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. 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.

For animal volunteering opportunities abroad, please see our Volunteering Abroad section.

What sort of roles are available?

Animal Fosterer

By fostering an animal, you are 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 is 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.

It can be highly rewarding, spending quality time with an animal who needs your help. There is 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 have managed 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 Walker or Socialiser

Across the country, there are always puppies training to become working service dogs, for example guide dogs and police dogs. The charities or services that the puppies belong do not always have the time or resources to walk and/or socialise the puppies, so they recruit volunteers to do this. You can select your role based on how involved you wish to be – sometimes a puppy is required to stay with you for a fixed period of time (Guide Dogs for the Blind have many opportunities like this), and in other cases it is as simple as picking up the puppy and walking them on scheduled occasions.

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.

Where can I volunteer?

UK Charities
RSPCA, Dog’s Trust, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Worldwide Wildlife Fund, Cats Protection, Battersea Cats and Dogs Home, Donkey Sanctuary, PDSA, Blue Cross

Volunteering in your local community

If you’d like to focus your time on supporting a local animal charity within your community, speak to local pet shops, animal shelters and veterinary practices who will 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.

Why volunteer later in life?

More and more people are finding satisfaction in Volunteering. Find out why you should become a volunteer and the benefits it can bring.

Find your purpose

Volunteer for a charity and you will be joining a mission to make the world a better place. Find a cause that inspires you and get started.

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