How you can help shelters and rescues: Volunteer!

By on May 11, 2015

Shelters and rescue organizations are the best, most local and caring places for adoptable animals in our communities. Many shelters and rescues operate only because of hours, dollars and miles put in by unpaid folks who care enough to dedicate everything they have to animal adoption efforts. Our largest mission at Pets in Omaha is to connect you with the people who care for, foster, rehabilitate and love animals between the time they become homeless and the time they are adopted.

We’ve worked with enough of these organizations to know that there are three things (the “pillars” of rescue, as we call them: volunteerism, increased awareness, donations) that every shelter and rescue needs to operate. This article highlights a rewarding and simple way you can help them help homeless animals-  volunteering!

Opportunities to volunteer are nearly endless. You can become a full-time volunteer at places who need a large number of hours like the Nebraska Humane Society. Part-time volunteers are needed at every shelter. Rescues operate only on volunteer hours and people are always needed to foster animals, help with events, transfer animals and advocate for awareness.

The best way to become a volunteer is to contact your favorite (or any!) shelter or rescue and tell them you’d like to help. In a shelter like the Nebraska Humane Society, you’ll likely need to fill out an application as they have almost too many people who’d like to volunteer on a regular basis. For rescues (especially smaller ones), the best way to grab an opportunity to volunteer is to contact volunteer coordinators with your willingness to help, a schedule which you are available for and maybe a note about what it is you’d like to do. Often, volunteers are needed for special events (like large fundraisers). Other times, volunteers are needed on demand like when an animal needs to be transferred from one place to another. Foster families are almost always in need, too. The more fosters there are, the more dogs a rescue can take in.

Here’s a link to rescues in Nebraska from the Nebraska Rescue Council. Pick a rescue, click to find its website and fill our the contact form or volunteer application if it is available.

Click here for a list of rescues from the NRC. 

Area shelters need volunteers, but it may take some time to get worked in to the volunteer team. See the links below to find out what you’ll need to do to get into the system.

The Nebraska Humane Society has an online application available here. You can also see criteria necessary for volunteering. NHS is by far the largest operation around and one can find different opportunities on a daily basis. Here are some notes from Pam Wiese of the Nebraska Humane Society:

Our volunteer program is so large—last year volunteers logged 71,231 hours donated to the shelter (and we know that not all of their hours actually got logged!) Those are hours spent in the shelter working with the animals, working on events, helping in surgery, the retail store, lost and found, Bone Jour Dog Daycare, the spay and neuter center, doing dishes and laundry, stuffing Kongs, working with the horses (mucking pens, feeding hay, and even building a hay barn (which is now complete).
Shifts run the gamut here at NHS.  Animal care arrives around 6am for the early shift—so that they can begin cleaning kennels and feeding (the adoption kennels need to be spiffy for their opening at noon) . Medical also arrives early (but has a later shift as well) to get those animals needing surgery ready for their day and to also begin rounds (they round in the morning and then in the afternoon to see the animals twice a day and check on treatments, etc.) Since adoptions start at noon, those folks usually arrive a little later, but stay later.  Animal control is on the road from 8am to 4pm and then 4pm to midnight in two different shifts. Support staff usually works more normal hours.
Volunteers do their thing during the most convenient times for them…so we have volunteers who  arrive at 6 am to walk the dogs and work the behavior dogs before they go into work,  or they come in over their lunch hours, or after work.  Some will take dogs to night classes or out on field trips in the afternoons or on weekends.  Some help medical, animal care or other staff who arrive early, so they do too.  Volunteers literally are in the shelter from 6am to 8pm every day.
We have a couple of folks who transport dogs in from other shelters who are overcrowded.  They may drive for 3 or 4 hours after work, pick up animals and then bring them back to NHS well after midnight.
163 foster families cared for 1,765 animals…those folks are always caring for the animals, as they are in their homes, and if they work, they often times bring animals in before their work for checkups and exams…or over their lunch hour.  Those people are fantastic ambassadors who also help to network the animals to friends and family.

Town and Country Humane Society in Papillion’s website says it has “so many opportunities for you!” Click here to find out how to help.

Midlands Humane Society in Council Bluffs has a great new building and a growing volunteer corps. Click here for more information about volunteering opportunities. There is an online application for Midlands as well.

Volunteer duties are various and unpredictable at most smaller operations. For example, a few weeks ago, I, along with Alli from our editorial staff, traveled to Midlands’ new facility to get to know the staff and see the building. When we arrived, we learned that we were going to do odd jobs like cleaning and organizing and maybe a little dogwalking, but because the normal cat kennel cleaner was ill that day, we were assigned to that post.

Midlands has approximately 30 cat kennels and a large cat colony for animals who get along with others nicely. We grabbed a cart, a bucket of soapy water, some towels, a litter scooper, a trash can and spot cleaner for accidents. For about two hours (we took our time and gave the keeters some loving!) we pulled everything out of the kennels, refilled water and litter boxes, scooped, scrubbed and sanitized. Even though the job (and others) wasn’t glamorous or particularly fun, one gains satisfaction from seeing clean kennels for adoptable cats and giving the kitties a place to play, live and sleep comfortably. This job and all others are rewarding and necessary, plus shelters and rescues will appreciate the effort. Just because, here are some photos from our day.




Volunteering really is one of the three pillars of rescue as without it, shelters and rescue organizations would be worked to the max with limited resources and their paid staff members (who are completing other important jobs!). If you have any free time (any at all) and want to help, these places will find something for you to do. Contact them today to find out how you can make a difference by taking care of animals, fostering, attending events and more.

Stay tuned for information about the other two pillars: donations and raising awareness. Together, we can make life better for rescues, shelters and the animals within them! Also, read about featured rescues and shelters in our ever-growing Rescue Friends series to find out about specific needs.

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