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Help animals with these 10 inspiring new year’s resolutions

It’s a new year—which means an opportunity for new beginnings. You may have put a lot of thought into your own personal resolutions this year, like exercise more or eat less chocolate (that is definitely not one of mine!). But there are also so many ways we can all make small changes to help the world’s animals. Looking for some ideas? Here are 10 smart resolutions sure to help the animals of this world throughout the new year:

1. Support a new animal charity. You probably volunteer and send money to the same charities year after year. But new ones pop up all the time, and plenty exist out there that you’ve never even heard of—and even small individual donations can be a huge help. Spend a morning researching options and see what you find. Perhaps there’s a nonprofit in your community or a neighboring one you didn’t know about before. Or perhaps it’s a national or international charity that works hard on the causes close to your heart. So in addition to the ones you already support, choose one new favorite and map out easy and simple ways you can help out this year. By the way, do you know about my favorite charity, nearest and dearest to my heart, the Shelter Animal Reiki Association?

2. Ditch meat on Mondays. You don’t have to go full-on vegetarian, and maybe you’re not ready to (though I do recommend it for many reasons, including your health). But that’s why the international campaign Meat Free Mondays, led by Sir Paul McCartney, is such a genius idea: It encourages everyone to commit to ditching meat one day a week. It’s a small commitment that can make a big difference to the world in ways such as climate change, animal welfare, health, world hunger and species extinction. Just look at the stats: The average American consumes 71 pounds of red meat a year and 54 pounds of poultry, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. With 52 weeks in a year, that’s 52 fewer days meat would be consumed. If everyone could do this, the ripple effect on animals’ lives and the world would be tremendous.

3. Give your animal 30 extra minutes of one-on-one time per week. Our animals rely so much on us for their socialization and happiness—to them, we are their life! But our life gets so busy that sometimes the best we can do is just feed them and rush out the door to work or other commitments. We can all do better. Try a new hiking trail or adventure with your dog each weekend, or sit with your cat for an extra-long cuddle and brushing session. It’s good for both of you.

4. Boycott SeaWorld, circuses and other animal theme parks. For many of us, these places and the animal shows they put on were “normal” entertainment when we were kids. But now we know about the abuses happening, and more importantly, we know better: Animals are not here for our entertainment. There are plenty of ethical ways to teach kids about sea life and wild animals. Hopefully one day soon, these places will be shuttered for good. In case you need more convincing, watch the award-winning documentary Blackfish.

5. Keep your wild bird feeder filled. It’s winter, and our feathered friends need all the help they can get in terms of food. If you have a feeder in your yard but sometimes neglect to fill it on a timely basis (guilty as charged!), make it a resolution this year to keep it filled on a consistent basis. You’ll help the birds stay strong all year long, but there’s a benefit to you as well: Your favorites will stick around and visit daily—instead of flying off to find food elsewhere.

6. Switch to animal-friendly products. Whether it’s shampoo, makeup, personal-care products or luxury handbags, you have a lot of options out there. Some are still produced the old-fashioned way, harming animals in the process. But scores of innovative companies and individuals are offering alternatives that are just as good (and usually even better!). With a little research, you can easily make the switch and help animals in the process. There are lots of blogs out there to support animal-friendly choices, such as one of my new favorites: Chic Vegan. You can also try PETA’s comprehensive searchable database.

7. Encourage friends and family to adopt from a shelter. According to the ASPCA, more than 7 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year. Yet only 35 percent of dogs can expect to be adopted, and 37 percent of cats. Unfortunately, puppy mills and pet stores are still making sales because some people just don’t realize why shelters are the better choice. You can help to guide people to better choices with a kind word or two, and knock down the myths associated with shelters. (For inspiration, check out my article “5 compelling reasons to adopt from a shelter.”) If you can persuade even one friend to choose a shelter over a pet store, that’s one life saved—a tremendous success you can be proud of forever.

8. Write your congressperson about an animal issue close to your heart. If you’ve never written your local representative, this will be a fun resolution to take on! Whether it’s bear hunting or melting polar ice caps, find your issue and take one hour this year to compose a passionate letter. Don’t let them get complacent because they don’t hear from their constituents! If you’re not sure how to get started, Born Free USA and the U.S. House of Representatives website are great resources.

9. Give your animal the healthiest food possible. Your dog or cat has probably been eating the same brand of food since you brought them home as a baby. But is it truly the best for them? Do some research, read labels and ensure they are eating the best diet possible. I recommend spending some time on the website; it will really open your eyes to what our beloved animals are consuming. Here’s a closer look at my journey switching my dog Dakota to a raw food diet when he was in his golden years.

10. Teach the children in your life about compassion toward animals. Since you love animals, it probably comes naturally to you. But being aware of teaching opportunities when they arise can make that extra difference in children’s lives! As 2016 unfolds, think about modeling that compassion in your own life—and believe me, they will see that and pick up on it. When you go shopping, make compassionate choices and talk about why. You can also find really cool activities locally to help children spend time with animals, whether volunteering at a shelter, taking responsibility for the family pet or going whale-watching. Kids learn real-life lessons by spending quality time with animals. And when they grow up and look back on their youth, they will remember the animals and people by their side the whole way.

Do you have any animal-friendly resolutions you’d like to share?

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