Homeless street dogs. Injured wildlife. Neglected cats. Abused horses.
The imagery is painful, but it’s a reality for countless animals across the globe. Whether you’re looking to volunteer to help animals in your hometown or abroad, there are many ways you can make a difference.
So, get your junk clothes ready and read on for how to help the four-footed, winged, and slithery animals that we share this planet with.
If you’re in a hurry to get helping animals (and who can blame you?) below is a chart outlining the items we’ll be discussing in detail.
|Volunteer Option||Animals You May Work With||Possible Volunteer Tasks|
|Breed-based shelters||Greyhounds, thoroughbreds, pit bulls, chihuahuas||Direct rescues, foster homes, cleaning, administrative, etc.|
|Local shelters||Large animal, small animal, wildlife, reptiles||Pet care, housekeeping, animal transfers, administrative work, etc.|
|Exotic animal rescue centers||Elephants, kangaroos, monkeys, lions, pandas||Cage cleaning, animal grooming, feeding, etc.|
|Agriculture & livestock||Goats, cows, horses, donkeys||Milking, field maintenance, organic produce support, etc.|
|Paid international programs||Any kind||Animal care, dog walks, maintenance projects, administrative work, social media support, etc.|
|Free international programs||Any kind||Animal care, dog walks, maintenance projects, administrative work, social media support, etc.|
Many animal lovers know the horrors that come with horse racing, pet store breeding, and pit bull fighting. So, there are organizations out there that focus on rescuing and rehabilitating these animals.
If the mistreatment of specific breeds gets you fired up, try researching rescue organizations where you can volunteer for breeds such as:
You might be surprised to see chihuahuas on this list, but the ASPCA spells it out for us—chihuahuas are an in-demand breed. So, breeders produce a lot of them, people take them home and realize they’re more work than expected, and the poor dogs end up at an animal shelter.
Here’s another group of less-than-obvious animals in need of support—roosters undergo unbearable abuse during cockfighting. This gambling-driven “sport” requires one rooster to die while the living, winner rooster often passes away from injuries shortly after.
While people tend to associate the Middle East and Latin American countries with cockfighting, the truth is that it’s a global issue. For example, in the United States, cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states to try to reduce this practice. Forty-two of those states have felony cockfighting laws, but awards for turning in cockfighters still exist due to ongoing underground practices.
The examples above highlight some of the many breeds (or animal groups, in the case of roosters) where you can volunteer to help niche animal rescue organizations. So, if you’re passionate about a certain breed, do some research to find out if there are animal shelters near you specializing in them.
If not, what better way to volunteer your time than by starting a rescue group for that breed?
You likely don’t need to look far to find a place near your home where you can volunteer to help animals. Typing something along the lines of “volunteer with animals in (your city’s name)” may pull up several options in Google, complete with maps and operating hours.
But if you’re having trouble or want to get more specific, try using these keywords:
Many people (and, thus, Google) imagine dogs and cats when they think about volunteering with animals. But there are so many other creatures in need too.
Take, for instance, wildlife rescue. In Wilmington, North Carolina, an organization called SkyWatch Bird Rescue seeks volunteers to transport injured birds, work with the animals on-site, support with marketing, and handle administrative tasks.
And that brings up another point—volunteering to help animals doesn’t have to involve working directly with the animals. If you have skills in another area or if allergies make it difficult for you to handle animals, organizations welcome help in many ways.
Many of us have heard about the movement of bathing elephants instead of riding them at rescue centers in Asia. While on the surface that appears to be a step in the right direction, there’s controversy about what the elephants had to endure to tolerate humans doing so.
Needless to say, if you want to volunteer to help animals that are exotic, it’s extra crucial to verify how well the organization cares for them. Read reviews. Research the organization’s history. Search the rescue center’s name on PETA’s website.
That said, between circuses, people bringing wild animals into their homes, and using wildlife for other human entertainment, there’s a genuine need for volunteers in the exotic animal space.
