An animal shelter depends on volunteers for almost everything. Paid staff are a luxury and, thus, thin on the ground.

However, because volunteers are not paid, it can sometimes be hard to hold them properly accountable for their work. They don’t have as much to lose if you ask them to leave. Because they aren’t being paid, they may bail on time they committed to (sometimes with a good reason, sometimes not). So, how do you keep volunteers on the ball?

First, a good volunteer coordinator is worth his or her weight in gold – enough that sometimes it’s best to make this a paid position, especially as it can easily turn into a full time job. A good coordinator will track everyone’s hours and responsibilities, make sure that genuine emergencies are appreciated and covered for, and find out who’s really doing what so that freeloaders can be dealt with.

Second, make sure your volunteers are happy with the tasks they are assigned. For example, some people volunteer for animal shelters because they prefer animals over people – those people are best off in the back cleaning cages and feeding rather than on the front desk. Rotating the unpleasant tasks so that nobody has to do too much of them can also help.

Third, make sure all of your volunteers are invested in the cause. You don’t want kids whose parents told them they have to volunteer for animal shelters (or anything else). All volunteers should believe in the work and want to be there. If you have high school or college age volunteers, you might be able to make their work into an internship that will give them college credit.

Finally, keep the shelter organized and expectations clear and reasonable. Having a white board with a list of tasks and who is supposed to do them will help shame those who don’t hold their end up and also make sure tasks are completed when a volunteer has to stay late at paid work or has a sick child. Structuring tasks also makes the work go faster. If somebody chooses to volunteer for animal shelters, they deserve clear rules and expectations – and so do the animals.


There are a number of steps which can contribute to the success of running volunteer meetings for your organization.  Here are five easy ones to remember and implement.

1. Make an agenda. A meeting without an agenda is like a ship without a captain. The agenda sets the course of the meeting and helps leaders and attendees navigate their way through the process with clarity. The agenda should include these basics: a) who do you want at the meeting, b) what do you want to accomplish at the meeting (it is recommended you keep this to between 3 – 5 items), c) set the timing for the meeting, the date, time, location, and length.

2. Decide on invitees. Send out an invitation using an internet service like Evite, or Google Docs.  List several different potential dates and times and a way for invitees to respond with their preferences. If people are going to be joining the meeting from far away, set up a way to facilitate their ‘attendance’ by using Skype or GoToMeeting or some other electronic forum.

3. Paperwork and Document Preparation. Distribute copies of the agenda, and any supporting documents you need to have present that explain the agenda items, well in advance. If the attendees are local within your company, you can distribute hard copies or emails with attachments. For distant invitees, services like Google Docs work well for distributing to large groups of people, and afford the additional benefit of being able to make and evaluate comments and revisions to documents.

4. Snacks. If your meeting is going to take place in person, have an assortment of healthy snacks and beverages on hand for the attendees. Take care to make sure that the snacks are kept in a healthy manner (chilled when necessary, etc).

5. Assign someone the task of taking notes during the meeting. A good written record will be an invaluable tool for follow-up after the meeting and provide a historical record of what occurred, especially in regard to the action items and the discussion points that led up to making decisions at the meeting.

Working with volunteers, it is important that the organization makes the volunteers feel their donation of time is valued.  You can make sure your volunteers feel this way by valuing their input at the meetings, or by distributing tee-shirts that make them feel like they are part of the organization.

When running an animal shelter it is often tempting to keep your focus on the care and treatment of the animals. However owners of the shelters should be aware of weaknesses within the organization that can affect their day to day running and effectiveness.

Weaknesses in the processes at your animal shelter can lead to ineffective care to the animals. It is hard to see problems from the inside but visitors will easily see them and any apparent fault seen may affect the amount patrons donate or animal adoption rates. Without this support from the public; the care for the animals in your care will suffer.

