If you would like to volunteer with animals you can help animal charities, rescues, or other animal organisations. There are also plenty ways to help animal charities and rescues, but without working directly with animals. Sometimes when you volunteer with animals, your role will be a mixture of work with, and not with, animals.
Animal charities and rescues have lots of roles for volunteers, some where you volunteer with animals, and some where you do not. The roles that are not with animals are just as important, as the charity or rescue could not exist without them.
Animal rescue shelters are usually desperate for reliable volunteers, so if you can offer reliability for even just a few hours a week, there are many ways you can be a huge help.
If you would like a career working with animals, volunteering with an animal charity is excellent work experience for your CV/resume.
Image: Help animals today…become a volunteer. Image source
If Seeing Abandoned Animals Would Be Too Upsetting, You Can Still Help
Some people feel that they can’t help because they would feel so heart broken by seeing the abandoned animals at rescues. It is useful to keep in mind that, if the rescues have a “no kill” policy, the animals at those rescues are definitely the lucky ones. These animals have often been saved from “kill” shelters or pounds, where they were in danger of being put to sleep, like many are every week.
If you would still find it too upsetting, there are many ways you can help the animals without having to see them. Roles that are not hands on with the animals are just as important in the survival of an animal rescue.
If you would like to volunteer with animals, reliability, honesty, patience and perseverance are important qualities to have. The ability to work hard and get along with other volunteers without causing friction is also very desirable.
You can find more information about many of these roles, and about how each element of animal rescue works together, here.
Walk, Feed, Wash, Groom, And Play With Rescue Shelter Animals
At dog rescues, dogs usually need walked twice a day, morning and evening, whatever the weather. They also often need to be trained and socialised.
Then there is interacting with the animals in other ways, such as washing and grooming them, playing with them, and petting them. If they have needed medical attention, they will need aftercare. If there are frightened and anxious domestic animals there, they will need patient volunteers to help them slowly gain trust in people. You can volunteer with animals and help animal rescues by undertaking these duties.
Volunteers who perform these duties often do them in conjunction with other, less glamorous duties. See the section below.
Image: Animal rescue volunteer feeding calf. Image Source.
Keep Animal Rescue Shelter Enclosures Clean And Do Laundry
These duties can seem dull to some, but it are vital. Volunteers who perform this role often also interact with the animals by undertaking duties such as walking, feeding, washing, socialising, grooming, and playing with, the animals.
It is very important to keep rescue shelter animals safe and healthy by keeping their enclosures clean and hygienic. They need cleaned every day, sometimes a number of times.
Blankets and other bedding are often used in animal rescue shelters, which can create a large amount of laundry. This needs to be done often so that disease cannot spread, and the animals are kept comfortable.
Image: Animal rescue shelter being cleaned. Image Source
Be In Charge Of the Rota
To make sure that there are always volunteers at the rescue shelter to cover all the vital duties, somebody has to be the co-ordinator who is in charge of the rota.
There will be times when even reliable volunteers cannot make it to the rescue due to sickness or emergencies, so they will contact the rota co-ordinator to let them know. The co-ordinator will then have to try to find another volunteer to cover.
Image: Somebody has to make sure there are always enough volunteers to cover animal rescue shelter duties. Image Source
Introduce Potential Adopters To Animals
When people visit animal rescue shelters with a view to adopting, volunteers are needed to introduce the people to the animals. These volunteers should have warm and friendly personalities, as while they are doing this they will be the public face of the rescue shelter.
These volunteers must be knowledgeable about each animals character and able to answer questions about them. They must also know the charity’s policies and re-homing procedures, and be able to give information and answer questions about that.
Image: People meeting rescue shelter dog. Image Source
Provide A Foster Home
It is usually a great help to animals at rescue shelters if you can foster them. Volunteers save lives by animal fostering, as they provide an extra life saving rescue space. The pet may otherwise have been put to sleep at the pet pound. This is a rewarding way to volunteer with animals.
For details about fostering animals, go to our Animal Fostering page.
Image: Fostering animals saves lives. Image source.
Run The Website Or Social Media Pages
Animal rescues are often in need of volunteers to regularly update their website or run their social media pages. Some rescues – especially smaller ones – do not even have a website, or at least not a decent, regularly updated one. They can also lack social media pages.