You can research exotic animal rescue centers such as those supporting:
Even if you intend to volunteer at a traditional animal shelter, you might come across an exotic animal or two. In October 2021, a well-meaning humane society in California rescued a tarantula from a roof. It turned out that the tarantula was an old Halloween decoration, but as the saying goes, it’s the thought that counts.
You may find exotic animal volunteer opportunities in your hometown. Of course, where you live depends on just how exotic an animal is. After all, you’ll be hard-pressed to convince an Australian that kangaroos fall under the “exotic” category.
Oftentimes, animal shelters with exotic animals are tourist attractions. So, they may ask for an entrance or volunteer fee.
This isn’t inherently bad–all animal rescue centers need funding to survive. However, as with elephant volunteer experiences, you should perform due diligence before supporting them with your time and money.
If it seems odd to you that agriculture is included in an article on where to volunteer to help animals, consider the wise words from Fundación HOPE in Arequipa, Peru—without a healthy environment, abused and abandoned animals will suffer even more.
According to National Geographic, about 70% of current freshwater consumption goes to agriculture. So, wildlife and stray animals are having an increasingly more difficult time accessing water in their formerly trusty rivers, streams, and ponds.
Supporting sustainable agriculture and small-scale, free-range livestock is one way to play a part in reversing National Geographic’s startling statistic.
One volunteer agency helping sustainable-oriented farms connect with volunteers is WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms). Since 1971, WWOOF has been sending volunteers to organic farms and free-range livestock ranches.
WWOOF requires a membership fee for you to gain access to their extensive list of volunteer opportunities throughout the world. The amount of the membership fee and varies from country to country, so you’ll need to visit WWOOF’s country pages for specific details.
However, common membership benefits include:
You could spend days browsing WWOOF’s volunteer opportunities; milk goats in Hungary, cultivate spirulina in Morocco, or support eco-education in Indonesia among many, many other domestic and international opportunities.
It may seem counterintuitive to pay for volunteering with animals abroad. And in some cases it is—it’s crucial to do your due diligence before you fork your money over to one of these paid programs.
Nevertheless, legitimate programs for volunteering with animals abroad offer several benefits, including:
When selecting an international program offering opportunities to volunteer to help animals, start with the reviews. Read recent and past client feedback to check for consistency in the agency’s support, treatment of the animals where they work, and overall value.
Furthermore, verify if the agency has mandatory fundraising or donation requirements that they’ll give to the place you volunteer. There’s nothing wrong with such policies, as long as it fits within your budget and you can check that 100% of donated/fundraised money goes to the animal shelter.
A plethora of volunteer with animals abroad options exist. Some of the most popular include:
I volunteered with International Volunteer HQ back when the company had just started, so I can vouch for their legitimacy.
If you speak the local language or enjoy the challenge and flexibility that comes with doing unguided international travel, connecting directly with animal shelters is an excellent option.
Doing a quick Google search with the name of the city and country you’ll be visiting is often the best way to identify shelters. From there, you can reach out to them and arrange a volunteer visit (or donation drop-off with the money you save from not paying for a volunteer program).
If you need a “helping paw,” at Leaving Pawprints we’re all about giving volunteer wannabes information about volunteering at animal shelters around the globe. We’ve personally volunteered at or talked with all the animal shelters that we feature.
In addition to giving you detailed information about the shelter’s background, we describe their volunteer and donation needs. We also share the best way to get in contact with them so that you can arrange a volunteer visit(s) that works for both of you.
Are you curious to see if we’ve partnered with an animal shelter in the destination that you’ll be visiting? Check out our volunteer page to learn more.
Whether you volunteer domestically or internationally, with dogs or lions, there’s an animal rescue center in need of your support.
Have you already volunteered with any of the organizations we talked about here? Do you have a different animal shelter or means of volunteering that you want to share? If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section.
Finally, we’re sending you a “paw-five” for wanting to get out there and help animals!
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-analytics||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Analytics".|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-functional||11 months||The cookie is set by GDPR cookie consent to record the user consent for the cookies in the category "Functional".|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-necessary||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookies is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Necessary".|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-others||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Other.|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-performance||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Performance".|