All of the organisations mentioned in our guide work tirelessly to help animals in need. To achieve their aims, they rely on voluntary help. Some welcome volunteers who can only spare a few hours for tasks such as walking dogs for a day or two during their holiday abroad. Other organisations prefer a longer term commitment with a specific project – this type of volunteering may appeal more to those on a gap year.
Whatever your skills or amount of time you Courses & training have available to offer, there are many animals who will benefit greatly from your offer of volunteering. The opportunities in this guide are exciting and diverse. They include; monitoring wild dolphins, feeding wolves, nursing sick animals, working in a cat houseboat sanctuary, assisting with wildlife recovery and release, attending to injured animals, walking dogs, grooming donkeys, transporting animals for re-homing abroad, caring for orphaned fox cubs, returning stray animals to their colonies after neutering, monitoring turtles and giving distressed animals some tender loving care.
Before we start, here’s a story to help inspire you as you embark on your journey as a volunteer helping animals – it’s the Original Starfish Story found in Star Thrower: “One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, ‘What are you doing?’ The youth replied, ‘Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.’ ‘ Son,’ the man said, ‘don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!’ After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…’I made a difference for that one.'” – naturalist and writer, Loren Eiseley
Volunteering is a great way to obtain hands on experience and a better understanding of the many different career options open to those wishing to work with animals. Whether you are a school leaver, seeking a career change, or are undecided about whether working within the animal welfare sector is for you, then voluntary work is a great way to find out.
At the same time as giving you the tremendous satisfaction of helping animals in need, your volunteer work can also be an excellent career move. The experience will enable you to gain experience in the specific type of animal care that you aspire to work in.
For many employers, volunteer experience, interest, aptitude and commitment can be more important than initial entry qualifications. Competition for animal care vacancies is tough. It is advisable to be well equipped with as many related skills as possible when seeking employment. Through volunteering, you will acquire many new skills that will help you when applying for jobs or course placements.
It is advisable for anyone wanting to work with animals, from would-be veterinary surgeons to animal care assistants, to do some sort of voluntary work before embarking on their chosen career.
If you are seeking a career change, volunteering is often an excellent way of landing your perfect job, as it is common for volunteers to be offered permanent positions. By enrolling as a volunteer you will gain a much better and invaluable understanding of the work involved.
1. The range of opportunities is huge and there is a tremendous amount to be learnt on the ground. It is possible to progress quickly if you are reliable, compassionate, committed, patient and willing to learn and develop a thorough understanding of real animal welfare issues. It goes without saying, that to succeed in any career working with animals, you must be hard working, compassionate and genuinely concerned for the welfare and needs of animals.
2. Give careful consideration to what you want to gain from volunteering – new skills, fun, a chance to contribute in a meaningful way to a cause you are passionate about? Also think about what you have to offer – enthusiasm, work skills, life skills, time to spend caring, etc.