How to Volunteer at Your Local Animal Shelter

by Elle Smith

No matter where you look, an animal needs help. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 5 million to 7 million pets arrive in animal shelters each year, and some 3 million to 4 million of those pets are euthanized. If you volunteer at a local shelter, you can help improve living conditions of homeless pets. Your loving attention to the needs of a homeless companion animal may be the factor that gets him adopted. The Humane Society of the United States says the help of volunteers is vital for a wide variety of tasks, including dog walking, office work and fundraising. Your volunteer work for a few hours each month at a local shelter can make a difference in the lives of many homeless pets.

Step 1

Contact a shelter near you. The Humane Society suggests looking in the local telephone directory. Alternatively, ask your veterinarian or visit a national-level website dedicated to listing, finding and placing homeless pets. Petfinder.com is the nation's largest such database; others include Adoptapet.com and The Shelter Pet Project.org. Enter your ZIP code to find a shelter or other animal-care organization near you.

Step 2

Drop in or call at the shelter of your choice, and ask to speak with a volunteer coordinator. Identify yourself and tell him you live in the area and would like to help. If you are a minor he will ask how old you are. Some shelters require that you be at least 18 years old to volunteer, while others will accept volunteers over 12 years of age.

Step 3

Ask the volunteer coordinator for information about how the shelter works, suggests the website dosomething.org. Consider what roles you can most usefully fill. Perhaps it's dog walking, cleaning cages, or bathing and brushing homeless pets. Most animals will enjoy affection, attention and exercise, but you should have some experience with animals if you want to handle them directly.

Step 4

Inquire about office jobs where you can lend your skills, such as stuffing and stamping envelopes, adding resources to a database, or creating colorful fliers for rescue fairs or pet adoption events.

Step 5

Make a commitment to the shelter for its suggested minimum amount of time. Different shelters have different operating procedures; one shelter may want you to commit to at least four hours a month for six months, while another may ask for more of your time. The longer you volunteer at a shelter, the better use the shelter can make of your skills where they are needed most.

About the Author

Elle Smith has been an advertising professional for more than 25 years. Her work for ABC, CBS and Sony Pictures Television has appeared on radio, on air, in print and outdoors. In addition, Smith has more than 20 years experience in marketing, graphic arts, commercial photography and print production, and is a licensed real estate agent with property management certification in California.