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4 Questions to Ask Shelter Workers that will Guarantee Happy Volunteering with Animals

Updated: Apr 17

Volunteering at an animal shelter is a dream come true for so many of us, but just like any job, the first shelter you come across may not be the right fit for you. It's important to ask the right questions of the shelter workers before you decide to volunteer there.

Due to the time commitments involved and the level of devotion required by volunteering, it’s important to find the right fit ahead of time to ensure your experience volunteering with animals is happy and doesn't burn you out.

a brunette caucasian woman crouches beside a german shepard at dog rescue looking happy to be volunteering with animals

With that in mind, here are four vital questions to ask the shelter (and yourself!) in order to guarantee the happiest experience possible while volunteering with animals:

1. Is it a no-kill shelter?

If not, are you comfortable working with animals that may have to be euthanized? Are you comfortable being present with these animals, perhaps at the time of transition? It’s important to let the volunteer coordinator know your comfort level with discussions surrounding euthanasia at the shelter where you volunteer. It can prevent an uncomfortable or emotionally charged discussion at a later date.

2. Will they require you to complete a training program?

If so, how long is the program, and what are the requirements? Once you have completed the program, what minimum hours per week will you be required to volunteer, and how long-term of a commitment do they expect? (Some shelters require at least a year.) What duties will you be expected to assist with? What percentage of your time will you be able to devote solely to the tasks that interest you the most?

3. Which staff member will you report to directly?

Which person will be involved in helping you with the animals or giving information about which animals to work with? Will this person be notified of your volunteer role at the shelter? If not, make sure to introduce yourself to the staff and volunteers when you meet.

4. Are you prepared to handle the ups and downs?

Volunteering at an animal shelter has its magical moments—the first time you bond with a cat that hides from everyone else, the older dog who finally finds her forever home—but there will be plenty of heartbreak as well.

kathleen prasad sits on the floor next to a dog in a cage offering reiki as a volunteer at her local rescue shelter

Ask yourself how you will cope when you witness innocent animals recovering from abusive situations, see cats and dogs suffering and in pain, know that the animals “no one wants” are being euthanized, or even miss your favorite animal once he or she is adopted? Unfortunately, those who dedicate their lives to caring for others (human or animal) must watch out for compassion fatigue, a traumatic stress disorder and occupational hazard for shelter volunteers.

These questions were adapted from my book: The Animal Reiki Handbook: Finding Your Way With Reiki in Your Local Shelter, Sanctuary or Rescue by Kathleen Prasad.

If you're interested in learning Animal Reiki to help you cope with the ups and downs and animal rescue while you volunteer to work with animals, I'd love to show you all the ways I (and my thousands of students) use it to stay calm and deal with our heartache. Check out my ARS Academy page to learn more about Animal Reiki training and how it can help you to have the best experience possible while volunteering with animals

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