Ways to Volunteer at Your Local Shelter or Rescue

With a staggering number of animals passing through shelters each year, shelter staff rely on the help of volunteers to provide the best possible experience for the animals in their care. What many people don’t realize is that there many ways to volunteer at your local animal shelter, both directly and indirectly with the animals. If you’re looking to make a difference in the lives of homeless animals in your community, consider volunteering your time in one of these ways.

Dog Walker

Like all dogs, shelter dogs need free time out of their pens to stretch their legs. Volunteering as a dog walker is a great way to give these pooches, and yourself, time outdoors to exercise and enjoy some fresh air. It’s also a great opportunity to teach a dog leash and walking manners that their future owners will thank you for. Just don’t forget to bring a pocket full of Freshpet treats to reward their progress!

Cat Cuddler

If you’re more of a cat person, we’ll bet you love the idea of volunteering your time as a cat cuddler. Just like dogs, cats need time outside of their cages to stretch and socialize with the other cats and humans. As a cat cuddler, you will volunteer your time playing with, grooming, socializing and providing enrichment activities to your shelter’s adoptable cats.

Small Animal Socializer

Dogs and cats aren’t the only animals that end up in shelters; small animals such as bunnies, guinea pigs, turtles and birds do as well. Many shelters look for volunteers to help provide basic care for these little critters, such as cleaning cages and feeding. They’re also always on the lookout for people who can comfortably handle them and help the animals get used to be held and played with by humans.

Animal Care Helper

Apart from directly working with the animals, shelters are always in need of volunteers who are willing to take on the messier tasks. Chores such as emptying litter boxes, cleaning cages, preparing food, and doing laundry may not be the most glamorous activities, but they are necessary tasks for the shelter to run smoothly.

Training Support

One reason why some animals end up in a shelter is due to behavior that their previous owners didn’t want to work through. If this behavior continues, it makes future adoptions more difficult and increases the chance that the animal will end up back in the shelter system. Many shelters are looking for regular volunteers who can help support the training of their animals. Training can include anything from basic commands and good walking behavior to more serious issues like possessiveness and food aggression.

Pet Photographer

Studies have shown that pictures presented of an adoptable pet can make a huge difference in how fast they are adopted. If you are a professional or even an amateur photographer, consider volunteering your skills to take pet portraits. Your photo could be the one that makes a pet’s future family fall in love with them!

Profile Writer

In addition to great pictures, it’s important that all adoptable animals have a written description that tells potential adopters more about their unique personalities. Shelters are always on the lookout for talented writers to help write up pet profiles that will attract the attention of potential owners.

Office Helper

Another great way to help your local shelter is by volunteering your time in their office. With so many animals coming through their doors, it’s no surprise that administrative work can pile up. Shelters are often thrilled to have volunteers who are able to help with filing, photocopying, entering data into spreadsheets, answering phone calls, and other miscellaneous office tasks.

Transportation Helper

Believe it or not, the amount of transportation needed in shelters is quite high. Between taking animals to appointments, transferring animals between shelters and any other trips that arise, shelters are often in need of volunteer drivers. Whether you can commit to short drives around the city or longer, potentially out of town, drives your local shelter would love the help.


If you’re looking for a more long-term way to help out your local shelter, consider volunteering as a foster parent. Animals that do not cope well in shelters, need intensive rehabilitation, or around the clock care need the help of fosters to get them ready for their forever home. This is a great opportunity for both current pet owners and animal lovers without pets. With the help of foster parents, shelters are able to take in more animals and help those in their care get ready for their forever home.

Volunteer opportunities vary from shelter to shelter, but we hope this list gives you a pretty good idea of the variety of opportunities out there for volunteers. Whether you volunteer weekly, monthly or even yearly, the time you give makes a world of difference to shelter animals. For more information about how you can get involved, contact your local shelter.

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