Did you know that the staff here at Adopt-a-Pet.com has decades of volunteering experience helping homeless pets? Be inspired by our stories (and yours!) in our brand-new Volunteer Newsletter! To subscribe, and lend a helping paw to shelters and rescues near you, fill out your Volunteer Profile at http://www.adoptapet.com/volunteer/signup. Make sure you check the box next to: “I want to receive Adopt-a-Pet.com’s special quarterly newsletter all about volunteering.” Now, read on as Jennifer Warner, Adopt-a-Pet.com’s Director of Shelter Outreach, shares her volunteering story…

“Where should I volunteer?” written by Jennifer

volunteer-JenVolunteering for an animal shelter or rescue can be one of the most rewarding – and challenging – experiences of your life! It has been for me. I’m Jennifer, the Director of Shelter Outreach for Adopt-a-Pet.com, and I’ve been volunteering for animal shelters and rescues for almost 20 years. I’m here to share with you what I’ve learned from my very diverse experiences in choosing where I volunteered, from one-person rescues to some of the biggest organizations in the US. You may hear from me on other volunteering topics in future issues of our newsletter as well. I’d like to help you get the most out of your volunteering to help homeless pets!

I got my start volunteering to help homeless pets at a large nonprofit shelter in New York City, taking dogs out for walks around the park. I’d grown up around and loving many dogs, horses, barn cats and a rabbit, but this was my first direct exposure to the world of animal sheltering and the reality of pet overpopulation. I chose to volunteer at that shelter because I thought as my first “shelter” experience, it would not be as overwhelming as the city shelter system. They also offered flexible hours, allowing me to come in any time I had time. That worked out perfectly with my ever-changing school and work schedules. And they certainly had plenty of dogs living for months in kennels, who were overjoyed to have me take them out for a walk!

volunteer-Jen2When I moved to Los Angeles, I thought volunteering would be a great way to meet some new animal-loving friends. It was… and little did I know it would also help me find a job! I started right away at a local spca. They had immediate volunteer training and opportunities available, while the shelter that was closer to me had a many-month long waiting list for orientation space, due to springtime students. Anyway, the spca’s mobile adoptions really needed volunteers. They could only take out as many dogs as they had handlers, and high adoption rates at their mobiles meant those dogs had a really great chance of finding a home. Fortunately for me too, it was a wonderful way to be introduced to places all over my new city, as well as new friends.

As much as I enjoyed volunteering for that spca, I’d read about the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA’s innovative shelter design and extensive volunteer opportunities. They were a relatively large shelter, taking in over 12,000 animals each year as animal control for (then) six cities, but had the flexibility and funding of a private nonprofit to also offer education, spay/neuter, cruelty investigations, and more. I’d done my research, and wanted to help an organization that did all that to help homeless pets.

A few months later, during the orientation, their Volunteer Coordinator announced that they were looking to hire a Mobile Adoption Coordinator as staff. After a few outings as a volunteer, I was hired, and so began my career in animal welfare! Over the next decade, I worked for the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA, though I still continued to volunteer for other rescue organizations, mostly transporting animals. My line between “staff” and “volunteer” was sometimes blurred. But, I was fortunate enough to have wonderful management that supported all of my “extracurricular” activities, from fostering litter after litter of underage kittens in my office, to driving vans full of animals to rescues all over California!

When I started working for Adopt-a-Pet.com over two years ago, I  expanded my volunteer work to stay in direct contact with dogs and cats at my local shelters and rescues. Since I now work from home, I can now foster from home too, and I also continue to take photos and videos of shelter pets on the weekends. I had interacted with many rescues and shelters, and knew which ones had policies and people that were a good “fit” for my volunteering skills and style.

I hope my volunteering story will help you decide where and how to volunteer. If you haven’t signed up for the of Adopt-a-Pet.com’s Volunteer Community – that’s a wonderful first step! Thank you for offering your time and skills to help homeless pets.