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Make a Difference in a Pet’s Life by Volunteering at The Humane Society

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What’s the next-best thing to owning a pet? For many, it’s the opportunity to be part of an animal-loving community. You will find exactly that at The Humane Society, a registered charity that has been providing care, comfort and compassion to animals in need for well over a century. Our lives are super-busy and the time you can offer is a most precious gift. This episode describes the many ways you can volunteer with this organization that values all animals and advocates to treat them with respect and kindness.

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Things We Do For Pets

Gimme shelter

Have you ever visited an animal shelter? Were you struck by the sense that it can be a miraculously joyful place and yet, at the same time, heart-wrenchingly sad? I feel you nodding in agreement.

At first, you are greeted by exuberant puppies vying for your attention while nonchalant cats pretend not to watch your every move. Groups of tiny kittens steal the scene as they frolic in their cages and tumble around in a big ball of fluffiness. Then your attention moves to the quieter ones… the ones who have been there a little longer. Some of them may be a little older or have gone through physical ordeals or – through no fault of their own – have been labelled as less desirable.

You have to wonder if those pleading eyes are trying to tell you that you might be their last chance for a forever home. If these critters don’t firm up your resolve to adopt every single one of them, consider the next best thing: the option of helping out as a volunteer.

You can make a difference in these animals’ lives

In Canada, the shelters you will visit are for the most part run by The Humane Society, a registered charity that has been providing care, comfort and compassion to animals in need for well over a century. The Humane Society is part of Humane Canada, the largest community of animal welfare organizations in Canada. It is made up of 170 provincial Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCAs) along with the Humane Societies.

These organizations value all animals and advocate for treating them with respect and kindness.

Their raison d’etre is to keep pets and families together through a variety of community support services, such as emergency sheltering, adoptions, caring for lost pets, feral cat management programs, animal transfers, food distribution, humane education, animal advocacy, and spay/neuter services.

The close-up of a dog with a sad eye is poignant and draws attention to the importance of volunteering at the Humane Society.
Close-up of a Dog with sad eye  (Photo by Massimilianofinzi –

According to a recent report published by Humane Canada, more than 58,000 cats and around 20,000 dogs took refuge in animal shelters during 2020. These shelters also took in 11,000 animals of other species. These included small mammals, like mice, guinea pigs, and rabbits, and more exotic pets, like parrots, pythons, and tortoises.

It surprised me to learn that approximately 400 kittens are born every day on Toronto streets during the spring and summer!

With the help of ID tags, microchip identification, advanced alert networks, and social media, 28% of shelter dogs and 5% of cats were successfully reclaimed by their owners. That’s an amazing record! But the most common outcome for surrendered pets in shelters is adoption, at the rate of 70% for cats and 45% for dogs. Thank your deity of choice that at the heart of this charity is the commitment to minimize euthanasia to the most necessary, humane instances.

We have talked and written about animal adoption and rescue. For the record, in my opinion it can not be talked about enough! But today’s focus is more about hanging at the shelter without being arrested for loitering. If you can spare a few hours each week, consider the worthy cause of volunteering.

volunteering at the Humane Society is a great way to be around animals, make new friends, share your skills and learn new ones

It’s the next best thing to owning your own pet. If for whatever reason you are not quite ready or able to make the commitment to a permanent adoption, volunteering at the Humane Society is a great way to be around animals, make new friends, share your skills and learn new ones.

Volunteers are essential for the Humane Society to carry out its mission and provide quality care for the animals. As long as you are at least 14 years old, and pass their admission assessment, there are lots of ways to contribute.

You might be surprised at all the ways you can contribute to the well-being of pets and operational excellence at the Humane Society.

Let’s take a look at some volunteer opportunities:

😺🐶 Temporary foster care

If an animal needs extra attention or medical treatment, a foster parent can offer a temporary home to provide around-the-clock care. This does require experience with pets and even a medical background in some cases. There are folks who have been filling this need for many years, taking in numerous pets at the same time. The challenge here is to not become so emotionally involved that you want to keep them all.

