Volunteer Jobs Working with Animals

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • Hello,

    A 14 year old friend is interested in volunteering at a shelter or animal rescue type of place for the summer. The issue is that she would need to be able to stay for a whole day for a few days per week while her dad is at work. Are there any such organizations that accommodate that kind of a program for that age? Has anyone had experience in their child doing that or works for such an organization? What kind of applications, etc. need to be done to sign up for such a thing?

    Check out East Bay SPCA camps

    Both the East Bay SPCA in Oakland and ARF in Walnut Creek have summer camps for kids of all ages. I used to work at ARF and can say that the humane Ed and kid’s programs are excellent. I hear good things about the SPCA camps too. 

    The East Bay SPCA has summer camps for kids  and teens can apply to be counselors-in-training (starting at 12).  My daughter attended the camp as a middle-school camper and had a good experience, she got to work with a shelter dog all week. Do not know what is involved to apply.

    Check out Rabbit Ears in El Cerrito.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


4H or other animal opportunities for 8 year old?

Sept 2012

My 8 year old daughter loves animals and would love to volunteer with them in some capacity. I do know there's a Montclair 4H and did a little online research into it, but would love to hear anyone's recent experience. I'm worried 4H may be too much of a time commitment. Also, from what I read, at least when it comes to the pigs, they end up in the slaughterhouse. I don't think she'd be into that as a final outcome!

So am wondering if there's another program that involves feeding chickens or goats once a week, for instance. It would be great if there were some education involved as well as some hands-on experience. We live in Berkeley. Thanks for any ideas! my kid loves animals

Little Farm in Tilden Park has husbandry opportunities for kids -- I know they have summer camps starting at age 8, but I'm not sure whether they offer year- round programs, as well. Some other ideas if that doesn't work out: Oakland Zoo has teen volunteers who help out in the sheep & goat encounter -- it may be worth checking if they offer a program for school-age kids to get involved. Many humane societies (including Berkeley HS, I believe) also accept youth volunteers to come in and socialize their animals, which may not be exactly what you have in mind but would at least involve animal care with an ethical slant. Best of luck! ronit

There are lots of community gardens and backyard animals in and around Berkeley that might let your child help out. I know of backyard chickens, turkeys, goats, quail, and rabbits. (The turkeys and rabbits are likely to end up slaughtered like the pigs at 4H.) Is there a garden program at her school that might be willing to get chickens or rabbits? There are chickens at the school on Telegraph a few blocks north of Ashby. I think it is a middle school. If her school is not willing to add animals to their garden program, try contacting the Institute for Urban Homesteading (http://iuhoakland.com) to see if they have any ideas or resources, as their teachers often raise their own animals and know of community gardens and local organizations that might have animals that she could help care for. anon

Didn't see the original post but we've been volunteering at House Rabbit Society in Richmond for a couple of years now. You can sponsor a particular rabbit, or just come and hang out and feed, pet, and otherwise play with the bunnies. It's a nice way of having a pet without having the hassels of a pet. friend of the bunnies

Editor note: a reply was also received for 4H Clubs

Animal shelter volunteering

June 2010

I have been volunteering at the Oakland Animal Services for about a year. I realize it is not a good fit both in terms of time and I don't feel very welcome there. I'm wondering what other people's experiences in other animal shelters are? How is East Bay ASPCA? Humane? Are there opportunities to meet other volunteers? Do you feel like you are welcomed? wanna volunteer

I would advise you to avoid the City of Alameda animal shelter. I recently was there with my young adult son when he inquired about volunteer opportunities. The shelter employee he spoke with immediately and quite rudely said, ''no thanks -- we have more volunteers than we need.'' When he asked a follow up question she was barely attentive and told him to come back in a few months if he wanted. I was shocked at how rude and dismissive she was, as was my son. Our reaction was validated when, as we left and headed to the car, a woman (not a shelter employee) who had overheard the exchange came outside after us to say that she was appalled at what she heard. I guess they feel they can afford to turn interested persons away -- not a great strategy in my opinion. Anon

I volunteer at the Berkeley Animal shelter and volunteers are very welcome. No set schedule, no advance warning, just show up when the shelter is open and do what you can. It is all appreciated. You need to be trained before you start, but then you are set. Ellen

I volunteer with the Island Cat Resources and Adoption (ICRA). It is not a shelter but a nonprofit organization run by volunteers. Volunteers can foster cats or kittens or staff the adoption site at Alameda PetCo on Saturdays. I find ICRA to be a friendly and committed group dedicated to socializing and finding good homes for the rescued cats and kittens. The website is http://www.icraeastbay.org/ Cindy

Animal summer volunteer ops for 15-year-old?

