The Benefits of Volunteering with Animals
On the 4th February 2017, new laws came into force in Taiwan making it illegal to euthanase abandoned animals. With this news, the tragic story about veterinarian and animal lover Chien Chih-cheng resurfaced. In May 2016 Ms Chien took her own life using the same drug she used to put down animals. She said she wanted to help people understand what happens to strays in Taiwan. Ms Chien was said to be overworked and overwhelmed by grief at the plight of stray animals. Winnie Lai, her colleague at the dog shelter remembers "She often worked overtime, rarely took a proper lunch break, and sacrificed her holidays to give the dogs more attention and make their lives better."
It's a sad fact that most animal shelter and rescue groups struggle to manage with limited resources. If you appreciate how important this work is and would like to help lighten the load, see some very good reasons to volunteer or donate below, as well as links to volunteer organisations around the world for animal rescue, welfare & conservation.
Recent research is shedding light onto the surprising benefits of volunteering. Science is now proving what great leaders and philosophers have known for years:
“One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.” - Gordon Hinckle
The positives of volunteering:
1. Volunteering makes you feel like you have more time. Wharton professor Cassie Mogilner said that her research shows that "giving your time can make you feel more ‘time affluent’ and less time-constrained than wasting your time, or spending it on yourself.” Mogilner's article in the Harvard Business Review summarises her research, finding that those who volunteer their time feel like they have more of it. This is similar to other research showing that people who donate to charity feel wealthier.
2. Volunteering boosts your mood and your health. A study reported on in Natural Health magazine in 2007 showed that 95 percent of volunteers surveyed said they gained a “helper’s high” — a feeling of euphoria and energy. Volunteering truly is a feel-good activity, and what better way to spend the day than with cuddly and furry friends? A Corporation for National & Community Service report noted: “Research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better health… those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.” For more information on health benefits see “Can Volunteering Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease?”
3. Volunteering makes you feel more love. Admittedly, love is a hard thing to measure. But when researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness, they found that the more people volunteered, the happier they were. Volunteering builds empathy, strengthens social bonds and makes you smile — all factors that increase the feeling of love.
4. Volunteering helps build your experience and skills. Volunteering can give you new skills and experrience which help if it's time for a change of career direction. If you want to move from the corporate world to the nonprofit sector, for example, volunteering first can help prove your commitment. Skills-based volunteering is also an excellent opportunity to develop talents to help you get ahead in your career. An article in Stanford Social Innovation Review called skills-based volunteering overseas “the next executive training ground.” The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Next Avenue have published articles about how volunteering can help you earn your next job.
5. You'll be part of the solution. You'll join a network of hundreds of thousands of people working to make the world safe and more humane for all living creatures. You'll make the jobs of everyone working for animals a little easier by lending a hand and spreading the message of responsible pet ownership and animal protection.
6. Become part of a very important team. Shelters and rescue groups need resources - financial and human - to stay open. Some are never far from closure and you might just be that extra pair of hands that helps another pet get adopted, helps find another donation or brings in a new person to volunteer.
7. Keep good company. You'll make lots of new friends—and not just the four-legged kind. Working side by side with people who share similar interests can forge lifelong friendships.
8. Get warm fuzzies. Can't beat this one. You'll never find a more grateful and accepting comrade than an animal you've comforted. Enjoy a wagging tail, a purr, and a smile. Didn't someone once say that the best things in life are free?
How to Find Volunteering Opportunities
If you're interested in making a difference in your community one of the best places to volunteer may be your local animal shelter or rescue group (Australia). Also see the lists below for volunteer information and opportunities from a range of organizations in Canada, US, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa.
- International Animal Rescue
- Volunteer Match - Animal Rescue Volunteer Opportunities
- Humane Society International
- The Great Projects - Wildlife Volunteers
- Go Abroad - Volunteer in Animal Welfare Abroad
- Volunteer HQ - Wildlife and Animal
- Global Work & Travel - Volunteer
- Charity Vault - Animal Charities
- Gap Year Animal Care Volunteering
- Volunteer with Animals - One World
- Blue Cross Volunteer for Pets UK
- Cats Protection UK - Volunteer
- Dogs Trust UK - Volunteering
- Wood Green - Want to Volunteer with Animals?
- The Wildlife Trust UK - Volunteer with us
- Charity Job UK - Volunteer Jobs in the Animal sector
- AFRICA & ASIA
- VolunteerJobs with Animals Africa
- African Wildlife Volunteer Opportunities
- African Conservation Experience
- Volunteer - Animals Asia
- Animal Sanctuaries in Asia
- Volunteer Jobs with Animals Asia
We can't list them all so please post any good links for volounteering in the comments below!
Sources and for more information:
The vet who 'euthanised' herself in Taiwan - BBC
The Fatal Epidemic Of Animal Care Workers That No One Is Talking About - Barkpost
5 surprising benefits of volunteering - Forbes
Top Reasons to Volunteer at Your Local Animal Shelter - The Humane Society International
7 Benefits of Being an Animal Shelter Volunteer - Petful