If you’re interested in volunteering with animals but don’t know exactly what you want to do or when to get started, check out the opportunities at one of your local shelters. The larger shelters, such as your local animal care and control, generally have a range of volunteer opportunities available. These shelters will allow you to cross-train into different programs, like transporting animals.
Large shelters tend to have a wait list, so if you want to sign up, be prepared to wait a bit for an open orientation date. You can also consider volunteering with a smaller shelter in addition to volunteering with a large organization.
Once you’ve found a shelter you want to volunteer with, here are some ways to get started:
When to Begin Volunteering with Animals
Lots of shelters get busy in the spring and may see an uptick in adoptions as the weather gets better. With the increased activity, many organizations find themselves short-handed and scrambling to take care of potential adopters as well as the animals. The start of kitten season also puts additional stress on limited resources.
Of course, there is no wrong time to begin volunteering, so don’t be concerned if you decide to get started during winter or fall seasons. The shelter staff will still have plenty of volunteer work available!
Consider Fostering a Pet
Almost all shelters and rescues need foster volunteers, so if you can have pets in your home this is a great way to help without committing to a certain number of hours at an outside facility. Many rescues are foster-based, which means they can’t bring an animal into their program without already having a foster home lined up for it. A foster pet’s expenses (food, medicine, vet visits, equipment) are covered while in your care, so it’s a great way to be involved for very little cost.
Volunteer with Your Animal
You can also volunteer with your own animals, through programs like Pet Partners. Opportunities for animal-assisted therapy range from educational programs with at-risk youth to hospital or care home visits to de-stressing sessions with college students. Some organizations even allow human-animal teams to include pets other than dogs and cats, such as birds, horses, miniature pigs and llamas.
In addition to all of the other benefits, volunteering is a great way to build or fill in gaps on a resume. Beyond taking care of the animals, most places will have volunteer opportunities available for people with social media, marketing, photography, clinic and special event experience. If you don’t have previous experience in these areas but want to get some, volunteering with a shelter to learn the ropes is a great way to get started.
Jamie Damato Migdal, CPDT-KA and CEO/Founder of FetchFind, has been innovating within the pet industry for over 25 years. A sought-after consultant and public speaker, Jamie has built four national pet service companies and has wide-ranging industry expertise in education, technology, business development, sales, marketing and management. Her fourth and current company, FetchFind, provides staff training and engagement, as well as digital marketing and other business solutions, to pet care service and pet-friendly companies around the globe.