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Should I become an animal shelter volunteer or start my own pet organization?

Becoming a foster home: an option to help animals

If you want to help animals and wonder if you should volunteer at an animal shelter or start your own, becoming a foster home can be an option.

With rescue shelters being filled with animals in need of love, if you are asking yourself this question, the answer is that you should get started right away by helping your local shelter!



Starting your own rescue can take some time and a lot of planning logistics and strategy that you will certainly be in a better position to tackle after acquiring some experience first. Working for an established shelter can have some advantages:

  • You can enter the field fast and focus on what you love: caring for animals.
  • You avoid the legal, financial, and administrative burden required when owning an organization.
  • You will acquire field experience which will help you better understand the different aspects of running an animal rescue.

In addition to carrying out the organization’s mission, you can use your skills and expertise to find ways to enhance the current services offered, and propose solutions that help improve operations. Any issues that you face or service gaps that you identify can help you decide if starting your own organization would be the best way to serve your mission.

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If there aren’t any shelters nearby that you can volunteer at or if there aren’t any rescue organizations for the types of animals that you want to protect, then of course starting your own would be your only option.

Although most organizations would be delighted with your interest to lend a hand, it isn’t uncommon that well-intentioned animal lovers do not find the experience of volunteering as rewarding as they expected. The silver lining in these situations is that there are many ways to make a difference, so if none of the available volunteer positions sounds meaningful to you, trust your instincts and find your own way to contribute.

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Stick to your values and beliefs

Remaining faithful to your values and beliefs is important, so before signing up as volunteer for any animal organization, take an in-depth look at their policies and the values behind their mission. Every organization has its own policies, and the requirements and methods used to select potential adoption families for their pets are mainly based on past experience.

While many organizations rescue all kinds of animals, including those who are victims of abuse and suffering from terminal illnesses, many others do not have the ability to accept them. If your idea is to specialize in helping these kinds of animals, and no rescue in your area is offering them shelter, you can start your own sanctuary or a charity to encourage people to adopt special needs animals by helping them front the expenses associated with their care.

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Your values and beliefs must be aligned with the organization’s policy, particularly regarding their approach to animal behavioral problems and euthanasia. Fortunately, there are many shelters that do not accept euthanasia, even in cases of aggressiveness or terminal illnesses. These types of organizations are called “no-kill” shelters and they usually have trainers who specialize on animal behavior remediation. This approach does not only facilitate pet adoption and help families adapt to their new family member, but it also reduces the chances of the animal being surrendered again due to behavioral problems.

Unfortunately, some well-known organizations forget to mention their stance on euthanasia when they run their fundraising and marketing campaigns. For that reason, it is important that you do your own research before giving away your money or your time to support these organizations. Finding a cause that aligns with their values and beliefs is often what makes many people decide to start their own no-kill shelters and work tirelessly to get these animals out of death row.

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Getting involved in fostering programs

A great first step for anyone interested in starting a pet rescue is becoming a foster home. Some foster programs provide you with advice, gear, food, and veterinary support to ensure the pet’s well being, while you focus in keeping them happy, healthy, and trained, so they can find their forever home more easily.

You can maximize your impact by inspiring others to become foster families. This allows the shelter to have room for rescuing more animals and pet lovers who cannot commit to adopting, can still experience the happiness of having a pet and play an important role in helping them find their forever home.

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