I recently witnessed a regrettably common phenomenon in the animal welfare world. A new volunteer posted an especially snarky attack on another volunteer. It went something like this:
“Well, I’VE never seen you up here scrubbing cages, so you must not be a REAL volunteer!”
Implication: “If you don’t volunteer the way I do, it doesn’t count. If I don’t witness it, it doesn’t count. And if you do volunteer, my volunteer work is better and more important than yours.”
Dear new volunteer, the fact is that we’ve never seen you either. We don’t know what you do, or if you’re good at it. We actually don’t really care, because those of us who have been in the animal welfare world for a long time know that there are many, many valuable ways to contribute.
The same week, I met a very nice lady who wants to volunteer, but has schedule limitations. So she was trying to find ways to contribute time and effort that would allow her the schedule flexibility she requires. If “Snarky New Volunteer” had met her first, SNV would have made it clear that any volunteer plans that weren’t as demanding as hers were simply not good enough. And “Nice Potential Volunteer” would probably have been discouraged and given up her plans to find ways to help.
This timely juxtaposition made me do some thinking about all the different ways people can help shelters and rescues. No matter how limited your time or resources are, there is always something. Check out this list of ideas:
Shelter dogs spend 24 hours a day in small spaces with no interaction and no room to run. It can have a terrible effect on their personalities and even cause them to develop serious behavioral issues. Walking dogs is a great way to socialize them, get them some exercise, and learn more about their personalities (which helps place them in the right home).
Shelter animals stink. They have that distinctive kennel smell, plus they may have already been filthy upon arrival. Bathing them makes them more attractive, more comfortable, and correspondingly, more adoptable.
Rescues and shelters ALWAYS need someone to drive an animal to the vet, pick an animal up, move an animal to or from a foster home, pick up medications, and take animals to offsite events.
Work adoption events.
Adoption events desperately need volunteers who are good at multitasking, animal handling, people handling, administrative tasks, and organizational skills.
Kennels. Shelter animals. They use vast amounts of towels, and those towels all have to be washed, dried and made ready for use.
Any shelter or rescue simply MUST have a good online team to answer questions from the general public. They may be looking for a lost pet, inquiring about one they wish to adopt, or trying to sign up as a foster. Someone needs to answer those inquiries quickly and professionally.
Do food drives.
Shelters in particular usually need donated food to help spread a tight budget farther.
Every animal welfare organization needs money. The next big vet bill is always lurking around the corner…
Animal welfare group always need people who are willing to open their homes and hearts to needy animals on a temporary basis. Fostering is a critical component in the adoption process.
These are just a few of the simplest and most obvious ways any potential volunteer can give time, money, and physical labor to the animal welfare cause of your choice. We all have to find the right way to volunteer that accommodates the demands of our own lives.
And don’t ever let some snarky know-it-all newbie tell you that you’re not a real volunteer because she has never met you.