PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Volunteering: Helping Animals

Sometimes, we are at our best as human beings when we're being kind to our animal friends.

Maddie, 12, told us: "For the last year, I have been walking dogs at an animal shelter near our house. They are so happy every time I come, because they know they will get some time out of their cage and lots of love and attention from me."

Lucas, 11, found a local pet rescue group to help. "Every weekend, they have adoption events at pet stores or malls," he writes. "I help out by talking to people about the animals, making sure the cages are clean, and anything else that's needed. It feels great when a cat or dog gets a new home."

Working with pets and other animals can feel so wonderful because they're not able to help themselves, and rely on people to save them from cruelty, neglect, sickness, loneliness, and fear. Here are some ideas for getting involved:

Animal hospitals and shelters
Veterinarians' offices, animal hospitals, and pet shelters often need young volunteers to help them care for animals. You might volunteer for tasks like cleaning out animals' cages, feeding the pets, taking dogs for walks, giving cats some much-needed playtime, or even comforting pets who are sick or need surgery. If you're a little older, you may be able take on responsibilities like helping with medical procedures or doing office work.

Fostering and adoption
Did you know that there are millions of abandoned pets each year in the U.S.? They are everywhere-including your community. These animals need love, compassion, and help finding new families. If you have room in your heart and home, you can volunteer with a local animal rescue group to care for a dog, cat, or other pet until he or she is adopted. This is called "fostering" or "foster care"! This type of volunteering is very rewarding, but also requires a lot of responsibility and help from your family.

Zoos and nature centers
Most zoos and nature centers rely on volunteers to help care for animals, talk to visitors, and keep everything running smoothly. Depending on your age, you might be able to become a zoo volunteer who cleans animal habitats, prepares animal meals, lends a hand in the clinic or office, or even talks to younger kids about animal education. The best way to get involved is to call your local zoo or nature center and ask what youth volunteer programs they offer.

Remember: Working with animals is often fun and rewarding, but it can be difficult, too. Sometimes animals are hurting, afraid, or seriously ill. Many people who love animals just find themselves too sensitive for hands-on volunteering. That's totally okay. Many animal-related volunteer opportunities have minimum age requirements, and you might be too young for them. Guess what? You can still help our furry friends by raising money for local, national, and international animal charities! Check out all the information in our Fundraising section.

Surf to it!
Here are some Web sites that can help you find opportunities for volunteering with animals:

  • 4-H
    http://www.4-h.org

  • The Humane Society of the United States
    http://www.hsus.org

  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
    http://www.aspca.org

  • Petfinder
    http://www.petfinder.org

Is this right for me?
Working with animals is a good volunteer choice for people who-

  • Are caring, nurturing, and patient
  • Have a deep love of pets
  • Aren't afraid of animals
  • Don't get easily grossed out
  • Can handle seeing upsetting things

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