA, there is an estimated 70 million stray animals in the U.S. Adopting a pet not only helps the animal but also opens up room for another homeless pet to receive care in the shelter. It also helps keep shelters at a manageable capacity, reducing the amount of euthanized pets.

When considering adoption, it is best to look at a few factors ahead of time, according to an expert from Camp Bow Wow, a dog daycare and training facility.

First, research what breed you are interested in and pay particular attention to the energy and size of the pet. Some breeds require more exercise than others. Next, choose a pet that fits best with the capabilities and age of the owner.

Finally, consider if you are financially ready to adopt a pet and pay for the necessary food, crates, bed, and veterinary check-ups that inevitably follow.

2. Volunteer or donate

Not every household is ready to take on a new pet, luckily there are other ways to support local shelters. Many shelters rely on volunteers, with the Humane Society of Utah reporting that volunteers work 20,000 hours at its shelter every year.

Volunteers work in a variety of positions, from working directly with the animals to organizing fundraising or community outreach events. While every shelter is different, some offer volunteering positions to youth as young as 12 years old when accompanied by an adult.

If you are unable to volunteer, shelters also take monetary or item donations. Some of these items include bowls, kennels, pet food, brushes, probiotics, muzzles, and nail clippers. Search online or contact a shelter near you to see a full list of items needed.

3. Take care of your pets

If you are already a happy pet owner, one way to support shelters is by spaying and neutering your pet as it helps keep unwanted pets off the streets, according to the Adopt a Shelter Pet Day Calendar.

In addition, the Humane Society says to keep pets on leashes and cats indoors to protect your pet and reduce the strays on the street. The organization reminds owners to put collars on all pets with proper identification and microchip them when possible.

If you are not in a position to help in any of these capacities, the Humane Society says even thank you letters make a difference to shelter employees as they seek to take animals off the streets and find them loving homes.

To learn more about the national day and ways to observe it, click here.