An online presence an extremely important and helpful tool for all animal rescues and charities. Websites and social media pages showing the animals available for adoption are hugely helpful to faster re-homing of animals. Therefore the animal rescue is able to save more animals lives.
Image: Animal rescues often need people with computer skills to create and/or regularly update a website for them, which helps them save more animals. Image Source.
Image: Animal rescue social media Facebook page. Image Source.
Do Pet Assessments
One way to volunteer with animals is to do pet assessments. Many rescue animals need to be assessed by volunteers when they are housed at the rescues premises. However, sometimes animals are re-homed directly from current owners’ homes to adopters’ homes.
When this is the case, volunteers are needed to visit the pet in their homes and assess them. It involves asking the current owners for as much information about the pet as possible, and observing the pet’s behaviour while there. Even if the pet is to be housed by the rescue, as much information should be got from any surrendering owners about the animal as possible.
What To Find Out About
Things to find out about are the pets the character / personality, how they are with children and other pets, their level of training if applicable (e.g. if house trained), any medical information, any aggressive tendencies towards people or other animals, and if they are a dog, cat, rabbit or ferret, whether they are neutered and vaccinated. Many re-homing organisations will have their own guidelines to help you, which can involve doing specific tests and exercises with the pet.
For pets housed at rescues, further assessments will take place there, where you should follow the rescues own assessment methods.
Below: An example of behavioural assessment guidelines used by an animal rescue. Image Source
The pet may be found to have some undesirable behaviours that can be rectified with training or rehabilitation, but some behaviours can be deemed insurmountable.
If the animal is suitable for adoption, a description can be put together, along with photographs of the pet taken by the volunteer during the visit. The pet can then be put up for adoption on the rescue’s website and social media pages, and found a suitable new home.
Image: One section of a rescued dog assessment form. Image Source
Be A Pound Puller
Dogs and cats who end up in local authority pounds only have a set amount of time to either be claimed by their owner, or found a life saving space at a rescue. If neither of these things happen, the animal is usually put to sleep. It is a sad and lonely end.
The only way a pet has a chance of finding rescue space is if a volunteer arranged with the pound to go in, take pictures of the pet, spend some time with them, and try to get an idea of their character. These volunteers are sometimes referred to as pound-pullers, as their aim is to pull pets out of pounds and into rescue spaces.
They then publish the pictures and details on their website and on social media, appealing urgently to rescues for a rescue space. They also ask people to share the posts (cross post).
There are many animal rescue related groups on social media sites, such as Facebook, where pound pullers are welcome to publish them their posts, and where people share them from.
Rescue spaces are very scarce, but if an animal doesn’t make it out of the pound, at least brave and selfless pound pullers tried, gave them a chance, and showed them love and compassion.
To volunteer with animals in this way is brave and selfless, and can be upsetting. It is giving pets a chance that otherwise would be put to sleep without anyone knowing about them.
Take Life Saving photos Of Rescue Shelter Animals
Appealing photographs can make all the difference to whether an animal has interest from potential adopters or not. If the shelter or pound has a high euthanising rate due to overcrowding, it could mean the difference between life and death for the pet. Don’t let rescue shelter animals or pound animals end up being euthanised just because they had a bad picture.
If you are interested in photography, or you can take good pictures and videos, you could use your skills to help get rescue shelter animals adopted. To volunteer with animals in this way can save animals lives.
This article shows the difference between snaps that means hardly anyone will enquire about a pet, and photographs that could save their lives. An initiative funded by Greater Good, is called One Picture Saves A Life. It provides shelters with resources and knowledge to properly groom and photograph shelter pets. You can be trained through their website and volunteer to take pictures for animals in your local shelter.
Image: Before photo of rescue shelter pet, and after “One Photo saves A Life” photo is taken. Image Source
Tips to get a good photo:
- Get good, clear, eye catching pictures, where the animal looks happy, super cute, and adorable.
- If you don’t have equipment like photography lights, the best way to get a clear picture is to take the animal outside, if possible.
- Don’t launch straight into the photo shoot immediately, but instead give the animal time to explore its surroundings.
- Get down to near the animals level and take a few pictures at that height.
- Find a background that is attractive, but which the animal stands out well against.
- Talk sweetly to the animal (happy voice to dogs, soothing voice to cats)
- Try not to hide your face with the camera – animals often like to see faces
- Take additional pictures and videos showing different aspects of the animals personality, such as how well the animal interacts with people and other animals.