April 2010

My 15 yo, son will have a few idle weeks this summer. He loves animals and has in the past volunteered at Milo, which is now in San Rafael and inconvenient. I know that the Bkly Animal Shelter (not, EB Humane)...the ''pound'' has volunteer opportunities and that teens 15 or older can volunteer without parent supervision. Have your teens done this? For how many hours at a time? Can they go every day? I will check out w/ Bkly Animal Shelter too, but wondering about personal experiences. So far there are no camps he is interested in for those few weeks. Thanks for any info/other ideas. mom of teens (oy!!)

My son started volunteering at the Berkeley animal shelter last summer as an almost-16-year old. Mostly he walked dogs. They are open every day except holidays, and volunteers can work any hour that they are open to the public. I forget what the time commitment is, but you can ask the shelter.

It may take a couple of months from the time you apply until the time you can start volunteering. You have to take a class (orientation) that is scheduled only a few times a month (all within the same week). Then you have to meet with the volunteer coordinator, which isn't always easy to schedule. So I would apply and sign up for orientation as soon as possible. My son got a lot out of it. I am impressed with the integrity of the shelter. Francesca

My daughter volunteered at the Berkeley Shelter for about 1-1/2 yrs when she was 16, a couple of years ago. The volunteer has to attend an orientation and do a mentoring session with an experienced volunteer where they actually go out on a walk with a dog around Aquatic Park. As I recall, the shelter requires that you volunteer at least 1hr./wk. I did occasionally walk with my daughter (I did not volunteer), but it was her responsibility to do all the walking and picking up the poop of the dog.

Be aware that there are many pitbull dogs that are at the shelter, but all the dogs are classified so if you are an inexperienced volunteer, you usually can only walk dogs that are well behaved. My daughter is very petite (weighs under 100 lbs) and walked several bigger dogs without problems. Many people have their dogs off-leash at Aquatic Park, but if your son loves animals and has walked dogs before, he'll probably be ok dealing with the situation. FYI,sometimes you come across people sleeping in the park during the day, but they normally never bothered her. dog walker's mom

I don't have experience with the Animal Shelter, but a friend's teen loves volunteering for the Oakland Zoo. The following is off the Oakland Zoo web site:

Teen Volunteer Opportunities
Work with Children, Animal Keepers and Zoo Teachers Are you interested in animals, plants, conservation and children? Train to be animal interpreters, conservation leaders, ZooCamp assistants or learn to make enrichments for the animals. Play an important roll in Oakland Zoo's volunteer core, working with children, keepers and teachers.

Teen Wild Guide
This program is designed for teen ages 13-18. Participants will train to be a wildlife interpreter for young visitors in the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children's Zoo and participate in a variety of Roots & Shoots projects.

Globe Trotting in Guatemala
Few experiences can affect teens like international travel. The Oakland Zoo has a history of inspiring teens with trips to exotic locations such as Uganda, Peru, and Thailand. 2010 will be no exception, as we return to visit one of our longtime conservation partners in Guatemala!

ZooCamp Teen Assistants
Spend two weeks this summer as a ZooCamp Teen Assistant. Assist ZooCamp teachers in their daily teaching duties. Teen Assistants should be energetic and enjoy spending time with children.

Community Service Projects
Just need a few hours for school? Please check out our on-site Arroyo Viejo Creek restoration program Click here or stay tuned for more info on our enrichment programs, coming in Fall 2010.

Make Enrichment
YOU can play a role in helping us with this important program, by learning about enrichment, choosing an animal, and creating your own enrichment project for our animals.

Makes me want to be a teen (well, maybe a teen giraffe...) Linda

Volunteer job with animals this summer?

April 2009

My son wants to volunteer with animals this summer - especially marine life, but any animal care would certainly be considered. Any ideas in the East Bay? Thanks.

I ran across Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue Center while helping my son research volunteer opportunities. I don't know much about them, but check out their website: http://yuwr.org/ - looks pretty cool to me! anon

Check with the pet shelters in Berkeley and Oakland. I don't know the age requirements, but the Oakland program has a class you take to learn to walk their dogs (could provide training for a future afterschool/summer job). Lindsey Museum in Walnut Creek trains young docents and also have a rescue animal division where they take care of injured/sick animals, and rescue rabbits, guinea pigs, etc. There is the Marine Mammal Center near the Golden Gate, but that work is can be dangerous, and I am not sure they let teens train. kl

A recent post in response to this question referred to ''the Oakland program.'' It's important to know that there are two animal shelters in Oakland: the Oakland city animal shelter on 29th Avenue and the East Bay SPCA in Oakland (near the Coliseum). Unless the policy has changed, the city shelter has different restrictions for under-18 volunteers. You should check with each separately. Dog walking mom

Place where 7-year-old can volunteer

August 2008

My 7 year old daughter loves animals. We would love to find a place where she can volunteer a few hours a week working with animals but don't know where to look. Does anybody have any experience with this, or any suggestions? Thanks! anon

The working farm in Tilden Park's Nature Area takes volunteers on weekends. Also, the Oakland SPCA will allow kids to volunteer along with their parents.

