So, you want to help animals in your own community, but just aren’t sure where to begin. Well, the good news is there are many ways an animal lover can make a difference. From assisting in the care and placement of shelter animals or educating the public on animal welfare issues to fighting for stronger animal legislation—here are five ways you can make a difference for animals in your community.

Learn how to report animal cruelty.

One of the best things you can do to help animals in your community is to keep a list of people, including a humane law enforcement officer, or your veterinarian, who can help you report animal cruelty. Every state is different. In some areas, the police department investigates animal cruelty; in others, that job falls to local animal control or another municipal agency. If you aren’t sure where to report cruelty, visit the ASPCA’s Report Animal Cruelty section.

Volunteer at your local shelter or animal rescue organization.

Volunteering at your local shelter is a great way to make a difference in the lives of many animals. From walking dogs and organizing fundraising events to fostering abused or frightened animals, shelters across the country are in desperate need of volunteers.

Help your neighbors help their animals.

Companion animals play significant roles in the lives of the people who love them—but sometimes the elderly or ill have trouble providing essential pet care. If you see a neighbor in need, offer to assist—walk his dog, help with feeding, clean litter boxes, groom animals, pick up pet food and other supplies, drive him to the veterinarian, etc.

Promote spaying and neutering.

Millions of adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters every year. By spaying and neutering your animals, you’ll make sure you are not contributing to the problem. You can also take this a step further by developing a spay/neuter outreach program in your community. Create flyers promoting the organizations that offer discounts in your area and pass them out at central locations in your community.

Clean up for wildlife.

Wild animals need protection, too. Birds, mammals and reptiles are often injured or killed by the trash we throw away. Help implement a cleanup and recycling plan in your community by organizing weekend trash cleanups in local parks, roadsides and forests.

Act Now—Report Animal Cruelty!

Animal cruelty is not only wrong—it is against the law! Abuse of any kind should be reported to the appropriate authorities immediately.

You will need to find out the name of the persons in your area who are responsible for investigating and enforcing the anti-cruelty codes in your town, county and/or state. These people typically work for your local humane organization, animal control agency, taxpayer-funded animal shelter or police precinct.

If you run into trouble finding the correct agency to contact, you should call or visit your local police department and ask for their help in enforcing the law. If your local police department is unable to assist, you can ask at your local shelter or animal control agency for advice on who to contact to report animal cruelty in your community. To find contact information for your local shelter, check the yellow pages or visit the ASPCA’s searchable database of nearly 5,000 community SPCAs, humane societies and animal control organizations.

Remember, only YOU can help prevent animal abuse!

*Tips Courtesy of the ASPCA