I’ve worked with many shelters both here locally and across the US. One thing that is lacking in all shelters is volunteers. With the exception of a small humane society in northern Arizona, most shelters have a skeleton staff of volunteers that can be relied upon. Most people want the glamour of saving dogs but don’t understand that it takes a team effort to do this.
When I train shelters through our Shelter Rescue Program I explain that there are many roles that can be filled with volunteers including handling dogs, training dogs, working with fearful dogs, photographing, video shooting, social media and networking, outreach off-site adoptions and so much more. Some people may think that it’s too difficult to help in a shelter that is killing animals, but it is these shelters that need your help the most. Volunteering at a humane society that is no-kill is a feel-good way to go, but the hard work is to help those animals that are at risk. Through our programs we’ve proven that these animals can be saved, and we’ve proven it with our programs and our training, not with lots of money. Big orgs will throw a lot of money at the problem, but the truth is that the solution lies in grass roots efforts. These are things that almost anyone can do.
The people that have trained with me have learned that oftentimes we have to put our egos aside and look at the animals we’re helping. For example, everyone wants to take a dog out and start training: SIT, DOWN COME, etc. Others want to put a leash on a dog and take him for a walk. I’ve shown that these dogs need more engagement, socialization and structured training – that training saves lives!
People also think that they need to dedicate an immense amount of time at a shelter to make a difference, NOT TRUE. If you can spare a couple of hours a week, you can make a huge difference. If a hundred people could spare 2 hours a week the shelter would have 200 man hours of help. However, the case is that most volunteers give a lot more hours but there are a lot less of them. Often times these volunteers burn out and the ones that loose are the animals.
I also think it’s a good idea that local rescues spend a couple of hours volunteering at the shelter that they work with. Building a relationship with the staff and management could go a long way to make a difference for the shelter pets.
Currently I’ve been training at a shelter in Ventura, CA and have noticed that there is a very small core crew of volunteers that is wholly dedicated and other people who stand by the side and wonder why the shelter isn’t no-kill. Aside from the issue of countless more dogs are coming in than are being adopted out, there aren’t enough people to show dogs, train and engage dogs to prepare them to show well and only a few people are working the shelters social media outlets.
Shelters need structured volunteer training and structured volunteer curriculum.
Please consider volunteering at a local shelter and help them save more lives. You can make a HUGE difference in a shelter pet’s life. Yes, your bumper sticker that says ADOPT DON’T SHOP is nice, but getting into a shelter and working with the animals will help even more.
And if you think it’s painful to go into the shelter, imagine for a moment how painful life is for the animals living there – just waiting to die….
Thanks for reading!