About our volunteers
Animal rescue volunteers work with the Animal Rescue and Response team to help save animals who are the victims of illegal animal cruelty and natural disasters. Whether an out of control hoarder or dogfighting operation, or hurricane or puppy mill, animal rescue volunteers travel from all corners of the country to assist in the on-going care of dogs, cats and other animals who have been rescued from harm.
When the Animal Rescue and Response team responds to a law enforcement action or natural disaster, volunteers are called in to help provide care to animals in our emergency shelters. Animal rescue volunteers come from all walks of life, generously giving their time to apply their skills and experience in response to animals in need. From animal handling and cage cleaning to administrative tasks, the work of animal rescue volunteers is the true core of the HSUS’s mission to save animals' lives.
There is no fixed location; animal rescue volunteers are called to respond in different U.S. locations as needed.
Animal Sheltering/Direct Care: Provide care to animals in our temporary shelters, including cleaning cages and enclosures, feeding, watering, restocking supplies, washing dishes, walking dogs, or socializing animals as directed
Veterinary Assistance: Apply licensed, certified/registered veterinary technician skills to provide direct medical care to the animals in temporary shelters by supporting on-site veterinarians with animal restraint for examinations, record keeping and administering medications as prescribed
What our volunteers say
"Without the [animal rescue volunteer] program, none of us volunteers would have had such a rewarding opportunity to go and take care of these amazing cats. We call it the "summer of the cats" as it has taken the place of possibly taking vacations. But so many volunteers gladly took their vacation time to care for these poor creatures. I don’t know who received more love, the cats or the volunteers who worked side by side daily working as a team. Although we all started as strangers arriving at the warehouse our first day, by lunch time we all knew each others’ stories and where we were from and what we did for a living. Many of us formed what I hope will be a lifetime bond, exchanging emails and phone numbers."—Roy Ware
Benefits of volunteering
Animal rescue volunteers often report that assisting with an HSUS rescue operation changed their lives. They never forget the animals they helped get on the road to recovery, or the people who are a part of this important mission. Volunteers learn important skills, undertake new challenges, travel to previously unknown areas of the country, and become part of a community that understands the importance of protecting animals from harm.
Becoming a volunteer
Animal rescue volunteers are required to complete certain FEMA courses, and HSUS training on safety, emergency management, the Incident Command System and other critical aspects of emergency care. Volunteers are also required to get a tetanus immunization shot and be at least 18 years of age. Please see below for more information.
- Volunteers have an initial commitment of one year and are requested to participate in at least one deployment per year.
- Volunteers must be a minimum of 18 years of age.
- Volunteers must have a United States or Canadian address to be considered for deployments.
- Volunteers must complete a criminal background check before being approved for deployment.
- Volunteers must meet the requirements outlined in the Essential Capabilities [PDF] document.
- Volunteers must complete the following required free online courses and provide certification of completion to HSUS staff:
• IS-100 Introduction to Incident Command System (FEMA)
• IS-200 Incident Command System for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents (FEMA)
• IS-700 National Incident Management System (NIMS), an Introduction (FEMA)
- Volunteers are required to provide proof of mandatory tetanus immunization. If volunteers are up to date on their vaccinations for hepatitis A or hepatitis B, or have received pre-exposure rabies vaccination, please alert staff and provide proof for your records.
- Recommended disaster-related courses that are not required include IS-10 Animals in Disaster: Module A-Awareness and Preparedness (FEMA), IS-11 Animals in Disaster: Module B-Community Planning (FEMA), and IS-111 Livestock in Disasters (FEMA).
- Other disaster-related courses that could be useful, but which are not required include Human First Aid and CPR (American Red Cross), Pet First Aid and CPR (American Red Cross), Mass Care (American Red Cross), Shelter Operations (American Red Cross), and Introduction to Disaster Services (American Red Cross).
- Fill out an application using the link below. Before you begin the application, please be sure to gather the following information: immunizations; emergency contact information; employment and volunteer history; and training, certification, and educational history.
- Print, read and sign the Essential Capabilities [PDF] document per the instructions you receive via email once you submit your online application.
- After your application is completed (with all required trainings, signed Essential Capabilities and proof of tetanus provided), staff will contact you to carry out an interview and discuss next steps, which will include initiating a background check, and filling out additional paperwork, such as a volunteer agreement and a waiver and release of liability.
- Upon the completion of the criminal background check, staff may elect to deploy candidates as a part of the screening process. Candidates are assessed and interviewed on deployment by HSUS staff or contractors, and if the deployment goes well and both parties mutually agree it’s a good fit, the candidate will be admitted fully into the program as a regular animal rescue volunteer.
- Trained, vetted, and approved volunteers let us know their preferences about deployment and their ability to travel. When animal rescue response is needed, our office puts out the call to all qualified individuals, with details of the event, including location, length of deployment, and any special skills needed. Volunteers reply to indicate their willingness and are then approved for deployment. The HSUS helps to make travel and accommodation arrangements or reimburses deployed volunteers for any travel expenses incurred, including mileage reimbursement and a per diem for food en route.