Benefits of Volunteering at Animal Shelters
There are many benefits to volunteer work. You not only improve the lives of animals, but your own life as well. Some may not be as obvious as others. You may not have thought of some of these benefits before.
The biggest take-away you can get from this is experience. You’ll learn new skills while you work that can benefit you in the long-run. You’ll learn how to adapt to situations. Each day will present you with a new challenge. Oftentimes, you’ll have to think on your feet - a valuable life-skill.
You may discover a career path while working at an animal shelter. Many people gain insight to veterinary work or animal behavior. Most importantly, you’ll have the chance to make connections with people in these fields.
Some rescues have paid positions. If you work hard at your volunteer job, you may be considered for these positions or an opportunity could open-up with a similar organization. You’ll also have plenty of references.
What better place to make new friends? You’ll meet all kinds of people while volunteering at an animal shelter. Best of all, you’ll have plenty in common. These new friends can open-up many doors.
Doing something good for others can have great benefits for your mental health as well. Nothing feels better than helping others. We are naturally happier when we are around animals.
For the Animals
The more animals are around people, the more socialized they become. Volunteering at an animal shelter can help dogs and cats break out of their shells. They become far more animated around people and more likely to get adopted.
Volunteers can help dogs with kennel stress. This is a common behavior in animals who have transitioned into a kennel. They aren’t used to being in a confined space all the time. This can result in hiding and a loss of appetite. It can also increase bad behaviors. Some dogs respond by being more aggressive. Others bark a lot or pace. This stress has a detrimental effect on their health as well.
Simply playing with a dog or taking them out for a walk can help with this stress. And volunteers are the perfect people for that.
What to Expect When Volunteering
There’s a common misconception that working at a rescue is easy. The best way to approach this is to think of it like any other job. There will be ups and downs. There will be good days and bad. But your motivation is the chance that an animal will find a family. Let’s break down what to expect from volunteer work at animal shelters.
DO NOT Expect:
1. To Play with Animals All Day: You will have other duties that don’t involve working directly with animals. Playing with animals isn’t the point of the job. The goal is to help animals, whether that’s cleaning kennels or mopping floors.
2. Every Animal to Like You: Many animals in shelters start out scared of people. Don’t let your feelings get hurt the first time a dog or cat shies away from you. Not every animal will want attention. You’ll have to work to earn their trust.
3. Immediate Rewards: It takes time for an animal to build trust. It takes time for an animal to heal. It takes time for animals to find homes. Nothing happens in an instant but don’t be discouraged.
1. To Work Hard: Volunteering isn’t a walk in the park. Expect to be on your feet all day both indoors and outdoors. You might have to do some heavy lifting. Dog food bags can weigh up to 50 lbs.
2. To Fall in Love: It’s so easy to form a bond with animals. Everyone in shelters has that special animal they fall in love with. You will likely form this bond with one or two pets but keep your eye on the prize – to find them all happy, healthy homes.
3. To Have Fun: Despite the hard work, it is a fun job in the long-run. You get to care for animals who don’t have a home. You get to see wagging tails and hear happy purrs.
4. Something New Each Day: No day is the same, even if you have a routine. One day, you may take in a new litter of puppies. The next, you’ll have an influx of senior dogs. Each day will bring you something new, exciting, and challenging.
Types of Volunteer Work at Animal Shelters
There’s more to volunteering at animal shelters than playing with puppies all day. Rescues have all kinds of positions for volunteers. Some jobs are universal while others are specific to certain shelters.
Not the most glamorous job, but as they say, “someone’s got to do it.” Keeping kennels clean is essential to the health and wellbeing of shelter animals. Yes, this means cleaning up a mess from time to time.
But the reward of a happy animal is worth it. Cleaning kennels often involves hosing the floors down, laying down clean bedding, and providing clean water and food bowls. Be prepared for lots of barking supervisors!
Just like the title sounds, this job requires feeding the animals. Sometimes you’re in charge of a whole row, other times you’re in charge of a floor. You’ll be everyone’s favorite person at feeding time.
So, expect a lot of happy tail wagging and kisses. Some animals may require a specific diet or medicine at feeding time.
Yes, you get to walk dogs at animal shelters! Some shelters do require a bit of work on your part before you get to this point. With this job, you oversee exercising shelter dogs.
This also comes with some basic training. Dogs who learn how to properly walk on a leash have a higher chance of being adopted. You’ll teach dogs how to heel and walk with etiquette.
This task is typically reserved for more experienced volunteers. It is extremely important for shelter animals to be socialized. This involves working with an animal to make them more comfortable around people and other animals.
The more socialized an animal is, the more likely it is they’ll be adopted. But it isn’t as simple as spending time with the animal. They need training and patience. Most rescues will train you how to socialize an animal properly.
Running Adoption Events
Many shelters need extra hands to run adoption events. They often go offsite for these events and need transportation. You can help set up, run, and close these programs.
The biggest reward is watching an animal find their forever home. The rescue will walk you through their specific adoption process.