Do Home Checks
Reputable animal rescues check the home of the prospective adopter before allowing the animal to be adopted. An impression is formed of people living at the property, the home and the garden, to make sure that the animal is not ‘falling in to the wrong hands’. It is done to make sure that the pet will be looked after properly and will be safe.
A secure garden with a high enough fence is one important aspect, as is checking there is nothing in the garden that is likely to injure the dog, such as broken glass, wood with nails sticking out of them, or other hazardous items.
Checking People Are Who they Claim
The potential adopters will most likely be asked to show ID, and proof of address. This is to check people are who they say they are, and so that people don’t pretend to live in a friend or family members house, when they really live somewhere unsuitable. You will be asked to photograph these items, or take a copy some other way.
The Rescue Will Train You
There are many additional aspects to cover, and each individual re-homing organisation would train you how to do home checks for them. Most rescues will give you a form to fill in and simple guidelines to follow.
Image: Man filling in homecheck form during a homecheck.
Adoptions From Rescues Out Of Your Area
Sometimes people want to adopt pets from rescues that are not local. They may be hours away. That makes it difficult for the rescue shelter to send their own volunteers to do home checks.
However, thankfully there are groups of people who offer to do home checks on behalf of these rescues, in their local area.
These groups are always looking for more people to volunteer.
Below are two such groups, found on Facebook:
The above groups are based in the UK, and you live be absolutely anywhere in the country and still be of help. There are similar groups based in other countries that you can join too.
Join these groups if you would like to help homeless dogs and cats get the chance of homes. Without home checks there cannot be adoptions, and without adoptions the rescue shelter cannot save more animals. This means that if you volunteer with animals by doing this, you will save lives.
Image: The Animal Team Homechecking Group Photo. Source
Help Transport Animals To Rescue Spaces and Homes
Save animals’ lives by transporting them from death row shelters and pounds to rescues that have places available. A rescue or foster home may be willing to take the animal, or an adoptive home, but if there is nobody to transport the animal there, they will be left at the death row shelter and will be put to death. Transport for the animal is essential, even if you can only provide it part of the way.
If you are transporting animals from the rescue to their adoptive or foster home, you are helping free up a rescue space to save the life of another animal.
Image: Animal being transported by volunteer.
If the journey is over a long distance, a number of people are typically needed, each doing part of the journey. Animal Rescue transport co-ordinators are needed to coordinate these journeys, and organise the collection and dropping off of the animal.
Volunteer As An Animal Transporter On Facebook
Below are such groups, found on Facebook, that you can join to volunteer as a volunteer animal transporter:
The above groups are based in the UK, and you live be absolutely anywhere in the country and still be of help. There are similar groups based in other countries that you can join too.
If you are travelling, let the groups you are a member of know. It may be that you could save the life of an a dog, cat, or other animals, by taking it with you on part or all of your journey.
In this article, a volunteer animal transport coordinator talks about her role.
Image: It is rewarding to volunteer with animals by being a volunteer transporter. Source
Help With Fundraising Events
So the charity can afford to keep running, fundraising events have to be run. Volunteers are always needed to help come up with fundraising ideas and to help at events.
Helping the charity or rescue with their fundraising may also involve approaching local businesses and asking if they would be willing to donate prizes in exchange for publicity.
Image: Animal charity fundraising stall. Image Source
Help At Adoption Events – Promote The animals
Be an animal handler at an adoption event, introducing the dog or other animal to people, encouraging people to interact with it, giving information out about it, and answering questions.
You should be armed with all the information people might want to know, about the animals and about the rescues adoption or fostering procedures and policies. Not forgetting the all important contact details of the rescue shelter.
You will let people interact with the pet, and show off the pets appealing qualities. If you volunteer with animals by doing this, you can find animals homes, which frees up life saving rescue spaces for other animals.
Image: Adoption event in NYC where volunteers promote animal rescue shelter pets. Image Source
Volunteer In An Animal Charity Shop
Some animal charities have charity shops. They can range from national charities, such as the RSPCA and PDSA, to local animal charities and rescues.
Many charity shops find themselves losing out because they have to close so often due to a lack of reliable volunteers willing to serve in their charity shops.
Although you will not volunteer with animals directly by doing this, you will be helping the animal rescue survive, therefore saving lives.
Image: Manchester & Cheshire Dogs Home charity shop volunteers. Image Source
Collect Donated Items In Your Car
Supporters may offer to donate a number of different things to rescues, such as items involved in the care of the animals, or items needed for fundraising events.