You should conduct reviews on a regular basis to spot areas in need of improvement. Reviews are the best method to identify weaknesses in your processes. You may feel that managers are best suited for this role, but staff can play an important part too. It is the staff and volunteers who are regularly following the process and so pick up on problems that managers might not realize are present. If both management and staff compile their lists of weaknesses, you may find common issues which should become the key areas to improve.

It is best practice that reviews are completed on a regular basis. If they are done too infrequently; then problems may arise that could have been avoided. However animal shelters should be careful not to do them too often as this can hinder the running of the organization. A recommended time period between reviews is about three months.

Owners are also encouraged to carry out staff and volunteer performance reviews. This will aid in recognizing unfamiliarity with processes or skill sets that are incomplete. Once these areas have been identified, your staff can be given extra training improving their abilities. Training has also been proven to improve moral which can boost performance at an animal shelter.

Once areas needing improvement have been acknowledged you can formulate a step by step action plan to tackle each one. Keep each step simple and specific so it is easy to follow and implement. Inform your staff to make sure that they know what they have to do.

You will notice that as soon as improvements are implemented, the care you provide for the animals will be better. Thus keeping your high standard of care image to visitors; gaining their continued support.

Are you having difficulty finding homes for the furry friends in your animal adoption facility?  If so, there is an easy and helpful way that you could increase the exposure of the animals you have available for adoption.  If you work or volunteer in the animal shelter industry, chances are that you have a love for animals and would adopt them all if you could.  Although it may not be feasible to keep all of the pets for yourself, use pet adoption directories online to help increase adoptions.

Petfinder– is an easy to use directory that allows you to simply go to the website, type in what breed, the age, the sex, and the location of the pet that you want.  With over 360,000 pets available now, animal lovers are sure to find what they are looking for.– This organization has been helping find pets homes since 2003.  Do a quick search on their website with your preferences to find the pet that is right for you. This directory is compiled of animals found in shelters and rescues nationwide.

Adopt a Pet– Visit to search for not only cats and dogs, but other animals as well.  This website makes it easy to find the right pet for you.

Let everyone know that choosing to adopt a pet can help to save lives.  These directories make it easier than ever before to find the right furry friends

Your animal shelter provides an invaluable service not only to the animals you rescue, but the communities in which you reside. Often operating on a limited budget and depending on volunteers and donations to get by can put a strain on your resources and limit the amount of service you can provide. A fundraiser provides you with an excellent opportunity to gain not only an infusion of cash but awareness and support within your community. Planning such an event is a daunting task, but by knowing your audience and playing to your strengths your fundraising efforts can be wildly successful.

Begin your fundraising efforts by first identifying your needs. Make a list of what items or programs most need funding and list them by priority. Not only will this give you a clear indication of your own goals, but it can also serve to educate the public on why you need their support. Once this is complete, it is time to start working on your plan to raise the money you require. A long term fundraiser can take many forms. You may choose to host several awareness events such as: adoption drives, obedience classes, or dog walking events in local parks. Alternatively, you may choose to reach out to local businesses and partner with them for long term fundraising. You may even choose to do a mixture of several approaches depending on your needs. Try coming up with a list of frequent donors or volunteers. People that you have relied on in the past are typically eager to help with future fundraisers. Additionally, these people may also have contacts with the local government or businesses that would be willing to help with your fundraising efforts. The last thing you need to consider is how you will promote awareness of your fundraiser. Refer to the list of priorities you made earlier. Contact your local news media and ask them if they would be willing to run a story on your shelter. Play up your most urgent needs and show the public why you are asking for help.

Fundraising is always an uncertain and stressful task. However, the proper planning relieves much of the burden and allows you to focus on the important issues. Be sure to articulate your needs, ask your supporters for assistance and get the word out to the public.

Off-site adoptions most of the time are used by various animal shelters and rescue facilities to increase homeless adoptions of pets.  Most animal lovers are not very keen on going to animal shelters so having an off-site adoption is a great way to reach more people.  These types of adoptions do require more planning and a bit more effort but they are well worth it in the end.  There are a few tips that you need to tell your volunteers so that the off-site adoptions will go off without a hitch.

