Volunteering with Animals

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If you’re an animal lover with a lot of love to give, then why not sign up for some animal volunteer work? Whether you’re a cat, dog, or bird lover (or something else entirely) there are plenty of ways you can play a key role in transforming an animal’s life.

By getting involved with an animal charity, you can enjoy the perks of being around animals, such as regular walking and cuddles, without having to worry about long-term commitment. For example, why not be a puppy walker for a guide dog in training, or foster a pet awaiting a permanent home?

There may also be local volunteering opportunities in your community e.g. you can be a ‘puppy socialiser’ for police dogs in training – get in touch with your local police service to find out more about current vacancies. There are so many ways you can help – just have a look at some of the possibilities below.

If you’re looking to the future and are interested in animal volunteering opportunities abroad, please see our Volunteering Abroad section.

What sort of roles are available?

Animal Fosterer

By fostering an animal, you’re agreeing to love and care for them temporarily to improve their quality of life. An animal will live with you whilst they await permanent rehoming to minimise their stay in an animal shelter.

You should be prepared that sometimes animals who have been rescued from abuse or neglect may have behavioural issues, but the shelter responsible for the animal can provide advice and training on how to care for them. There’s also no need to worry about what fostering will cost you, as things like food and vets bills are usually taken care of by the respective animal charity.

It’s usually a mid to long-term commitment, as you could be fostering or boarding an animal for an extended period of time whilst a permanent home is found.

Spending quality time with an animal who needs your help can be highly rewarding. There’s often a real tangible sense of satisfaction from seeing the impact you can have on their day-to-day wellbeing.

In fact, one of the most difficult things can be preparing to say goodbye when the charity manage to find a new, permanent home for an animal that you have cared for. Many people are unwilling to go through this, which is all the more reason why there’s such a need for volunteers who are prepared to love unconditionally, and then let them leave.

If you think you can help show an animal another chance in life, a good starting point would be the charity Dog’s Trust which offers many different fostering opportunities.

Puppy Raiser

Through the support of dedicated volunteers, Guide Dogs can begin implementing basic training to their puppies, from just eight weeks old. Puppy raiser volunteers will look after a guide dog puppy for around 15 months, 24/7 within their home.

The puppy raiser role is very important for Guide Dogs to ensure that their dogs are set up for success. It ensures they can be trained to a high enough standard to become a guide dog for people with sight loss. The role involves caring for the puppy’s basic needs, implementing correct training techniques when required, and providing a welcoming home for a future guide dog.

To find out more about the volunteering role and other dog-related volunteering roles at Guide Dogs, you can read our article here or browse their volunteering section below.

Animal Care Volunteer

Animal hospitals and animal shelters need care volunteers to nurture and care for vulnerable animals during their stay. You will also help to support families who are concerned for their sick pet by providing comfort and advice.

If you decide to volunteer as an animal care volunteer for an animal shelter such as the RSPCA, you will often be responsible for cleaning animal pens and cages, as well as grooming, feeding and playing with a range of animals.

There are also animal specific roles available e.g. volunteering as a cat carer or socialiser in an RSPCA cattery. If you’ve always wanted a cat but your home or lifestyle just isn’t suitable, then this could be the role for you. You will help look after every aspect of the cats’ wellbeing from ensuring they get the right diet to helping them develop socialisation skills, which should help them to be successfully rehomed.

PDSA Pet Hospitals also recruit volunteers to soothe sick and recovering animals, comfort families and help out with reception tasks. Animals can become stressed when they are unwell and away from their families, so as an Animal Care Volunteer, you’ll be responsible for alleviating some of this stress by making sure their environment is clean and comfortable, encouraging them to eat and acting as a companion.

Full training will usually be provided for all roles in this category, and levels of commitment will vary.

Additional roles supporting animal charities and services

For more information on supporting animals in ‘behind the scenes’ roles, please click through to our Driving, Charity Shop Work, Office & Admin, and Fundraising and pages, or explore the range of charities below.

Or, if you’d to work with animals, but can’t afford to do so on a voluntary basis, then you might want to take a look at the list of paid roles in our article; 12 interesting roles working with animals.

Where can I volunteer?

UK Charities

Volunteering in your local community

If you’d like to focus your time on supporting a local animal charity within your community, it’s worth speaking to local pet shops, animal shelters and veterinary practices who’ll know how you can help locally and how to apply.

Your local police service may also offer voluntary roles with trainee police dogs – contact your local police station to find out more about current vacancies.

If you’re interested in volunteering with animals or in other roles, then why not head over to our volunteering home page where you can search for opportunities near you?

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