Although some people may drop their donated items off at the rescue, others may not be able to, and will need their donations collected from them.
If an animal charity has collection bins placed in shops, in which people can donate animal food and / or other goods to the charity, volunteers are often needed to empty these bins when they get full, and deliver the food to the animal rescue.
If you have a car, you could be of use to the rescue by collecting these much needed items.
Although this is not a way to directly volunteer with animals, you will be helping the charity survive. It therefore follows that you will indirectly be saving animals lives.
Image: Donated items collected in car for animal charity. Image Source
Write Newsletters For Animal Rescues
If you have a journalistic streak and computer skills, putting together the newsletters for animal charities could be a perfect role for you.
Writing newsletters involves putting together the most interesting, fun and important articles relating to the animal rescue or charity. It must be content that people are likely to be keen to read about. You could include success stories about animals the organisation has helped, educational pieces to raise awareness about animal cruelty, and fundraising event reports. You with have to liaise with different volunteers involved in each piece of news you write about.
News letters can range from the plain…
…to the more fun and colourful…
…or anywhere inbetween.
A plain newsletter is better than no newsletter at all, as it raises awareness of the work the charity or rescue is doing and keeps supporters engaged. Keeping the rescue supported is essential for it to keep saving lives.
Design & Display Animal Rescue Posters and Flyers
A good way for local animal charities to become more well known is through posters displayed in the local area, on the website and on social networking sites.
If they are a re-homing charity, designing and displaying posters of their animals looking for homes, along with personality descriptions of the animals, is an effective way of reaching the public.
Designing and displaying posters for fund raising events can attract more people to the event.
Image: Animal rescue fundraising event poster. Image Source
Posters publicising the animal rescue rather than specific animals to be re-homed, do not need to be updated as often.
These posters should have the website address and contact details on, and information about what the rescue does. It would also be useful for the poster to appeal for volunteers, and urge people to adopt instead of buy dogs (maybe with some of the shocking statistics on to reinforce the importance).
It may be a good idea to put contact details on tear-off slips on the poster, so people can take them home. There needs to be a cut inbetween these slips so they are easy to tear off.
Image: Animal charity poster with a number of tear off contact detail slips along bottom. Image Source
Where can animal rescue posters be displayed?
Supermarkets often have notice boards to pin posters to. There are often community notice boards in villages and on housing estates to make use of.
Supporters of the animal charity can be encouraged to display the posters in their work place and in their car windows.
Local shop keepers can be also approached for their window space.
Last but definitely not least, charity supporters should be encouraged to display the posters on their social networking site pages, and there should be easily accessible downloadable posters available to print or share on social media on the charity’s website.
Although this is not a way to directly volunteer with animals, posters help to keep the rescue in peoples minds and help animals find homes. This, in turn, causes life saving rescue spaces to become available to save an innocent animal.
Write To Animal Sponsors
Some animal re-homing charities run schemes where long term residents can be sponsored, or distance adopted. These charities need volunteers to send out correspondence about the animal a number of times a year. Sponsors donating different amounts may receive different different kinds of communication from the rescue.
This is not a way to directly volunteer with animals, but the money from animal sponsorship saves lives. Without volunteers rescues are not able to run such a scheme.
Image: An example of what one animal rescue offers sponsors of rescue animals. Image Source
Be A Contact For An Animal Charity or Rescue
Volunteers to take care of inquiries from the public are essential in animal re-homing organisations and charities.
It is important that the telephone contact volunteer for the organisation is able to answer the phone most of the time, or ring the person back promptly when they leave a message.
Rescues need to reply to email queries promptly, but may only be able to do so with volunteers.
Volunteers running social media pages should reply at least daily to queries received that way.
If the charity is a re-homing rescue, the enquiries will most often be about the animals available for adoption, or from people needing help to find a new home for their pets. If you need to ring them back after finding out the information they require, it is vital that you do. Either speak to them, or leave a message. Some animal rescues have a bad reputation for not calling back, and this can affect their support.
It is vital that the contacts have good people skills and can handle enquiries with tact, diplomacy, and reliability. Having said that, firmness is often required. The reputation of the organisation is at stake, so even firmness must be carefully done.
