Flexibility: Medium

Social Engagement: High

What’s What: If you care deeply about the plight of unwanted animals and love being a part of their regular feeding, cleaning and cuddling, consider being an animal shelter volunteer. Almost 7 million dogs and cats are living in shelters and their survival depends on the generosity of people like you. Volunteers do everything from walk dogs, socialize cats, clean cages, help with feeding, watering and grooming, do adoption counseling and more.

Amava Take: Volunteers help animal shelters run smoothly, manage intake and adoptions, and make the animals happier and more socialized for adoption. Volunteering is critical to a shelter’s success not just for the animals’ care, but as community ambassadors for the shelter’s mission. There are a lot of ways to pitch in, from animal-specific (i.e. cats only), special projects (adoptions, vaccinations), maintenance, office help and by offering up any special skills you have.

From the Front Lines:

What kinds of candidates are you looking for to fill these jobs?

Animal lovers who are hands-on, all-in and not squeamish about unpleasant odors and getting hands dirty.

Any tips for first-timers to make it a productive and fulfilling experience?

Dress for success, which means wearing clothes you don’t mind getting covered in dirt, hair and drool. Leave your jewelry at home and wear sturdy shoes or sneakers.

What’s a typical daily schedule like?

It depends on what you signed up for, but you can almost always count on giving belly rubs in exchange for sloppy, wet kisses.  

From the Trenches:

What’s the most satisfying part of the job?

Seeing a timid animal come around and spring back to life.

How would you describe the hard parts?

It’s painful to see an animal suffering and sometimes they arrive in bad shape.  

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had?

Love at first sight. A little boy came in with his family seeking a puppy but fell in love with a slightly older mutt who had been at the shelter awhile. I still tear up thinking about that day.

Special requirements: Shelters and animal rescue organizations generally have vetting procedures that require an application and references. Some shelters have waiting lists.

Finding a position: If you’re thinking about volunteering, this article outlines some of the many benefits you will reap and this article discusses how to get started. The Humane Society offers tips about volunteering and can point you in the direction of local organizations. The ASPCA also lists ways to find volunteer opportunities. You can also search online using the terms “animal shelter volunteer” and the name of your city and state.