Benefits for Children Volunteering at an Animal Shelter

Why should children be allowed to volunteer at an animal shelter. Is volunteering at an animal shelter safe for kids. Why do shelters have age limits for volunteers. Learn about the benefits for children who volunteer to help with homeless pets.

Kids often desire to volunteer at an animal shelter but there are a couple of stumbling blocks. Often shelters will not allow kids as volunteers, but as well, volunteering an an animal shelter is not something many parents consider for their kids who love pets.

Age Requirements for Volunteering at an Animal Shelter

Most animal shelters have minimum age requirements for children volunteers. In some areas this may be 14, in others it may be 16. These laws are usually because of their insurance. If something happened to a child there must be somebody responsible for them, or they must be old enough to be responsible for themselves (16 is often legally an age of responsibility).

Dealing with Age Requirements at Animal Shelters

Most shelters (humane societies, SPCA, and so forth) that allow volunteers, allow children to volunteer when they are with their parent or other responsible individual. In other words if the parent, older sibling, or other adult can accompany the child, then volunteering at most animal shelters is fine. This is relatively simple to check, phone and ask.

Different Animal Shelters Need Different Volunteers

Any one interested in being a volunteer at an animal shelter should check to see what they can do. There are 2 main systems, one in which the volunteers act as staff (it is less likely for under aged people to volunteer for these shelters) and the other where volunteers do jobs such as walking the dogs, playing with the cats, rabbits, and so forth.

These positions are often on a drop in basis, but some shelters do keep volunteers on a schedule.

Volunteer positions for children, and teens, are best done when the people are free to come during open hours but without worrying about a schedule.

Fund raising is another opportunity that youths can participate in. However kids should not go around on their own claiming to be collecting money for a certain shelter – rather they should work with the shelter on planned fund raising activities.

Is Volunteering at an Animal Shelter Safe for Children?

Volunteers who are not scheduled as staff will not knowingly be put in positions where they will be working with sick, or dangerous animals. However a friendly animal might become aggressive, or a healthy animal might show signs of sickness, of course shelter staff should be notified of this, but it should not be a fear that prevents children from being allowed to volunteer with pets and animals.

Some volunteer duties don't involve animals at all. Laundry may need to be washed and folded, dishes done, of their may even be office work, such as photocopying, that a youth could do.

It is up to the responsible person to be sure the child is safe, for example they should not walk dogs that are too strong for them, nor be rough with any animal.

One concern might be if there are pets at home, the risk of bringing a disease home.  Volunteers often wear smocks over their clothing while at the shelter, or should change when they get home.  If the shelter staff know a person has pets at home, they can instruct volunteers to stay away during disease outbreaks.  Pet owners should always have their own animals vaccinated.

authors adopted cat

Authors sleepy cat - adoped years ago.  Volunteers (and SPCA staff kept her happy at the shelter while he waited to get a forever home.

Benefits of Children Volunteering at an Animal Shelter

Kids gain a lot of pet knowledge, volunteering is a great way for kids to be around animals they love, and to learn about them, particularly if they are not able to have a pet of their own, of if they are trying to learn more about which pet type is best for them.

Kids who want to can learn how to read animals emotions and body language.

Children who volunteer with animals will learn compassion, and hopefully be better stewards to encourage others to be better pet owners, and particularly to encourage people to spay/neuter their pets – thus ending the overflowing numbers of pets admitted to a shelter (in the USA alone over 9 million animals are admitted to animal shelters every year).

Volunteering in of itself is a very selfless act. Even if the child's motivation is selfish to begin with (they just want to get a pet) it often becomes a selfless act as they learn that the animals mental, or physical, wellbeing is in their hands.

Volunteering looks excellent on a resume, or scholarship application. Occasionally a volunteer position will expand into a paid position when the person is old enough if they have shown themselves to be competent, good with the animals – and current staff!

*Authors note:  My daughter and I started volunteering for an SPCA when she was 5 years old.  We did a lot of dog walking, playing with cats and rabbits, and also took many orphaned animals home for foster care.

Related Links

Frequently Asked Questions about Animal Shelters and Pet Rescues

Facts about Volunteering for an Animal Shelter or Pet Rescue

Buying at Pet Stores Supports a Cruel Industry

How to Start a Dog Rescue


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Jerry Walch
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Posted on Jan 8, 2011
Heather Tooley
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Posted on Jan 7, 2011