How to Volunteer at Animal Shelters

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You don't need to be an animal expert to volunteer at an animal shelter. All you need is the desire to help and a committed attitude as animals need a lot of care. Animal shelters across the nation rely on volunteers to help care for displaced animals and make their stays positive ones. Becoming a volunteer is relatively easy provided you have the time, meet the requirements and complete any necessary training.

Consider Certain Factors

Before looking for a volunteer opportunity, consider how you'd like to help. Determine whether you're interested in a hands-on experience such as socializing pets, grooming, exercising the animals or cleaning. You may prefer to work behind the scenes doing administrative work, fundraising or other duties. Decide whether you want to volunteer on a weekly or monthly basis. Determine whether you want to volunteer at a no-kill shelter or can handle volunteering at a shelter where animals are humanely euthanized.

Know the Requirements

Locate a shelter in your area and find out the requirements. The Animal Humane Society and the ASPCA are good places to start. These organizations maintain webpages with requirement information for volunteers. You can search sites such as or check the yellow pages to find animal shelters in your area. A few of the requirements for the Animal Humane Society are that you be at least 16 years of age, commit to regular shifts every other week from two to four hours and communicate professionally. Requirements may vary depending on the shelter you choose.

Complete an Application

Obtain and complete a volunteer application after you've chosen a shelter and reviewed the requirements. Many shelters have online applications and may require an interview. Some shelters may have an application fee. The application fee for the AHS is $20 as of 2014, according to its website. Be prepared to answer honestly and provide accurate information. Some applications require you to list two non-family references. Expect to answer questions about your availability, people skills and whether you can take direction and handle stressful situations.

Attend Training

Expect to attend at least one training session after your application is approved. The duration depends on the shelter you choose. Plan to spend at least a few hours of training. The type of training you receive depends on the role you've chosen. For example, if you choose the role of animal groomer, training covers the proper way to groom the animals. Training for the role of adoption counselor may involve learning how to communicate effectively, assist customers and interview potential pet parents. Bring a notebook to take notes, show up on time and pay attention to the information you're given.