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May 30, 2023

What to Expect: Volunteering at an Animal Shelter

  • What to Expect
  • Volunteering
Volunteer petting cat at animal shelter

At Now Fresh, we believe in the power of giving back to our furry friends. Volunteering at an animal shelter is a rewarding experience for both you and the animals in need of care. There are a variety of positions available, catering to volunteers from all walks of life who want to lend a helping hand.

Diverse Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteering doesn't necessarily mean working directly with the animals, although it's a major source of fulfillment for many.

If you have allergies or other medical issues that preclude you interacting directly with animals, but still want to help, consider assisting in other positions. Humane societies and shelters are always happy to have help with administrative, education and fund-raising functions.
Shirley Culpin with her two dogs
Shirley CulpinDog Owner, Sitter + Trainer

Advocacy work, coordinating volunteers, and supporting special events are also valuable ways to make a difference. Animal shelters are non-profit organizations, and they always welcome assistance with their non-animal related activities.

Ready to Volunteer? Here's How:

Most communities have humane organizations or animal shelters waiting for your support. You can easily find them online or reach out to friends for recommendations. Social media can also be a treasure trove of information on societies near you.

Once you've found an organization you'd like to help, you'll have a couple of options to apply as a volunteer—either online or in person. If possible, it's a great idea to visit the shelter in person to get a feel for the environment and ensure you'll be a valuable addition to the team.

What to Expect as a Volunteer

After filling out a volunteer application, you may have a few more steps to complete, depending on the position you're applying for. Some animal welfare organizations may conduct background checks, including criminal record screenings, especially for administrative and fundraising roles. You might also need to sign a release form.

Typically, you'll need to attend an interview or intake session before starting your volunteer assignment. This may be followed by training workshops or online courses. Certain animal welfare programs provide comprehensive orientations and ongoing training, which you'll be expected to participate in.

Two cats at animal shelter

Time Commitments Made Simple

The time commitment for volunteering can vary depending on your assigned role. In general, you'll be expected to dedicate a set number of hours per week for a specific period. Some shelters require volunteers to sign in and out during their shifts, and there might be a probationary period for newcomers. For those starting out, shelters often pair them with experienced staff or volunteers for job-shadowing, and occasional performance assessments may be conducted.

Dress the Part

While many animal care facilities have a relaxed dress code, some may request that you wear a name tag or a specific item of clothing, such as a volunteer t-shirt. This helps identify you as a valued member of the team, particularly in larger shelters where people come and go frequently, including restricted areas with vulnerable or sick animals. There might be a small fee to obtain the required identification items.

Health Matters

If you'll be working directly with animals, it's important to ensure your tetanus vaccination is up to date. Tetanus shots are effective for 10 years and can prevent serious medical complications in case of bites or scratches from shelter animals.

Zoonotic diseases are infections that can be transmitted from animals to humans. The risk of contracting such diseases from shelter animals is extremely low, but individuals with compromised immune systems should consider volunteer roles that don't involve direct contact with animals. Safety is a top priority.

Black and white cat sitting on catio in the sun

In Conclusion

Whether you're a dog walker, small animal caregiver, foster home, or office worker, volunteering at an animal shelter brings immense joy to both the animals and yourself. You'll make new friends, experience a sense of fulfillment, and know that you're making a positive impact on animals in need. It's a win-win situation in every way!


Shirley Culpin with her two dogs

Shirley Culpin

Dog Owner, Sitter + Trainer

Shirley has been involved with the purebred dog world for 45 years. Her Irish Setters have won many Best in Show awards, top obedience accolades, and advanced agility titles. She remains active in dog volunteer work and with her dog sitting service.