How to Volunteer at Your Local Animal Shelter

While walking through an animal shelter can be a heartbreaking experience, it's also a place of hope.

Closeup of dog looking at foreground

Walking dogs is a great way to volunteer at your local animal shelter.

New dogs and cats are adopted every day and are brought to caring homes they would never have otherwise found. For this reason, animal shelters are among the most important local services in your town and community.

The first step is to find an animal shelter in your area. While you can always ask around, perhaps you know of someone who adopted a pet from a local shelter. Websites like help potential pet parents find dog and cat matches every day, and it's also a fantastic way to discover volunteer opportunities! Once you've found a local rescue shelter in need of assistance, how can you help out? Consider these options:

Dog walking

If there's one essential truth about dog ownership, it's that your pet will need plenty of walking. Shelter dogs aren't any different; so many rescue shelters are more than willing to have volunteers take the dogs on walks. Most shelters have rules about volunteers handling animals, so be sure to abide by them. Contact your shelter to see if there’s an opportunity to begin walking dogs once a week as a starting point.

Cleaning and office work

Too young or inexperienced to walk dogs? Some shelters offer opportunities for you to contribute by helping clean up messy areas or assist with tasks around the office. In doing so, you will see the immediate impact of your efforts and provide shelter employees with some much needed assistance. You can also bring along a friend to share the experience and double your impact. Maybe you'll get to take photos of dogs and cats in need of homes and post them online to increase awareness.

Collecting donations

Female volunteer with homeless cats in animal shelter

Other ways of helping out a shelter include donating your time, pet supplies, or planning a fundraiser.

There are many people who would love to make a donation, but may not be aware of a specific need or may not have the time to bring a donation to the shelter. You can offer your time to round up donations from local businesses, friends, and family. Alternatively, you can seek out more people who are willing to donate their time, needed pet supplies, or plan a fundraiser.

Adopt a pet

Ultimately, the most impactful way to help out is to take a dog or cat home with you, provided it’s the right time for your family and life situation. Shelters have limited resources and plenty of pets cycling in and out. There's always one, though likely many, who will steal your heart. Pet adoption is a major commitment and not one to be taken lightly.