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10 Things Every Shelter Volunteer Should Know

  • September 3, 2012
  • 4:06 pm

9. Compassion fatigue is real.

Compassion fatigue (think emotional stress and burnout) can happen to all shelter staff, even volunteers. If you notice any signs or symptoms of compassion fatigue, itís okay to take a break and regroup. You are much more valuable to the shelter and animals when you are at your best.

10. You will be sad every time you leave the shelter.

This is an inevitable fact. There will be animals you did not have a chance to work with, socialize, walk, etc. But, tomorrow/next week/next month is a new opportunity to make a difference and extend your compassion to the animals. The good news is that there are many caring people like you, and many will volunteer to pick up where you leave off when it is time to go home!

If you have ever been or currently are a volunteer at an animal shelter, thank you for all you do. If you are considering volunteering with a shelter, get out there and get started! In fact, TAILS has a great resource page to help you find the best fit for volunteering. Volunteers make all the difference in the world to shelter animals!

Have some more tips for shelter volunteers? Tell us in the comments!

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Read more: Behavior & Communication, Do Good, Everyday Pet Care, Make a Difference, Pets, , , , ,

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TAILS is an interactive website, online community, and print magazine that celebrates the relationship between pets and their people. TAILS features expert knowledge, advice, pet product reviews, local resource guides, community event listings, and fun contests to promote and encourage people to live responsibly with their pets.


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5:35AM PST on Jan 14, 2014

Thanks, plenty of good advice!

7:11AM PST on Jan 10, 2013

Thank you - very true & appreciated tips.

11:06AM PST on Jan 3, 2013

Thanks, these suggestions apply to a LOT of volunteer jobs!

9:57AM PST on Jan 3, 2013

I've been volunteering at an open-admission animal shelter for over 7 years, and nearly all of the 10 items listed are true--and great advice! The only one I disagree with is "10. You will be sad every time you leave the shelter." Thank goodness; that's just not true! Sometimes you'll actually get to witness miracles, like your favorite long-term resident dog or cat FINALLY getting adopted--or a sick animal actually getting better instead of worse. Yes, there are days I'm sad when I leave the shelter--my heart has been broken many times. But most of the time, I'm grateful I have time to spend with the animals and make their lives in the shelter a little easier. And every time I help an animal or potential adopter, I realize that every little thing we do really can make a difference--for the shelter animals and for the people who adopt them. An hour-long walk/run with a dog may help them calm down & get adopted that day, and a 1/2 hour play session with a bored cat may help them get adopted. You literally never know!

12:38AM PST on Nov 15, 2012

Wonderful advise, thanks muchly!

9:37PM PST on Nov 4, 2012

thanks for the article

10:58AM PDT on Oct 18, 2012

Thanks for the info.

3:16PM PDT on Oct 14, 2012

poor animals. i really should volunteer. any kid safe volunteer programs? my son is almost 3 and he loves animals... and I would not volunteer if it meant time away from him, since work takes enough of that time already

8:50PM PDT on Sep 22, 2012

Great information, thanks for the article. I'm impressed with all the volunteers we have, thank you all!

11:40AM PDT on Sep 10, 2012

i volunteer at a no-kill cat shelter here in chicago, and i absolutely LOVE IT!! i volunteer one day a week, and i so look forward to going on my "cat pettin' day". it is very rewarding to go and spend time with homeless kitties who need a special little touch. the absolute BEST is when one goes to their forever home, especially one that has spent a long time at the shelter, years sometimes. it is bittersweet to see them leave because i won't (hopefully) see them again, but to know that they are going to a home with someone who loves them unconditionally, is awesome. i will be a volunteer at animal shelters for as long as i possibly can. the kitties need us!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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