As the volunteer manager for Animal Rescue New Orleans, just last week I was getting dozens of emails a day from students trying to get those last-minute service hours in. This week, my inbox sits empty. The dog days of summer are upon us, but the animals still need care every day.
With the school year winding down, students are going home for the summer, and we are seeing a large drop in volunteers. High school and college students fulfilling their community service requirements by volunteering at animal shelters and rescues play a critical role in helping to meet the day-to-day needs of shelter pets, in addition to giving homeless animals extra attention, playtime and exercise.
As a volunteer-based organization, ARNO could not exist without volunteers.
Caring for shelter pets is a 365-day-a-year job. Shelters and rescues depend on volunteers to operate daily. The animals need to be fed, walked and socialized, and kennels need to be cleaned every single day, sometimes multiple times a day. Giving time to help these animals while they wait for a home is a rewarding experience, and it makes a world of difference for the pets.
Making this time of year even harder for shelters and rescues is the fact that people often get out of their normal routines. Not only do students head home or take the summer off, but families leave for vacations.
If one has ever considered getting involved, now is the time.
Does the office want to do a day of service as a group? Are you a teacher out for the summer break? Retired and home during the day? Do you work shifts or nontraditional hours? Like to jog and need a four-legged partner? If you’re looking for ways to give back and love animals, there are plenty of opportunities.
For example, at ARNO, we have volunteer opportunities seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The hours make it convenient for volunteers to come in the evenings after work, on the weekends, weekday mornings, in the afternoons, etc.
At the shelter, duties include washing dishes, washing, folding and organizing laundry, sorting donations and organization, sweeping, mopping, gardening, etc., in addition to animal care — feeding, cleaning kennels, walking dogs, socializing cats, etc. At off-site events, volunteers are needed to help with fundraisers, transporting and showcasing dogs and cats to adoption events, and with clerical duties.
High school students can get a jump start on their upcoming community service hours, and some shelters and rescues will permit court-ordered community service hours to be served by volunteering.
Volunteers provide much-needed assistance to shelter staff and help contribute to the mental health, socialization and overall happiness of the animals waiting for forever homes.
Volunteers can also help by fostering animals in their homes and giving the animals a break from the shelter by taking them for an afternoon to a dog park or for a car ride to get a treat. Shelter dogs love a good outing. In addition, animal organizations need volunteers to help get animals to and from vet appointments, to photograph pets, write bios and more.
Here are a few organizations in the New Orleans metro area that have volunteer opportunities available all year long. Check with the individual organizations to see volunteer requirements as there may be age restrictions, etc.
THROUGH MAY 31: Jefferson Protection & Animal Welfare Services (JPAWS) West Bank Campus (2701 Lapalco Blvd. Harvey) will have dogs, cats, puppies and kittens available for adoption and looking for responsible, loving homes for a discounted adoption fee as part of the 29th annual Global Pet Adoptathon — in partnership with Rachael Ray Nutrish. Adoption fee for adult dogs who have been at the shelter for over 30 days is $10. Adoption Fee for puppies is $67. Adoption fees for cats and kittens are two for $15. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (504) 349-5111.
Traci D. Howerton is the volunteer coordinator for Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO), a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. For more information on ARNO, visit www.animalrescueneworleans.org.