How Old should Volunteers Be in an Animal Shelter?

April 18, 2013

Volunteers in animal shelters should be over the age of 18, and there are a number of very good reasons why:

Animals are unpredictable:

And so are children. This mix can be dangerous. The unfortunate fact is that many animals who find their way into a shelter will have been mistreated, neglected, or abused. Others may simply be untrained and therefore, highly unpredictable. If you add children into this mix, who may not have matured fully enough to understand how to behave around animals, the result could be tragic.

You’re dealing with live beings – that need a special level of care:

If you’re thinking about volunteering at an animal shelter, remember that these cute and cuddly creatures are live beings that need to be handled in a specific way.

Points to consider may include:

– How you approach a nervous animal
– The correct way to pick up small animals
– Which foods are safe for certain species
– How to protect yourself when around a potentially dangerous animal

Although all of the above can be taught, it is not fair, either on the child or the animals, to expect an adolescent to understand and implement all of these practices correctly.

The role can test emotions:

Arguably the biggest downfall to volunteering at an animal shelter is the emotions involved. As well as regularly interacting with animals that may have been maltreated and are distressed or in pain, there is a very real possibility that those who work or volunteer at an animal shelter will be forced to deal with the death of an animal they have come to love.

Dealing with death is difficult at any age, but can prove much harder for those who have not fully matured emotionally or have limited experience in coping with loss.

The fact is that while a child may be perfectly capable of caring for the family pet, this does not mean they are ready to cope with animals that may be hurt, ill, abused, or mentally unstable. The fact is that it simply isn’t fair on either the animal or the child to put them in this position of responsibility.

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