Try ARF in Walnut Creek, or any local animal shelter. Not sure of the age requirements, but these animals need socialization to help them get good homes. Kudos to your daughter for wanting to help animals, and to you for encouraging her!

P.S. If you're looking for a vacation, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, is a fabulous place! I go annually to volunteer. Animal lover

I can't answer your specific question about places to volunteer, but in terms of ''where to look'' you might check out VolunteerMatch.com. You can search for local volunteer options by category (incl. work with animals), and by age group (kids, adults, seniors). volunteer

I don't know where you're located, but Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek trains volunteers for the wildlife hospital. Also in Walnut Creek is ARF (Animal Rescue Foundation). They may accept volunteers for caring for dogs and cats. Leslie

Have you tried talking to Stanley at the Little Farm in Tilden? I'm not sure if the starting age is 7 or 9, but the girls work on the farm taking care of all of the animals. crystal

12-year-old would like to volunteer working with dogs


My 12 year old daughter would like to find a volunteer job opportunity working with dogs. She would be happy to help socialize, train, or care for any type of dog, young or old. We are currently a foster family for the Humane society, but she would like to work with someone involved in the dog care, breeding, or training world. Some of the organizations we have contacted only work with older adolescents or adults. We live in Marin, but are able to come to the East Bay. Any suggestions are much appreciated! Susan

Does anyone know of a summer program or daycamp where kids can work with animals--preferably with cats and dogs? My 12 year old daughter would be very interested in a program like this. Also, are there volunteer opportunities for a 12 year old to work with animals, where a parent/adult wouldn't have to accompany her each time? The Berkeley Humane Society, for example, requires an adult escort. Thanks Joan

this is in response to the parent who asked about summer programs for her 12 yr old daughter where she could work w/ animals. the sfspca (maddie center) offers cat camps and dog camps. they're offered as day camps in one week sessions. they're extremely popular and enrollment is limited so it's done on a lottery basis. i suggest applying early. my son was fortunate enough to get to do a one week cat camp session in the summer of 99. although he was older (13) than all the others and felt that most of the activities were directed towards the younger crowd, he LOVED the time spent with the cats. he learned a lot about cats, watched a spay operation and spent time petting cats. i would definitely recommend it.

as far as volunteering goes, you might want to check with some kennels in your area to see if they would let her help with cleaning up the kennels or walking the dogs that are boarded. also check w/ pet adoption organizations like the milo foundation or community concern for cats. good luck. Pam

The San Francisco SPCA has a summer day camp for kids who want to learn more about and be around cats and dogs. I don't know how early it fills up. Nina

My daughter (12) and I volunteer at the Oakland SPCA. We took two dog training classes after which we could walk and socialize the dogs and partecipate in misc. events. The SPCA requires that I'm volunteering at the same time my daughter does, but we pretty much do our own things since she is more interested in dogs and I like cats better. She's not allowed to partecipate in the dog grooming, but cat grooming is ok. We have done it now for a couple of months and it has been great. Check them out at their site http://www.oaklandspca.org/ and feel free to contact me through email. Giulia

Did you try Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael? I used to be a volunteer dog walker there. I don't know how whether they let kids do it. Ariel Gilbert is the volunteer coordinator. Alysson

Guide Dogs for the Blind in, I believe, San Rafael sometimes needs people, including teenagers, to foster puppies in training. This is quite a commitment and usually requires some help from the rest of the family, but it is socially useful work and supposedly fun and rewarding. Melanie

I am a volunteer with Hopalong Animal Rescue, a not for profit animal rescue group in the East Bay, primarily Oakland and Berkeley. We rescue dogs and cats from the Oakland Animal Shelter who are at risk for euthanasia. We are always in need of volunteers, adults and teenagers who can handle dogs at our mobile pet adoptions that are held weekly throughout the Bay Area. We are also desperate for more foster homes for dogs and cats, pups and kittens. If anyone is interested in helping out please go onto our website at www.hopalong.org and check us out. Then if you would like to help email us at www.info at hopalong.org. If anyone needs community service hours for school requirements maybe this would count. Please ask your friends, neighbors and students and let us know. Thanks. Kathy (8/00)

Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society has a strong volunteer program. Call 845-3652 or check www.bhumane.org (from the May/June 1999 Berkeley High School PTSA Newsletter)