November 15, 2012 02:00 PM

Having been on the ground following devastating Hurricane Sandy, knows what you can do to help some of the 200 animals displaced by the disaster.

“People can donate any old towels or blankets for the animals where they’re sleeping, any food, any toys,” she says. “If they want to make a monetary donation, they can go on [North Shore Animal League’s] website, or to your local shelter.”

You can also make a more permanent contribution, like Richards did when she adopted rescue dog Lily from New York’s North Shore Animal League, where the actress was lending a hand over the weekend.

“When you’re able to adopt from a shelter,” Richards tells PEOPLE, “you’re making room for one more to come in and have a place to go.”

While in New York shooting a new project, Richards found herself face-to-face with the devastation wreaked by the superstorm, and wanted to pitch in with animal relief efforts however she could.

“I work very closely in Los Angeles with Best Friends Animal Society, and they were the first ones I reached out to and asked if they had anyone in New York that I could help,” she says.

On Saturday, Richards visited Long Island’s NSAL shelter where she saw firsthand the number of pets affected by the storm. Over 200 animals belonging to families who had lost their homes were taken in, joining the 600 that already call the shelter home until they can be adopted.

“For them to take care of over 200 animals, they set up mobile units for them,” the actress says, describing the scene. “They set up a gymnasium at one of the schools for the animals to stay at until these people are able to get back on their feet, get into a home and get their animal back.”

The actress and her three daughters made room for another homeless pet when they adopted a black Labrador mix during their visit.

“There was just something that we connected with, that the girls connected with,” Richards says of their new puppy, adding, “She’s fitting in nicely.”

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