11 Things to Know Before
Volunteering for Rescues & Shelters
Thinking of volunteering your time and love to help out at a local Rescue or Shelter in your area?
We have compiled a few things to think about before commit to Volunteering at your local Rescue or Shelter.
Volunteering is a very rewarding experience and it certainly has many benefits ~ your heart and love for dogs & cats will certainly be heightened, this we can guarantee.
Rescue Organizations and Shelters in your area are always in need of more ‘hands on deck’ with their many dogs & cats in their care always waiting to find a new, loving home.
Rescue Organizations & your local Shelter[s] are not all created equal, and volunteering can be very different from one facility to the next.
If you’re thinking of stepping up and into Volunteering consider our list below before pulling on a “volunteer T-shirt”.
#1: Time Commitment
Rescue Organizations [private, generally non-profit] & Shelters [contracted by the City, County, State you live in, government funded and where dogs & cats are relinquished without question] generally have a set schedules for their volunteers to sign up and commit to ~ so you might not be able to sign up for just an event or pop in when you have a free day.
They may also want to know that you are willing to contribute a minimum amount of hours/week/month so always ask up front what’s expected of you.
#2 Variety of Wants & Needs
Ask ahead of time what the Rescue/Shelter is looking for with new Volunteers ready to help out.
You may discover their expectations are far from what you’re imagining.
Let them know your area of interest, your talents.
i.e. Front desk, phones, filing, greeting. Cleaning cages, feedings, walking. Photography and write-ups with their incoming pets. Internet skills? Babysitting cats in the cat rooms. Home checks?
There are many tasks involved to keep Rescues/Shelters running smoothly.
#3: Training Requirements
Not always, but many Rescues & Shelters often require you to complete a training program or class beforehand. Ask ahead of time, and how long is their training program.
#4: Animal Types and Sizes
Check to see what types of animals are housed or taken in at the shelter before signing up. Most shelters have cats and dogs, but some may take in birds, rabbits, hamsters, rats, snakes, even horses. If you have an aversion to any type of animal, let them know.
Many shelters have separate buildings for housing different animals, like one for cats and others with dogs. They often are in need of so much in so many areas there won’t be a problem fitting you in an area of need and fit your preferences perfectly.
#5: Accident and Injury Policy
Be prepared to sign a ‘waiver’… most facilities will require this, so that they will not be held liable if you are injured or involved in an accident.
Volunteer at your own risk.
#6: Be Prepared for Defining Noise periodically
Caged dogs can be ‘set off’ for a number of reasons throughout the day, and this can be ear splitting.
Cat rooms tend to be much quieter, so if noise is a concern for you you might want to choose the cat area over the dog area. Carry some Ear plugs in your pocket.
#7: Scared Animals
Many rescue dogs are scared, and can be ‘fear biters’ ~ lashing out to protect themselves. They are isolated, a tough place to be when you are a ‘pack’ animal. New smells, sounds, sights and picking up on the ‘energy’ of other dogs in same facility also living in ‘fear’. Know that they are likely be just as scared of you as you are of them. As you get to know them, with patience and love…they will become more comfortable with you.
If your ‘gut’ says to be careful; if you are unsure ~ “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”: stay out of their enclosed area without having a professional employee join you and handle the dog before you, as well as ‘fill you in’ on how to handle them. NEVER assume every dog will be fine with you approaching it.
#8: Allergies? No worries… Lots of ways to Step up with your Talents & Caring Nature
No problem! There are many areas within a Rescue/Shelter organization that your talents can be put to good use without you actually being near the animals. Administration, typing, web design, fund raising events, handing out flyers, etc.
Call them and have this conversation with them. Ask them how you can be of service to them considering you have allergies.
#9: Shelter Expectations
If you haven’t been to your local shelter or found a rescue near you [check our website to see a list of Rescues & Shelters in whatever comfortable mileage radius suits you] ~ drop by the Shelter and observe it. If it’s a non-profit Rescue they usually do not post their address ~ you’ll likely have to email/phone/text and wait to get a live person to respond to your inquiry.
Shelters operate differently ~ some may resemble a clinic or zoo while others are underfunded and understaffed. If your priority is helping a no-kill shelter, ask if they euthanize animals before you sign up.
Many shelters operate veterinary services at their locations, and that will usually involve euthanasia for ill pets. Many shelters euthanize animals due to overcrowding. Unfortunately this is a major occurrence throughout our country, and some even ‘gas’ them in groups, daily, so be prepared and ask up front what goes on at their facility, so there are no heartbreaking surprises.
#10: Personnel: ‘Animal People’ Do Not Always have Great ‘People Skills’
Some employees at Rescue Organizations & Shelters work better with animals and have limited human communication skills, so don’t be offended if you find personnel not as open and friendly as you expect them to be. Try to find another volunteer working there and approach them and ask them how they like volunteering there, how they got started and the best and worst parts of being a Volunteer.
Talking about animals is a sure way to ‘break the ice’ and strike up a conversation.
#11: Can You Handle the Heartbreak?
If you volunteer at a kill shelter, it can be heartbreaking to see animals you have come to know and love be taken for euthanasia.
You will also see animals dealing with injuries, in pain, scarred emotionally and from physical abuse as well as being returned after being adopted.
These are normal shelter occurrences that happen on a daily basis.
The key to being fully prepared to volunteer at Rescues and Shelters is consider all of the above.
Check out the Rescue or Shelter that resonates with you before committing. Be honest and realistic with yourself before committing. How you feel today may not be how you feel next month. Limit your time and effort initially until you can commit more time and effort.
Volunteering is very rewarding, and you can be sue you will meet and make many new 2 and 4 legged friends. These pets and organizations are in much need of your caring and love and talents. There is nothing more rewarding than being around these pets looking for a 2nd chance. They really need you!
If you’ve read this article all the way through ~ you are going to make a great Volunteer, and be an inspiration to others. Good luck, and share your stories with us… we hope your experiences inspire others.