Are you looking for a community service project for school credit or to boost your resume? Looking to find a group of friends after moving to a new town? Want to spend time with animals and learn about them, but can’t commit to a new pet right now? Try volunteering at your local animal shelter, wildlife rescue, or sanctuary!
Volunteering to help animals means more than just cleaning up messes. Animal rescue facilities have websites and social networking profiles, and need tech-savvy people to help maintain a web presence. They need party planners, cooks, and artists to help advertise and run outreach events. Handy people are needed to build storage structures and play equipment for the animals. Writers and artists can pair compelling rescue stories and pet profiles with attractive videos and photos to share on the rescue’s website and social media pages. Even legal experts are in demand to review copyright and animal welfare issues. No matter what your passion and specialty, your local rescue could use your help. So if you have the time and love animals, contact your local shelter, wildlife rescue, or sanctuary and ask if they could use a hand.
1. Make a Difference
Sadly, 2.7 million animals are put down every year in shelters that take in animals more quickly than they can adopt them out. Staff shortage is one major reason why these shelters aren’t no-kill. As a volunteer, your work could save animals’ lives and help them find loving forever homes. In addition to caring for animals, promotional efforts and outreach would raise awareness of the shelter and sway people towards adopting a pet instead of buying from a pet store or breeder.
2. Meet Good People
Many single adults have trouble making meaningful friends, especially after moving to a new town. The bar and online dating scene is fast-paced and artificial, and continuing education classes can be expensive and competitive. Volunteering at an animal shelter ensures that you’re surrounded by caring people, all working toward a common goal. You’ll see the same people on a regular basis, and can bond through your common interest of helping animals and the inevitable funny stories that incoming critters will inspire. In this type of environment, it’s inevitable that you’ll make quality, dependable friends who care.
3. Feel Better
It’s no secret that spending quality time with an animal has numerous health benefits. If you’re unable to have a pet at home, you can reap many of the same benefits bonding with animals at your local rescue facility. Petting an animal relieves stress and lowers blood pressure, walking and playing with a dog keeps obesity at bay and bonding with an animal curbs loneliness and gives your life a sense of purpose.
4. Learn Something New
If you’re out of school, it’s hard to get hands-on experience in a new trade without spending money on continuing education classes. Depending on your local rescue’s size and resources, you could learn anything from computer skills like Web development and Photoshop to classic trades like construction. And of course you’ll learn a lot about rehabilitating, training, grooming and feeding animals, all skills you can use at home when you care for your own pets.
5. Get an Edge
Sometimes, it’s tough to even get an entry-level position in your field. Temporary jobs might pay the bills, but they leave a gap on your resume which potential employers will frown upon. Using your expertise to help animals keeps your skills fresh and gives you something impressive to add to your resume, portfolio, or college application. If you really love volunteering at your shelter, you might consider a permanent paid position there, in which case you’d have a strong advantage over outside competitors who don’t know the staff or the shelter’s inner workings.
6. Find the Perfect Companion
Choosing a pet is a big decision, and some people are too quick to take home a pet based on appearance when his demeanor and energy level might not be a good fit. Working at a shelter helps you get to know different animals on many levels — how they play, their energy level, how they act with kids and other pets, and how much training they’ll need. You might fall in love with a breed you didn’t expect, or find the perfect companion for a friend who’s looking for a pet.
Image source: Michigan Humane Society/Facebook