Home > Becoming a Volunteer > Working With Animals

Working With Animals

By: Leigh Sexton - Updated: 24 Jun 2022 | comments*Discuss
Animal Volunteer Animals Wildlife

Volunteering with animals is one of the most popular volunteer choices and for many people it is a real vocation to give up some of their time to work with or for an animal charity or organisation. It’s a rewarding task which has a wide range of opportunities such as:

  • dog walking, socialisation and kennel cleaning with a dogs’ home or rescue trust.
  • assisting veterinarians and other specialists in looking after injured wildlife.
  • volunteering at a local community or city farm.
  • monitoring, surveying and improving habitats for local wildlife.
  • working with feral cats and on cat rehoming.
  • helping out at a local zoo, wildlife park or animal sanctuary.
  • fundraising for a local shelter or sanctuary.

Commitment And Care

It’s quite common for people to think they want to work with animals but discover, quite quickly, that they struggle to maintain the level of detachment required when working with sick or injured animals or those that have been subject to cruelty or neglect. It takes a special kind of person, compassionate without ‘taking home’ the emotions of the workplace, to cope with the sharp end of animal volunteering. If you find that actually working with animals is not for you, don’t be discouraged, consider how you can distance yourself a little from the emotional load and still assist the animals you are so concerned about. For example you could fund-raise or give talks in local schools or businesses to raise awareness of the issue. Many animal related charities also require event organisers, photographers and people to help with administration and publicity.

If you do find you can work directly with animals, you will find that at times it can mean a lot hard, physical work which can be seasonal. For example, wildlife sanctuaries and bird charities find that they are inundated with injured or supposedly abandoned fledgling birds in spring, but have little to do in winter. Alternatively, the period soon after Christmas can be demanding in cat and dog shelters when pets bought for Christmas presents are abandoned or handed in by those who realise they cannot cope with the commitment.

Training And Skills

Whilst few animal charities require specific skills of their general volunteers, most will expect you to have some key attributes that make it easier for you to work with animals. These are:

  • Being comfortable around animals.
  • Able to recognise when an animal is uncomfortable or unwell and seek specialist help.
  • Relaxed in situations of stress or pressure.
  • Patience – more than anything else, working with animals means not have a time-table because animals don’t function to deadlines!
  • Gap Year And Overseas Animal Volunteering

    Working with animals in your gap year or taking a career break to do something animal-related is very popular, and while some charities ask for evidence that you’ve volunteered with animals before, others simply take your word for it that you will be able to cope with animal behaviour once you get to your destination.

    It’s a very good idea to try and volunteer with animals before travelling to a strange place to serve as a volunteer, especially if you’re going to be expected to work with large animals. Some people find it extremely daunting to be exposed to wild animals much bigger than anything they are used to at home, while others find the cultural norms of other peoples when dealing with animals to be disturbing and difficult to accept. This can make an intensive animal-based voluntary project highly challenging to the unprepared volunteer.