Be An Animal Charity/Rescue Treasurer
The Treasurer looks after the money for the organisation. It is a very important role which carries much responsibility. There is also a lot of work involved, so the charity or rescue may split treasury duties up between volunteers. If you are good with figures, this may be an ideal way for you to help.
It is not a role where you volunteer with animals, but it is a crucial and essential position in the charity or rescue. Without a treasurer, charities cannot operate, and lives cannot be saved.
Apply For Grants For The Animal Charity or Rescue
Animal charities receive no Government funding and no funding from The National Lottery. There are, however, organisations that animal charities can apply to for small grants. These applications are only sometimes successful, but volunteers can be needed to keep applying for them.
It may sometimes be included in the role of treasurer, or the role of fundraiser. Without these grants, many animal rescues and charities would go under, so this role keeps innocent lives being saved.
Look After Animal Charity or Rescue Members
Volunteers are often needed to attend to membership matters, such as membership renewal each year, acquisition of new members, and communication with members.
The animal rescue or charity will train you in what is required. Without the support of members, many rescues and charities could not survive. Your help could mean the difference of the rescue being able to continue to save lives, or not.
Image: Animal charity appealing for members. Image Source
Take Minutes At Meetings
If the charity holds committee / members meetings, it is likely to need a volunteer to take the minutes of the meetings. This role involves noting down what is said at the meeting and then typing it up into a document on a computer. The minutes of the meeting document is then sent to everyone who attended the meeting, and anyone else who requests them. In addition, before the meeting takes place, a minute taker may be required to type up the agenda of what will be discussed. The agenda is sent to people expected to attend the meeting.
Although organisations can have their own way of taking minutes, here is a rough guide to howit is generally done.
Image: Effective minute taking.
Have Animal Sleepovers Or Days Out
Many dogs can struggle emotionally when in kennels. They can get very stressed and feel very down. They can sometimes even start self harming. There are sadly not enough foster homes to relieve them of that stress. Some animal rescue shelters encourage volunteers to take them into their homes on the weekend, or whenever they are free. It’s a chance for the dog to experience the human interaction, care, attention and affection they are longing for. You could take the dog for trips out as well as letting it sleep over in your home.
Image: Animal Rescue Shelter dog snuggled on the sofa after a bath, receiving the care longed for.
Some rescue shelters prefer not to let the kennelled dogs have sleep overs, because they feel it may confuse the dogs and make it harder for them to adjust back to being in kennels.
Read To Cats And Dogs To Get Them Adopted More Quickly
Dogs and cats in rescue shelters can sometimes be withdrawn and timid. Being read to helps them become more socialised, meaning they have a much better chance of adoption. Whilst helping animals, the novel experience can be fun for children too, and improve their reading skills.
JoEllyn Klepacki is the director of education at the Humane Society of Missouri in the US. She runs a Reading Buddies programme there seven days a week. She explains that being read to provides the animals with positive reinforcement so they eventually gain the courage to approach the kennel front when a potential adopter comes. Animals who approach the kennel front get adopted much more quickly than those who don’t.
If this is not something your local shelter does, or has even heard of, suggest it to them and explain the benefits. If you volunteer with animals this way, it can help boost adoption rates by helping boost the confidence of the animals.
Image: Help a rescue shelter animal get adopted more quickly by reading to it. Image Source
How To Effectively Spread Awareness
Do you want to make the world a kinder place by helping stop terrified animals being put through horrific cruelty? By helping to change the habits of consumers by raising awareness, you can do that.
Spreading the animal rights message can be very emotionally draining and distressing. Have a look on this page to find out how to be an effective advocate for animals, whilst making sure you keep your mind healthy and happy. You can find more ways to spread awareness here.
Other Ways To Help Stop Animal Suffering
On this site there are many varied ways you can help animals and help stop cruelty. In fact, there are so many different ways that there is something for every personality type, no matter what their circumstances.
If you would like to learn more about why we so urgently need to help stop animal suffering, please see this website. It will allow you to broaden your knowledge of many different types of world wide animal abuse, giving you the ability to help animals by spreading awareness and answering questions people may have. Please be aware that you may find the information distressing.
One great way to help animals is to share the information you have seen on this website. Doing so means more people could help stop animal cruelty, and that would make you responsible for more animals being saved from suffering. Together we can help people help animals <3
Have Your Say In The Comments Section
Do you know of any information we have missed, or do you have any information to add to this page? Please leave a comment to let everyone know about it.