What Should I Know Before Volunteering at an Animal Shelter?
We asked Petside Advisory Board members to share tips for someone looking to volunteer at an animal shelter.
Nancy Taylor, President and CEO, Bideawee: Be open to different volunteer opportunities and take advantage of any continuing education offered at the shelter where you can grow your skills. Whether you scoop cat litter, walk dogs, answer phones, scrub cages or do laundry every contribution is appreciated and helps in the ultimate goal of finding homes for animals in need.
Marcie Campion, Ph.D., Scientific Relations Manager, Iams Company: It’s always a good idea to understand what you are getting into before you commit to being a volunteer. So I would suggest an introductory visit to the animal shelter to “job shadow” a current volunteer(s) and see what a typical day entails.
In addition, talk to as many of the staff and volunteers as you can to see how to best leverage your talents and skills. Our Iams “Home 4 The Holidays” program works with over 4,000 shelters in several countries and all of them are dependent upon their awesome volunteers to place pets with their “Forever Homes.” If you would like to see if your local shelter participates in this program that has placed over 6 million pets in loving homes, just go to our website at Iams.com.
Mike Arms, President Helen Woodward Animal Center: I do encourage people to get involved in volunteering at their local animal facility. So many times we lose volunteers because the experience is not what they expected. My strong recommendation is to meet with the volunteer manager or coordinator, find out in detail what they expect from volunteers, whether it be to clean cages, or runs, or walk dogs, etc.
Many times people wishing to volunteer think they will only be playing with puppies and kittens, and do not realize the organization has different expectations. Once you know the expectations, really think it through—do you have the time and willingness to meet those expectations?
Victoria Schade, dog trainer and author of "Bonding with your Dog:” Shelters run the gamut from highly funded and professional to run-down and depressing, and both types have their inherent challenges for volunteers. With that in mind, my advice for new volunteers is to remember that you're there for the animals. No matter how frustrating the red tape can get, or how thankless the job might seem, those animals need you, and appreciate everything you do for them.