10 Ways To Volunteer at an Animal Shelter
Animal Shelters often rely heavily on volunteers to run, with minimal staff completing numerous jobs to keep the shelter clean, the animals healthy, and ready to be adopted as quickly as possible! Volunteers, then, are definitely necessary for the animals to get the best out of their time at the shelter and have a smooth transition into their forever homes!
So here are some ways that you can help an animal shelter out!
1. Help with Cleaning
Most shelters have a whole load of cleaning to do before they can even open, with each animal cage and area needing to be cleaned so that the animals remain healthy and the cages are presentable to the public. These cleaning operations can take a long time and by volunteering just a few hours it can really help the shelter out by giving them more time to focus on the animals and their care!
As you can imagine, a shelter gets through a lot of laundries. I'm pretty confident they get through more laundry in a day than I have in my entire life. Although I'm not sure whether that says about how much they do, or how little I did during my student years... Many shelters would really appreciate someone to come and chill and do some laundry, and whilst the machines are on you can go and play with some animals, it's not a bad place to wait!
3. Animal Interaction
This is probably the most fun job at the shelter, and also one of the most important ones! Whilst shelters do so much for the animals, it can be a very stressful place for them. They can be noisy, and however much the staff cares about the animals, it's just not the same as a home. But with volunteers coming in to play and interact with the animals, it eases stress, gives them some excitement during their day, and keeps them comfortable with people to make them more adoptable when the public comes in!
4. Dog Walking
Working at an animal shelter gives you a lot of experience handling dogs, especially dogs that have been in a cage for a few days. They're shall we say, a little crazy! If shelters have volunteers that can come in and give their dogs 10-15 minutes outside, running or walking around it can sure help them stay happy and healthy. It also helps them practice being on a leash and adds to their adoptability! Another bonus is you can get your daily exercise and steps in at the same time!
5. Bathing Animals
Some shelters have hundreds of animals at a time, we often have 150-200 cats at a time, especially during kitten season! So it is impossible for our staff to bathe each one. We do those most in need, but every animal spends a lot of time in their cages, meaning they can start to smell like their cages after a while! It's great for the pets if they can get a wash every now and then and may make them more appealing to potential adopters as they come and see them!
6. Dog Training
If you're a dog trainer, great! If you're not, still great! Training doesn't just have to be done by the experts. Shelters will often know some best practices for training the dogs, they often just don't have the time to do it! Training requires lots of reinforcement, so they need anyone they can get! Training can be in cage training that helps them stay calm and interact better with potential adopters, or it can be practice on a leash, a simple sit and stay, or some fancy tricks if you think you can do them! At best they will learn everything and be the perfect student, and at worst they will have so much more interaction time!
7. Photography and Social Content!
You don't have to be a photographer (but if you are it's a big plus!) but anyone can come in, interact with the pets and take some photos and videos highlighting how cute they are! The shelter can use the content on their social media accounts and even better if you share it with your followers too and boost some awareness of the shelter to your friends and followers!
Many shelters like to attend events to get animals adopted or just spread the word of the shelter and raise awareness to boost future adoptions, donations, and volunteer numbers! But these events often last a long time and shelters can't afford to take on more staff to cover these hours. This is where volunteers come in. Volunteering to do a few events each year can do so much good, and often require little to no training, just a smile and let the cute animals do the rest!
Fostering is such an amazing thing to do, and there will be/is another blog post about this subject! But fostering can literally save the animal's life. Fostering can be vital for kittens, who need a lot of care and can get sick when stressed. It is also so important for pets during vet treatments! But fostering any animal can help! Fostering frees up space, helps to advertise the pet, and gives them a great home rather than being in the shelter. Plus you get a buddy for a little while, or perhaps you won't be great at fostering and might just have to adopt the best friend you took in for a bit..!
10. Any ideas/skills you have!
Shelters are so happy to see volunteers of any kind, so if you have skills that you think a shelter could use, contact them! We're talking arts and crafts, photography, videography, organization skills, accounting, social media, graphic design, literally anything! It's a great way to hone your skills and do some good!