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New Year's Resolutions that help animal lovers make a difference

By Lindsey Robertson

1. Cut plastic soda rings and squash metal cans - Wildlife can become entangled in the plastic rings that connect soda cans, so be sure to take some scissors and snip at the rings before you throw them away. Animals have also been known to become stuck in tin cans, so crushing cans before recycling can help to keep critters safe.
2. Donate old furs - Wildlife rehabilitation centers can use furs as beds to comfort abandoned or injured animals. You can contact your local wildlife rehab location to see if they can use any donated furs.
3. Cut meat, eggs or dairy once a week - Completely cutting meat or dairy out of your diet might seem daunting, so trying it out for one day a week - try having Meatless Mondays! - can be a good way to make your lifestyle a bit more animal-friendly. Who knows? You may even find that you like going vegetarian or vegan!
4. Volunteer at a shelter or sanctuary - If getting active is already part of your New Year's resolution, why not get moving by volunteering to walk dogs at your local shelter? Dogs at shelters are usually confined to small areas, so it's important for them to have plenty of activity, and dog walkers are a super-important part of that.
5. Buy products that are made without palm oil. - Palm oil is responsible for considerable deforestation of rainforests, and the subsequent elimination of vital wildlife habitats. Orangutans, for example, are losing their homes and starving due to palm oil plantations. By refraining from buying products that contain this oil - or choosing to buy products that instead contain sustainable palm oil - you are helping to promote household items that don't contribute to deforestation.
6. Learn which brands test on animals - Testing on animals can leave rabbits and other creatures with chemical burns, poisoning, permanent brain damage and blindness. Research which brands are cruelty-free before shopping for cosmetics or bath and body products. There are several search engines that allow you to find cruelty-free brands based on product type.
7. If you decide to eat seafood, go sustainable - Sustainable seafood is any sort of marine wildlife that is fished or farmed in an eco-conscious and environmentally responsible way - that means it prevents overfishing, bycatch and other damage to wildlife.
8. Discourage friends from purchasing forms of entertainment that harm animals - 2014 has certainly shed considerable light on the myriad of ethical issues surrounding companies that keep animals in captivity or use them for entertainment purposes. By not patronizing zoos that harm animals, circuses with exotic creatures or SeaWorld, you are taking a stand against the animals who are maltreated in these facilities.
9. Write one letter on behalf of animals - Make your voice heard! Write a letter to local lawmakers when you have a passionate viewpoint on wildlife-related legislation in your city or state. The ASPCA offers a guide for writing effective advocacy letters, as well as a search tool for finding your legislator's contact information.