What to Expect Volunteering at an Animal Shelter
If you are an animal lover you may be considering volunteering at a local animal shelter. It is definitely a worthy cause and a great place to volunteer your time and energy, however, there are a few things worth noting before you get started. We will cover some basics and also how to get started, as well as some helpful tips before your first visit.
Why Volunteer at an Animal Shelter?
There are so many benefits to volunteering at an animal shelter or animal rescue. For animal lovers the love reciprocated by animals is undeniable. You will leave your volunteering experience filled with love from these precious pets who have often been abandoned. Here is a list of just some of the reasons volunteering is a great idea.
- The inner peace and contenment that comes from doing something good with no reward for yourself. Your time with these animals will help them become more adoptable. You are literally helping save animals’ lives, and that has to feel good.
- Volunteering with animals is a great way to explore potential future careers. Trying something new is always a great idea and this is a way to get a taste of working with animals before committing to a career change.
- Any form of volunteering is great to encourage civic responsibility to kids, teens or young adults. Working with dogs or cats is a great starting point for youth to teach social responsibility and help fuel a sense of community.
- Volunteering helps to teach time management, responsibility, and how to behave professionally. For those too young to enter the workforce, volunteering is a great opportunity to begin to learn about responsibility and commitment.
- Instant gratification, you will see the effects of your volunteer efforts very quickly, when working with strays and abandoned pets. Your attention and love are often all they need to turn a corner and become great pets for a new adoptive family. Coming back routinely you will see the quick changes in an animal’s behavior after getting love and attention.
How to Volunteer at an Animal Shelter?
Animal shelters and animal rescue facilities are slightly different organizations. It is best to first spend some time researching animal shelters near you so you can see what options you may have in your area. Animal shelters run by your city or county usually will still accept volunteers, but they may have specific regulations or rules to follow. It would be wise to call ahead and inquire about the days and times they accept volunteers and any other pertinent information. Privately funded and operated dog rescues or animal rescues in your area are usually very eager to welcome new volunteer helpers as well. They may also have specific times or rules about volunteering at their facility so be sure to call ahead. Usually, advance notice is required and just showing up to volunteer will not work out.
Once you have found a location to volunteer at, you will most likely need to do a bit of paperwork beforehand. The animal shelter may ask you to:
- Fill out an application
- Sign a liability waiver
- Attend an orientation
- Watch a training video
- Make a tax-deductible donation to offset any costs of volunteering
On the day of your first volunteering experience, you may need to show an ID and turn in or sign paperwork. Keep in mind that there may be age requirements as well, some have a minimum age requirement of 14, others 16, or even 18 so be sure to check beforehand if you are a minor.
How old do you have to be to volunteer at an animal shelter?
Animal volunteer work opportunities for adolescents do exist, but you may need to search for an animal shelter that accepts younger helpers. If you are a minor yourself or wanting to bring your children along to volunteer at an animal shelter you should ask specifically about their minimum age requirements. It is a great experience for young people to volunteer and give of their time and talents to a cause without expecting anything in return. However, due to safety and security issues some shelters or adoption centers may only accept adults as volunteers. Keep looking if your first attempt will not work with under-age helpers, often privately ran animal shelters or charities will accept children as volunteers, especially if they are accompanied by their parent or legal guardian. Even very young children can often help out under special circumstances such as dog adoption events or pet adoption events at local community events. A nearby dog rescue or no-kill animal shelter may even have volunteer opportunities that are not in direct contact with the animals themselves, such as handing out fliers for adoption fairs or collecting donations. If you are volunteering at an animal shelter and under 18 you will most likely need to get your parent or legal guardians signature for permission. If your student or child is a high school student looking to fulfill their volunteer work requirements for graduation they should check with their school counselor for locations that routinely work with youth.
What are the Expectations of an Animal Shelter Volunteer?
If you volunteer at a dog pound, no-kill shelter, or the ASPCA you should expect to make volunteering a routine. Most organizations prefer you to make a small, realistic time commitment to volunteering on a regular basis. Time and money is involved in training a new volunteer, so they need their volunteers to commit to showing up more than once or twice. If you are comfortable with that commitment, then get ready to volunteer by taking a look at what type of work you may be asked to do:
- Walking dogs
- Socializing cats
- Cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning
- Showing pets to prospective adopters
- Taking photos of pets
- Office tasks
- Light landscaping
- Feeding animals
What do you Wear to Volunteer at an Animal Shelter?
Now that you’ve read through the list of potential duties while volunteering at an animal shelter, you should realize that proper attire is a must. Make sure to wear some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. Between cleaning, feeding, and petting pets you do not want to wear anything fancy or pricey. Wear pants and closed-toed shoes, keep in mind that puppies like to jump and nibble, so you won’t want to wear any knitted clothes that tear easily. Wearing appropriate clothes when volunteering with animals will help you keep your focus on the animals themselves and not your clothes getting ruined.