How to Find a Place to Volunteer with Dogs or Cats

by Ben Team Google
    Volunteering benefits the volunteer as well as the needy animal.

    Volunteering benefits the volunteer as well as the needy animal.

    Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images

    Choosing a pet-oriented charity to volunteer for isn't always as easy. There are so many to choose from, and many facilities have stringent requirements or long waiting lists to become a volunteer. To maximize your chances of finding the best fit, you must find the right organization that fits your interest and skill set, skillfully negotiate the screening process and make a good impression.

    A quick Google search will help you identify shelters, rescues and humane societies in your area. You can also try Aspca.org and Volunteermatch.org, which offer the capability to search for dog- or cat-oriented charities close to you. In some cases, veterinary hospitals run volunteer programs, too. Most organizations require that volunteers participate in a training course before joining their efforts, and some might have waiting list for volunteers, so be prepared to put in some time to find the right organization for you.

    Be aware that many volunteer positions require that you perform unglamorous, difficult work. Many people mistakenly think that volunteering will entail throwing Frisbees to dogs or teasing cats with a piece of string. The truth is that volunteer work at such facilities involves cleaning kennels and litter boxes, bringing food and water to the animals or washing their dishes and tools. It's not always glamorous, but it's very rewarding.

    Once you've identified pet-oriented charities where you'd like to volunteer, visit the webpages of three or four of the best candidates. Most charities have an obvious link to their volunteer policies right on the homepage. Read over the policies completely; if it sounds like you meet their criteria, you're ready to make the initial contact. Follow their instructions to the letter -- some may ask you to call and speak directly to a volunteer coordinator, others will want you to email them a resume or fill in a form. Do not show up in person unless directed to do so by the website or a member of the staff.

    Always approach the first meeting as though it were a job interview. Research the institution and understand its history, goals and needs. Business attire is typically unnecessary, but look your best on your first trip. If they accept you as a volunteer, ask how they would like you to dress in the future.

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    About the Author

    Ben Team is a writer who covers animals, trees and outdoor recreation. An environmental educator for more than 16 years, he has written and designed a variety of educational programs and resources. Team is an International Society of Arboriculture-certified arborist and has more than 16 years of experience caring for reptiles and amphibians.

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