Photo by By Derek PurdyIt’s that time of year again. You could make an ambitious pledge to hit the gym five times a week or learn a new language, but you might end up biting off more than you can chew.

If you’re looking for something more manageable or meaningful, how about making a resolution to have an impact on the problem of homeless animals?

In the last ten years the need to euthanize animals simply because there are not enough homes has fallen off precipitously. The problem isn’t solved, but this year, you may be able to get in on the solution.

Adopt. Volunteer. Donate. And when you donate, donate locally so your contribution has maximum effect.

Expand your resolution to include personal gain — or loss. Volunteer to walk a shelter dog a couple of times per week. Your doctor has been telling you that 15-30 minutes of added exercise in a week will help you maintain a healthy weight without cutting back your calories. If you can walk 5 days per week and you cut back what you eat, you can enjoy significant weight loss while enriching the life of shelter dog. You’ll also enrich your own life by giving back to the community and enjoying the company of some new friends.

Even if exercise is not on your New Year’s to-do list, your local shelter has plenty of needs. You can update Petfinder profiles for homeless pets or manage a Facebook page for a local rescue group. Deliver a flyer for adoptable pets or write a letter to the editor of your local paper about a rescue group in your area. Help a youth group with a pet related project like collecting pet supplies for a local group, or if your child is interested in local politics, follow a new bill through the process. There were scores of new laws affecting animals in 2012; this year, see what new legislation is being proposed in your state and get involved.

Even if our cause is not your cause, you can help shelters simply by caring for the pets you already have. Train your dog to help you with a task or take him to a class to learn a whole new skill — like agility or herding. Model this for those you know and they to may adopt their own best friend or even be motivated to keep a dog they had considered taking to the shelter.

Resolve to make the world a better place for the animals in or around your household. Pick just one little change, such as using antifreeze with a bittering agent to reduce risk of poisoning. Find out about bird feeders or plan your landscaping for the spring to include bird and butterfly friendly plants.

The New Year is a great time to make a change whether in your physical health or general knowledge. Participating in your community is a great way to make a difference, and if you decide to get involved by helping local animals in your area, you’re bound to make 2013 a very happy new year indeed!