Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Volunteer Opportunities at the Animal Shelter

By Suzanne Alicie

Animal shelters all across the country need help. Sure, monetary donations and supply donations are wonderful and are much appreciated. Shelters could not survive without those types of help. But animal shelters need people too, and they welcome volunteers with open arms. If you are interested in volunteering, call or visit your local shelter and find out what they need most. This gives you an opportunity to become really involved in a volunteer program by creating one that will best suit their needs. There may already be an existing volunteer group that you can join to help spread awareness and recruit new volunteers.

The inspiration for this post comes from a local animal shelter and an area community center for the elderly. These two groups are working together to provide a program that is not only beneficial to the animal shelter but also to the volunteers. One day a week the community center bus picks up about a dozen elderly volunteers and takes them to the animal shelter. 

They spend a few hours there helping in any way they can. Some of them aren’t very mobile and have walkers or wheelchairs; they help with filing and paperwork. Others are very active despite their age and can perform more physical tasks like walking dogs, cleaning cages, feeding the animals, etc. The high point of the day is when the work is finished and they are able to spend time just being with the animals. A litter of kittens will get lots of love before being put back into cages to wait for new forever homes and loving families.

Local social services groups for the handicapped also visit and volunteer at shelters. Whether they are able to be involved with the care involved with the animals or just spend time petting and talking to the animals, it provides a sense of responsibility and of doing something for the community that they may not otherwise have.

Volunteering at the animal shelter is even a good thing for families, to expose the kids to animal care and to introduce them to all sizes and types of pets. Though the minimum age for volunteers is usually 16, some animal shelters and rescue groups do allow younger children to participate, especially if accompanied by a parent. The opportunity to volunteer at an animal shelter is beneficial to animal lovers of all ages, and to the animals.

There are many ways to be involved in your local animal shelter, but the first step is contacting them and finding out what is needed. At that time you can either begin a program for a certain group of animal lovers, or you can work with existing programs to not only bring an extra set of hands to the shelter but to also help spread the word and find new people to help out.

Animal shelter volunteers often take on fostering animals and even adopting the animals from the shelter. The love and affection you receive from the animals at the shelter and the appreciation of the staff makes it worth your time to devote a few hours a week to helping out. The interaction of your children or your elderly parents with the animals will warm your heart, and you may find that your volunteer time becomes the highlight of your week.

If you don’t have the time to physically volunteer, consider donating some supplies or working with a volunteer group to find supply donations. Some pet food companies, like CANIDAE for instance, will donate food to nonprofit organizations, but they have to be made aware of the need before they can help. Volunteers and donations keep most animal shelters going, and they need all the help they can get.

To learn more about volunteering at a shelter, read Julia Williams’ RPO article, “What Does an Animal Shelter Volunteer Do?

Photo by Marianne Perdomo

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie


  1. I believe one of the best things people can do to help the animals in the shelters is to go visit them. They need the attention, then when someone comes looking, they will be a little more social and it will sure help them to get a good home.

  2. I agree with Marg...but...I am one of those people that has a super hard time visiting because it breaks my heart to leave. I know it is awful that I feel like that but I can barely go to a pet store and see kitties there or anywhere that dogs and cats are in cages. I always want to take them ALL home!

  3. I have a hard time visiting the shelter too. But I love to go at the same time. Because I have a not cat friendly dog, I have to go to the shelter to get a kitty cat fix.

  4. I have been thinking for a long time that retirement communities/assisted living centers should have attached animal shelters. Imagine the possibilities- a generous supply of volunteers who want to make a difference after retiring coupled with an endless supply of animals in need of rescue- pets for people who may have lost their mates and/or human best friends (or for people who are just feeling that their new home doesn't quite feel like home yet). People who aren't able to keep pets in their home could still "adopt" them by visiting and caring for them in a very homey shelter. Pets whose owners die or become physically unable to care for them have an automatic safety net- back to the shelter, where of course, everyone involved already knows the pets well, making another adoption easier. And we all know about the studies about pets being responsible for keeping their humans healthier and happier. At my parents' retirement community, I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "I'd love to have a cat (or dog) but I'm afraid it would outlive me and then what would happen to it?"


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...