Occasionally, someone looking at the shelter’s dogs or cats will say to a volunteer or employee, “I could never do what you do. I love animals too much” – the cringe-inducing implication, intentional or not, being that the volunteer/employee is not also an animal lover.
To put the better spin on that comment, let’s presume that what the visitor actually is trying to say is that it can be overwhelming to see so many pets in need of homes. And sometimes it can be, even for a long-time employee or volunteer. A county shelter like the one where we volunteer is at the faucet end of a long pipeline filled with homeless pets, and short of a miracle the animals will keep coming and coming. But, because shelter volunteers and staffers do indeed love animals so much, we’ll keep helping and helping.
The good news for those who “could never do what you do” is that there is a great deal of meaningful shelter volunteer work that does not require looking into dozens of pairs of soulful animal eyes. For a variety of reasons, some volunteers do not or cannot come to the shelter on a regular basis, but help out from home. Others may spend quite a bit of time with the animals but also do other tasks while not at the shelter. And some work at the shelter but not in the animal care areas. Volunteers, for instance, can:
- Use their computer skills at home to search for and match up lost animals with those at the shelter, and to maintain and update various shelter web resources, including, for example, its Petfinder listings.
- Create flyers for shelter events, draft other shelter literature and write informational sheets called “rescue pleas ” about specific animals to help our partner rescue groups decide which animals they will take.
- Work by phone, email or text with representatives of one or more rescue groups to encourage them to consider specific animals at the shelter by giving them an honest evaluation of each animal’s positive and negative attributes. (Think matchmaker!)
- Transport animals to other locations, such as a vet’s office for treatment, a rescue foster’s home, a groomer’s shop and/or a rescue’s temporary kennel or shelter. Some trips are short, but many round trips cover more than a hundred miles.
- Promote upcoming shelter events by passing out or putting up flyers, and assist at off-site shelter events.
- Foster animals for the shelter. Volunteers who live in Anne Arundel County are automatically qualified as fosters, and many do (volunteer hours are not given for fostering). You can also become an AACAC foster without becoming a volunteer (click on the tab below to see the separate foster application). Fosters most frequently care for underage kittens in their homes until the kittens are of adoptable age (8 weeks old) and weight (two pounds). They less frequently care for older animals with special needs that would benefit from a quiet home.
Even at the shelter, some volunteer jobs do not require interacting with the animals, such as clerical positions supporting Animal Control’s bite department officers, its dispatchers and its front office. Other tasks that do involve direct animal contact could use additional help but also require special skills, such as being an animal groomer or photographer. No matter what your skills, the shelter can use your help. Please consider becoming an AACAC volunteer or foster!
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