O, Volunteers! You Can Lend a Paw to Animals In Need

Adoptable rescue pooch, Yoshi (Photo: Secondhand Hounds)

Adoptable rescue pooch, Yoshi
(Photo: Secondhand Hounds)

Fun Fact: Most non-profit rescue groups and animal shelters in the Twin Cities are run primarily by volunteers. Sure, some facilities have paid staff, but the heart of these organizations are the folks that volunteer their time, money, services, and ideas to help homeless animals.

A lot of effort is needed to run a rescue group or shelter, so volunteers can make all the difference: you might walk dogs or cuddle cats a few times a month or you might get more involved, transporting animals to veterinary appointments or organizing fundraisers. Volunteers are the go-to people when it comes to running rescue facilities and helping them succeed in finding homes for animals in need, which makes them crucial for the health of Minnesota’s rescue community.

So here’s the big question: With so many volunteer opportunities to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you?

  • Think about where. If there’s a breed you’re really into, look for a breed-specific rescue to get involved with. If you don’t have much time to spend on the road, maybe you’ll want to find an organization located close to your home.
  • Think about what. Once you’ve considered where you might volunteer, think about what you’d like to do there. If you want to get your body moving, consider becoming a dog walker for your local shelter. This one-to-two hour weekly commitment gets both you and the dogs moving! If cats are more your thing, apply to be a cat cuddler, going onsite to pet, brush, and play with shelter cats. You could be a fundraiser or an event coordinator, planning fundraising walks, runs, bake sales, and yes, even motorcycle rides. The sky’s the limit, but make sure what you sign up for plays to your strengths.
  • Think about time. Be realistic: how much time do you have to devote to your volunteerism? If you can’t commit to being on a committee, don’t sign up for it. If you can’t guarantee you’re available to send out a newsletter, don’t say you will. Instead, consider becoming a foster and caring for a dog in your own home. Animals who have spent time in a foster home are often more likely to be adopted, as the foster parent has loads of information on the pet, knows the animal’s personality, and has often begun nurturing that special connection between human and pet. As many foster parents will tell you, sometimes the only tough part of fostering is not adopting a foster fur-kid yourself. [Related: 54 Rescue Dogs Get a New Leash on Life]

Now that you know a bit about how you can make a difference with a local shelter or rescue group, the hardest part may be choosing which volunteer gig is right for you. But if you truly want to help out, why wait? If you aren’t sure where to start, check Sidewalk Dog’s directory of area rescues and non-profits.


Lindsay Niemi has acted as the Kennel Manager at Northwoods Humane Society and currently works for MN Pets. She lives in Forest Lake with her husband, two dogs (Tyson is pictured at left), and one extra-large cat.


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