😺🐶 Kitten feeding

This job has the highest cuteness factor of all! It may not seem like a lot, but bottle-feeding the newborns can be time-consuming. Between the on-site cats having litters and incoming babies whose owners cannot keep them, there are always plenty of mouths to be fed!

😺🐶 Office help

From greeting visitors to answering phones and all the administrative work involved in running a business, the shelters can always use an extra pair of hands.

😺🐶 Kennel help

Those extra hands are equally welcome with general tasks in the shelter like cleaning cages, keeping food and water bowls full, regular grooming and walking dogs. Playing with the animals and making sure they get exercise are vital to keeping them healthy, active and adorable for potential owners.

😺🐶 Helping with adoption drives

The shelters hold regular events to draw in the public and attract new pet parents. Depending on your interests and skills, you can help with community marketing, social media and even contribute to the screening process at busy times.

😺🐶 Delivering humane treatment education

Again depending on your experience and talents, you could participate in the Society’s goal of educating members of the community on the importance of responsible pet ownership.

😺🐶 Knitting blankets and creating toys

If you are a crafty somebody who chooses to volunteer from the comfort of your own home, put your knitting needles and crochet hooks into action making blankets for pet cages or creating homemade toys. Imagine all the little doggie sweaters and tiny quilts that you could produce in a sewing circle with your friends.

😺🐶 Fundraising

This last item on my list may very well be the most important: helping to raise much-needed financial support.

The Humane Society is a charitable organization that relies on sponsorships and community donations. Joining like-minded people in coming up with and implementing new ways to inspire giving can be a pleasant social interaction for a very good cause.

Getting back to the requirements and process, I mentioned you can start at the minimum age of 14. At that age, you would be ready to take part in the Youth Volunteer Program. This is a special opportunity for young people between 14 and 18 who want to make a difference in the lives of animals. Youth volunteers usually help with camp programming throughout the year, where they can gain experience in leading groups of children, handling companion animals, and learning about animal care and welfare.

Participating in this program is a great way to also build life skills. Being dependable, trustworthy and punctual are three traits that every employer you ever work for will value. The ability to follow instructions, work as part of a team and maintain a bright, positive outlook are also important assets that will serve you well throughout whatever career you may choose.

The Humane Society in Canada

The Humane Society in Canada is careful about selecting volunteers, and they do have a strict initial assessment and onboarding procedure. The process may vary slightly from one shelter to the next and will depend on the role you are offering to take on.

First, you must be at least 18 years old (except for the youth volunteer program).

All candidates need to submit an application form and pass a phone interview. This meeting allows them to assess your skills and temperament in order to match you with the most suitable assignment.

You will then need to provide permission and contact information for the Society to check your background. Once past this stage, you will be invited to attend at least one orientation session. Finally, the organization will schedule the training you need to perform the duties. They generally look for a commitment of at least one year.

Youth volunteers must also complete an application form, a waiver, a phone screen or an in-person interview, and a mandatory orientation/training session before volunteering at camp.

The Mobile Spay Neuter Clinic truck owned by the Ottawa Humane Society provides subsidized feline spay neuter surgeries for low-income pet owners in targeted Ottawa neighbourhoods.
The Ottawa Humane Society’s truck that provides subsidized feline neutering surgeries. (Photo by Paul Mckinnon –

The Humane Society in Ontario

If you are interested in volunteering for the Humane Society in Ontario, you can check out their website or contact your local branch to find out more about their specific opportunities and requirements. You can also read some of the stories and testimonials from other volunteers who have shared their experiences and insights. Volunteering for the Humane Society is a rewarding and meaningful way to give back to your community and help animals in need. You won’t regret it!

And, just maybe, once you are settled in and know your family is ready to love and care for a full-time pet, chances are you will have bonded with a furry creature ready to love you back!

So that’s it for today. Gotta be on time for my shift. Those kittens won’t feed themselves!

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Things we do for Pets

Podcast: Things We Do For Pets
Made possible with the support of Ontario Creates

Directed by: Teresa Botelho
Content writing: Lauri Richardson
Pre-production & research: Ana Carolina Botelho
Recording / Editing / Social Media: Christian Pedersen
Host: Eric Major
Vignettes & special effects: Robson DJ Estudio 
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