Giving Back: The Benefits Of Volunteering At An Animal Shelter


Volunteering is an historical act established upon bettering society and fostering individual freedom. Today, it is often seen as a way to give back or be a part of something you otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to. 

Between food drives, libraries, museums, retirement homes, animal shelters and parks, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer depending on your skills and interests. At Patch and Purr, we strongly value the lives of animals and the human ability to create connections with them, putting animal shelter volunteering at the top of our priority list.  

Animals are gentle creatures that require a similar level of care we do as humans. Understandably, the passion and dedication of the volunteers play a pivotal role in improving the welfare of these animals, protecting them from neglect and cruelty.

Volunteering not only makes a definite difference to the lives of the animals but to yours as well. Media often draws attention to the scientifically proven relationships that can be fostered between humans and animals but typically represent it in a romanticised way. While owning a pet can be a heartfelt experience, it can also require a lot of work that is often dismissed. 

Volunteering at an animal shelter doesn’t have to be a career nor as intensive as owning a pet,  as you have the flexibility to assist as much as you want or can. If you are interested in volunteering at an animal shelter, we have compiled a list of the top and most wholesome reasons for putting your hand up. 

Animal Shelters

Despite the admirable work animal shelters often do and the lengths the volunteers go to when caring for the animals, they don’t always have the best reputation. However, most of the negative feedback is a direct result of a lack of people power to keep up with the animal intake. 

As a place for animals to stay when lost, abandoned, or surrendered, they must receive the highest level of care possible as if they were a domesticated pet. The RSPCA recorded that they received over 103,057 animals in Australia over the 2020-2021 financial year, meaning that it doesn’t take long for shelters to become full and volunteers to be in high demand. 

With animal welfare at the forefront, shelters function to house animals safely until they can be adopted, treat any minor animal health conditions, and temporarily create a comfortable environment for the animals to live in. However, these noble goals would not be possible without the help of volunteers. 



Benefits of Volunteering

1. Boost your mood

No one enjoys being in a low mood, creating an opportunity to boost serotonin levels one to grasp on to. 

Volunteering for anything typically generates good feelings and pride within yourself. In addition, being around animals has proven to lower stress levels and blood pressure, boost your dopamine levels, helping you relax and feel happier. 

If you have ever been a pet owner yourself, no doubt you have experienced first-hand the joy that comes from cuddling or playing with your furry friend. If you aren’t in a position to commit to getting your own pet, volunteering at an animal shelter could be the perfect alternative that still provides you with a sense of joy and happiness. 

2. Cope with grief

Dealing with grief, no matter the cause, can be an unpredictable and wavering process. In particular, suffering the loss of a pet can be a significant cause for grief, especially as they are often considered part of the family.

While grief periods vary from person to person, 50% of people typically take between one year to 19 months to process their loss. This period can be extremely challenging, and it is often difficult to find ways to help yourself through the process. 

Volunteering at an animal shelter can be a great way to help cope with this period of grief, especially if you aren’t ready to get another pet of your own but do miss animal companionship. When you volunteer, you are a part of something bigger than yourself, and being able to see how your love, care, and efforts benefit an animal can be a great source of inner healing. 

3. Make a difference

The primary purpose of animal shelters is to improve the welfare of animals and help make them adoptable so they can live happier lives with a caring family. As a volunteer, you can be a part of this noble task and help make a difference in the lives of animals and their future owners. 

Duties as a volunteer often involve feeding the animals, bathing and grooming them, socialising them with other animals and exercising them regularly. Volunteering and caring this way can improve their well-being, and when done on a regular basis, it can benefit them in immeasurable ways.  

4. Volunteers are in high demand

Most animal shelters are run by volunteers, meaning they cannot function efficiently without humans. 

With so many animals being constantly brought into shelters and adoption rates fluctuating, it is important that an adequate number of volunteers are able and willing to give a few hours a week to care for the animals. 

5. Meet other people

Volunteering isn’t for everyone, making it likely that those who do will be like-minded, fellow animal lovers with whom you have the potential to make connections with. 

Not only does being surrounded by animals have the potential to boost your mood and help you cope with grief, so does being around other humans. If you are grieving the loss of a pet, being surrounded by other people who may empathise with your position can help you on your journey. 

6. Gain professional and life experiences

Volunteering can give you a new set of life skills, experiences, and perspectives that could potentially help you discover a new passion or career path. Ultimately, as a risk-free environment, it is a prime opportunity to explore a new area of interest. 

Not only can you develop new skills and build your own strengths, but many shelter employees start as volunteers, giving you a level up in terms of experience.

7. Gain experience caring for pets

If you are perhaps planning on adopting or getting a pet in the future but are still uncertain, volunteering at a pet shelter could be a way to give you a chance to practice before you do bring an animal home. 

However, don’t be mistaken by the term ‘practice’. Animal shelter animals are not just a trial run and still deserve an optimal level of love and care. The experience also won’t teach you everything you need to know as a pet owner but is undoubtedly a good start at dipping your toe in the water of pet parenthood. 

Ultimately, volunteering at an animal shelter has immeasurable benefits for both you and the welfare of the animals. Particularly, if you are recovering from the loss of a pet, being in such an environment could be an excellent way to grieve on your own time without the pressure of your own new pet. 

For more advice regarding pet ownership, grief, and aftercare, contact Patch and Purr today. Our team understands that the relationship between humans and animals is a delicate and important one and are passionate about offering you the best advice possible no matter your situation. 

The information contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice.



Grief factsheets

If you’re in need of some extra support in the days and weeks following your pet’s passing, take a look at these handy guides written by leading figure in grief and empathy education and author of "When Pets Die: It's Alright To Grieve,"  Doris Zagdanski. 


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