Dog at Animal Shelter

You don’t have to be an animal expert to help out at your community’s shelter. In fact, whatever you do for a living, you’re bound to have skills and talents that your local shelter can use. If you’ve got time and a desire to help, here are 10 ways to volunteer.

1. Go to School

Dog school, that is. Helping teach shelter dogs to sit, stay, walk calmly on a leash or shake paws will make them infinitely more adoptable. Other volunteers can pursue more advanced training and learn how to evaluate temperaments and match adopters with suitable dogs.

2. Help Maintain Their Website

This is a wonderful way for teens who aren’t yet old enough to become volunteers to get involved. They can take photos and write descriptions of the animals with staff assistance and help ensure that the shelter’s online list of available animals is current. Animals’ photos and descriptions can also be posted in public areas at work, school and around town.

3. Design a Computer Program

If you’re a techie, consider helping the shelter customize a management program that can help adopters select the right pet for them. Or talk to your local shelter about what their specific needs are and design a program that could help them meet those needs.

4. Offer Legal Guidance

Shelters always seem to be in need of volunteers with professional legal skills for everything from reviewing contracts to copyright laws on videos they may want to post. 

5. Get Your Office Involved

Designate a day for coworkers to donate spare change or pool their tips for the benefit of the shelter. Publicize it with flyers and signs and remind everyone about the important work that the shelter does. You could even create a fundraising event. For example, a restaurant might ask local celebs to volunteer as waitstaff for the evening and all proceeds can go to the shelter. Get creative!

6. Cuddle the Cats

Need snuggles? Get your fix by socializing shelter kittens. Volunteers can spend time playing with the kittens, getting to know them, grooming them and generally keeping them as happy as they can be, in order to lessen the inherent stress of being in a shelter. Research shows that socialized cats are happier, healthier and easier to adopt.

7. Help Out With the Newsletter

Newsletters are a great way to keep members, supporters, adopters and the public informed about what the shelter does and what it needs. Many shelters rely on volunteers to write articles, and some newsletters are produced entirely by volunteers. If writing isn’t your bag, you might prefer the designing and publishing end of it, or you can work on creating or updating the e-mail list. If you’re creating the newsletter, be sure to include heartwarming stories and a donation envelope.

8. Throw a Party

Organize an event for all your friends and donate the proceeds to the shelter. Any kind of social event — a clam bake, a Super Bowl party, a jazz brunch or a dog walk — is a great way to have fun and raise money. Each year, as the word gets out, more people are bound to attend, and before you know it, your group will have a major fundraising event.

9. Help With Construction Projects

Are you a handyman? Offer your services to your local shelter. You could help construct additions — or just fix things around the shelter to save them time and money.

10. Offer Your Accounting Skills

Shelters on a shoestring can reap enormous benefits from the guidance of a caring accountant. To operate smoothly, any nonprofit must keep good records, but if you add animal-control contracts and the reports for state and local departments, it can all seem overwhelming — except to an accountant!

Don’t know where your local shelter is? Check out ASPCA’s directory at for a list.

This article was printed with permission of the ASPCA®. All rights reserved.

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