    You might also like...
    Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
    [Add a Comment]
    How do I participate to volunteer with animals? Its my dream volunteering career I'd love to do
    Nado - 24-Jun-22 @ 11:08 AM
    I am in sixth form, just turned 17 and have loved animals since I was a child i have always wanted to be a vet or work with animals in some way, im trying find voluntary places in my area but am struggling, i have a lot of passion for working with animals and would love to have something else to keep me busy when im not at school studying.
    ellie - 6-Oct-21 @ 6:17 PM
    hi im 14 and i have a love for animals and im doing bronze DofE this year.I need to volunteer and i want to do something i would enjoy, aka being with animals. I have a 14 year old staffy who is my bestfriend and has been since we were 3! i would love to have the opportunity to help and talk more about what i could do, please get back to me, thanks!
    libby - 14-Jul-21 @ 1:25 PM
    I am 14 and can't find anywhere in cardiff that will let me volunteer to look after animals. My goal is to become a vet when I leave school so I would love to start now so I get a better chance of becoming the best I can when I pass the exams needed for a vet.
    Hols - 1-Jul-21 @ 10:35 PM
    I am looking for an animal volunteering experience that can help with dofe and the future. I’m 13 and have tried lots of different places.
    Chloe - 27-Sep-20 @ 6:33 PM
    Hello I am Nathan I am looking to do volunteering as I aspire to be an exotic vet as I am currently the owner of 11 animals. Including 2 water dragons named groot and hoodini, 2 created geckos named sunny and stumpy, 2 royal pythons names Theodore and Hercules, 2 corn snakes named Alex and zeus, 2 leopard geckos named rusty and snowy and a dog called lola
    Nate - 6-Feb-20 @ 7:53 PM
    Hi and I’m freya! I’m currently about to start my bronze award for dofe and because of my live for helping out animals I wanted to go for animal welfare side of things. At the moment I am really struggling with finding a place so any advice I would really appreciate. Many thanks
    freyagiles - 28-Nov-19 @ 9:14 PM
    I am currently in year 10, starting my Duke of Edinburgh Silver award and would like to know if you have any kitten socialisation volunteer spaces available?I have already contacted your Cats Protection and unfortunately they are not taking on any more volunteers.Is there anywhere you could suggest that I can get involved in this or any other type of care handling cats or kittens?
    Joe - 3-Nov-19 @ 2:15 PM
    Hi, my name is Anokhi and I just started sixth form. I was looking for a hands on volunteering position with animals (particularly dogs) in the London area. I hope to hear from you soon. Thank you!
    Anokhi - 18-Oct-19 @ 6:43 PM
    Hi! I'm Laxcy and I've just started sixth form in Brent. I love working with animals and was wondering about any weekend volunteering opportunities in my area.
    Laxcy - 24-Sep-19 @ 10:22 PM
    Hi my name is Shania I am 14 and I would love to volunteer with animals as animals are amazing. I would like some help on where to find somewhere to volunteer. Thank you
    Shania - 7-May-19 @ 7:38 AM
    Hello! I’m Kat, I’m currently 13 and I’m starting a DofE soon and want a volunteering job around animals. Any ideas of where I can find information about this? It would be so helpful and I would greatly appreciate it!
    Kat - 22-Jan-19 @ 7:35 PM
    Hi I’m currently 15 (16 in January) I am just wondering if anyone knows of any volunteer work with working with animals. I’m from Manchester so would need to be around there. Just can’t find any that will allow under 18’s. What should I do/go?
    LucyCrompton - 11-Oct-18 @ 6:47 PM
    hi, i'm Etienne and i'm 13 and starting my DofE soon but i wasn't sure where your are based.
    Etienne - 6-Oct-18 @ 3:38 PM
    hia , im fia , im 14 an i would absolutely love to volunteer ! i live in manchester and any kind of animal is great with me im just not sure how to apply any information would be so helpful thank you :)
    fia - 25-Aug-18 @ 5:00 PM
    Hi,my name is Shauna I’m 13 (14 in less than 2 months) and I really want to start volunteering and working with animals .i have a chameleon that is fully my responsibility two dogs and a bearded dragon ,I love dogs and reptiles but to be honest I generally just love all animals .im up to doing anything even not the most wanted jobs like cleaning out kennels and enclosure etc as long as it means being around animals so yeah .
    Shauna - 24-Jul-18 @ 8:06 PM
    Hi, my name is Hannah and I love animals. I am 14 and would love to work with cats, nothing that involves fostering. I don’t mind working with other animals in the slightest though. I live the the Twickenham/Richmond area, where should I go?
    Hannah - 9-Jul-18 @ 7:52 PM
    Hi there! My friend and I are 13 turning 14 at the end of the year and we’re wondering how we could go about volunteering. Our parents can’t volunteer with us, which we know is a problem in some shelters, but we were wondering if there were and shelters in the Manchester/Warrington area that would allow us to volunteer. Thanks
    Hgrimes_ - 2-Jun-18 @ 9:19 PM
    Hi, my name is Shan. I'm 15 years old, turning 16 in september. I love working with animals, mainly dogs, but I love all animals! Would you be able to help me, please?
    Shan - 9-May-18 @ 2:51 PM
    i live in near coventry in the west midlands and i'm looking for a volunteering job with animals mainly dogs.
    Sian - 1-Sep-17 @ 4:54 AM
    hi, i'm sian and i am 14 years old. i've always wanted to work with animals and i've looked everywhere online but i can't find a volunteering job for me. can someone please help me?
    sian - 1-Sep-17 @ 4:51 AM
    Hi my name is Sophia I am 15 yrs old and looking to volunteer with animals at the weekends. I live in Kent near Sevenoaks if you know of anything around that area that I could do please let me know. Thankyou
    Sophia - 30-Aug-17 @ 6:55 PM
    Hi! I'm 14 in 19 days and I'm thinking of volunteering. I live in Manchester..I'm interested in working with animals. What should I do/go?
    Alice9481 - 16-Jul-17 @ 8:17 PM
    My granddaughter currently looking for volunteer work opportunities with animals. Rescue centres , vets . Hoping to find one soon to complete DovE bronze award Kiera is 14 yrs old and lives in Glasgow. Any advice welcome .
    Beth - 26-Jun-17 @ 11:35 PM
    Hi, i turn 14 in August,I do love animals and i would love to volunteer. I need all the experience i can get as i do wish to work with animals as a future career. I have looked at many websites hiring but i have only found this, i am really interested in volunteering :)
    Emma - 17-Jun-17 @ 9:28 PM
    HI my names hannah, I have a massive love for animals and have always wanted to help out I live in Ipswich. I'm 13 turning 14 in a few months, I would love to walk some dog. What should I do?? Where should I go??
    Hannah - 13-Jun-17 @ 2:23 PM
    I am 13 and want to work with animals what should I do
    Lil - 5-May-17 @ 6:05 PM
    I am 13 I love animals and I love helping I was also wondering if I was too young but I would really love this opportunity thank you
    Habs - 22-Apr-17 @ 6:54 PM
    Hi, i'm 13 and love animals, i've been looking on a lot of websites who hire volunteers to work with animals under 16 but i can't find any, was wondering if anyone could help thanks
    Abi - 15-Apr-17 @ 10:52 PM
    Yes i will like to do volunteer working with the animal's
    Joshua - 8-Apr-17 @ 11:21 PM
    Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
    (never shown)
    (never shown)
    (never shown)
    (never shown)
    Enter word:
    Latest Comments