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I want to help my local rescue group. I don't have any extra money but I have lots of extra time. What are some of the ways I can volunteer to help my rescue group?

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At the Shelter

Many rescue organizations have a shelter where they can keep rescued animals that are either difficult placements, need extra attention and training, and sometimes just because they do not have a home yet. These shelters are alot of work and are often primarily run by a very skeleton crew (often just a very few people). There are lots of things you may be able to do at the shelters:

  • Exercise and Socialization. One of the most important things for a rescue pet to improve their chances of adoption is to be socialized and get proper exercise. For dogs this can be walking and play, for cats maybe just spending time, for rabbits and small animals just petting and playing, for Horses it may be riding or walking on a lead. For every animal there is a rescue somewhere and those animals can really benefit from this attention.
  • Cleaning. When you have a large number of animals there is no end to the messes they make. This is alot of work and because of the thankless and dirtiness of the work it tends to fall on just the few people willing to help(often the leader of the rescue). Most rescues I have worked with (this is my 4th) have a schedule of cleaning activities so if you can help here that is a great assistance.
  • Maintenance and upkeep. The larger the animal the more likely they are to damage the pens and equipment. Helping keep things safe for the animals and volenteers is another never ending battle. If you have handyman skills this can be an invaluable service. Many rescues are in a continual process of trying to provide more room to rescue more animals. As resources become available there is also the need to create more enclosures and potentially structures to accomodate.
  • Grooming. Keeping the animals well groomed is a very important part of getting them adopted. It seems like a dog in a shelter will need at least some grooming almost daily and need a bath at least once a week. Other animals may need more or less grooming attention.

Overnight and short term fostering

Many times when an animal is pulled from a kill shelter it will take some time to get transport lined up to their destined foster facility or the rescue shelter. Short term fosters could be needed for a few weeks but usually just a few nights to a week. Also when animals are transported many times they will need an overnight stop or two before they make it to their destination.

The need for this type of fostering is sporatic and often short notice.

Adoption events

The key to getting the animals adopted is having them visible to potential adopters. For this we have events at local stores (usually on weekends) where the animals are there to be interacted with and potentially be exposed to their new pet parents. Aside from this exposure adoption events are an important part of getting the name of the rescue out, and to getting donations to help keep the rescue going.

Most of what is needed here is just someone to help mind both the animals and the people wanting to see and pet them. If you are someone who enjoys both people and animals this can be a really fun day, and fosters and rescue organisers really appreciate the help.

Transporter

The animals need to be moved occasionally. Sometimes this will be part of a relay that will move an animal from one part of the country to another. Others it may just be taking them to or from the vet or an adoption event. Relays are generally ~100 mile legs but local transports are rarely more than 20 miles.

Longer Term Foster

The best opportunity a rescue animal has is if it can be placed with a foster. This requires a much more dedicated commitment(see this question) but it can also be very personally rewarding. This gives the animal a chance to be socialized on a regular basis and to have some help correcting behavior issues.

This is not a great option for someone with little or no disposable income, but for the sake of completeness I have included it.

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    Another big need is photography. We have volunteers who spend significant time getting photogenic pictures of every new animal for the shelter's website and other publicity. – jalynn2 Nov 26 '14 at 15:03
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    I would also add behavior modification/obedience training. Many dogs are in shelters because they never received any training and they don't know how to live in a house without getting into trouble. – jalynn2 Nov 26 '14 at 15:05
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    I considered behavior training but decided to leave it off because most rescues want some advanced training for this. It is easy to make a bad behavior worse even though intentions were good. For instance many people try to train out growling and baring teeth. The problem is often this leads to an animal that will seem to lash out with no warning instead. – Critters Nov 26 '14 at 17:12

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