Be certain that your volunteers know what they are supposed to do.  While this may sound a bit obvious, it will save time and chaos down the road.  Be certain that everyone knows their tasks beforehand.

Let all of the volunteers know how to arrange the crates and cages so that most of the people will be able to see each pet.  The best way to do this is to put the puppies and kittens towards the back.  These are the ones that usually get adopted out first before older dogs and cats.

Assign a few volunteers to be in charge of keeping the cages clean and also making sure that the pets have fresh water bowls.  Clean cages and happy pets are much more appealing to pick up and play with.

For animal lovers and those who work with animals, whether it is at an animal shelter, veterinary clinic, or boarding facility, one of the things that you may think of least is what to do in the event of a serious emergency or natural disaster.  The animals that depend on you for shelter, security, and sustenance will also depend on you for their safety in times of crisis, and you need to be prepared in the unfortunate event that something happens to require that your beloved animals be evacuated.

Here are some tips to help you be prepared if the worst happens, and to ensure that the animals in your care are provided for in a way that ensures their safety and well-being:

  1. Have a contingency plan that is documented and has been distributed to all vital staff members.
  2. Organize a crisis team that will respond to your clinic or shelter in the event of an emergency or natural disaster that requires evacuation of the animals.
  3. Establish at least two alternate off-site locations for relocating the animals if they must be evacuated.  You will want these locations to be prepared to house your animals on a long-term basis if it becomes necessary.
  4. Ensure that your facility has adequate transportation containers available for any animals that must be relocated and cannot be leashed and led (such as cats, sick or injured animals, or animals that are not socialized with other animals).  Also, designate which vehicles will be used for transport and who will be driving them.
  5. Make sure there is plenty of food, water, bedding, medicine, and other necessities stored at your alternate animal shelter locations in the event you are unable to take any supplies from your current site.
  6. Decide on the primary route to your evacuation destination and then select at least two alternate routes, in case one or more of your points of egress is blocked.  Make sure your staff knows these routes.

Managing an evacuation at your animal shelter or clinic does not have to be a confusing and stressful ordeal for you or the animals in your care, as long as you are prepared in advance and have properly prepared your staff for such an emergency.  Above all else, make sure you remain as calm as possible and keep the chaos to a minimum, to lessen the potentially negative impact on the animals that will be depending on you to get them to safety.

While it is difficult to think of animals in shelters, either abandoned or never really wanted, it is even more heartbreaking to find special needs animals there. They may have a disability from birth, an accident, or abuse. Many of these critters can deal with their disability and become great additions to a family that has the heart to take them in.

As a foster guardian; you may have to prepare your home for a special needs dog or cat. Perhaps, the animal is partially or totally blind. You should make your home, or that foster’s living space safe for him or her. Remove sharp objects; make sure there are no electrical cords or anything else to get tangled up in. Dogs without vision are often more defensive and need you to move slowly around them. Maybe the animal only has one eye, which, while he can see, the peripheral vision is off and you must catch his attention on his good side.

Some pets are born deaf. This especially found in pure white cats and dogs, purebred and mixed. Some, who buy these pets as youngsters may misinterpret the problem and just think that a pet doesn’t pay attention This, unfortunately can lead to abuse and/or abandonment.

As a foster, you can help teach a deaf or hard-of-hearing dog a sign language that can also be taught to new adopters. Using signs that are also used in obedience training, work as a great universal language. Care must be given, especially when out on walks with deaf dogs, as they do not hear traffic sounds. Deaf cats should have indoor-only foster and permanent homes.

There are other great special needs animals in shelters that have the potential for great pets. Those who are missing a limb, or part of one, can easily adapt to that problem and will still outrun its human counterparts.

As fosters, there is so much that you can do to enhance potential pets that should not have to live out their last days as animals in shelters. They is hope for them, even those with special needs, to live a long and happy life in a new home that will appreciate them as part of the family. It just takes a little time and some caring help.