You Can Make a Difference

Always wanted to help out at an animal shelter, but thought it would be too emotional? Here are 23 ways to help animals without breaking your heart.

CatHave you ever considered volunteering at an animal shelter, but hesitated, expecting the experience would be too sad? Or afraid you’d want to take every cat home? Perhaps you don’t have any spare time.

The good news is that volunteering at an animal shelter or helping a rescue group is easier than ever. “Shelters no longer represent the pitiful dog pounds of the past,” says Eric Grant, manager of the Volunteer Program of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in New York City. “Our emphasis is on adoptions, and our volunteers work directly or indirectly with our animals. This enables everyone to participate, especially those who feel emotionally sensitive.”

Brian Probst, manager of Volunteer Services at the Peninsula Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) agrees. “Volunteers offer a wide range of skills,” he says. “With two hours a week, you can make a difference.”

Volunteers are always needed and truly appreciated. “Most organizations can’t function without them,” Probst says. “When fully staffed we have 88 full-time employees and more than 500 volunteers.”

Options Abound
Every shelter offers unique volunteering opportunities:

Office help. Basic office activities: data entry, filing, typing and stuffing envelopes.
Website design.
Websites are often the first place adoptees check for an animal. Your ability to design or maintain a website or answer e-mails, is an invaluable service.

Photographer. Captivating photos are crucial in an adoption. To see your work in print, photograph a shelter’s events for its newsletter.

Fund-raising events. This is usually the most important financial endeavor for any group. “If you’ve ever arranged a child’s party or a formal convention, we need you,” says Erin J. Williams, co-planner of the May 2005 fund-raiser for Fix our Ferals, a Berkeley, Calif., spay-neuter group. “We rely completely on volunteers,” Williams says. “Calling for donations, coordinating the menus and decorations, suggesting a speaker we’re grateful for anyone who joins us.”

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