About our volunteers

Animal rescue volunteers (ARVs) work with our Animal Rescue Team to help save animals who are victims of illegal animal cruelty and disasters. When we respond—whether to a hurricane, large-scale neglect case, dogfighting or commercial breeding operation—animal rescue volunteers travel from all over the U.S. and Canada to assist in the ongoing care of dogs, cats and other animals who have been rescued from harm.

Those volunteers help provide care to animals in our emergency shelters or assist with distributing supplies and providing other support to pets and other animals in impacted communities. 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.

Team location

Animal rescue volunteers (ARVs) are called to respond in different U.S. locations as needed. Since 2020, many of our volunteers have deployed to our animal care and rehabilitation center in Maryland.

A group of volunteers help to transport a rescue dog from the crate to a rehabilitation center
Kevin Wolf
AP Images for HSI

Volunteer opportunities

There are ample opportunities to provide direct 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.

Opportunities to learn or apply animal health or behavioral skills and participate in transports and other Animal Rescue Team actions also may arise.

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

There are two options for volunteering with the Animal Rescue Team:

  1. Care Center ARVs: Provide daily care and enrichment to the special populations housed at our Maryland care and rehabilitation center. Required trainings include Fear Free Shelters and a course on trauma-informed sheltering. 

  2. National ARVs: Deploy to our Maryland care and rehabilitation center or other locations as needed to provide daily care and enrichment and/or to support a Point of Distribution for emergency supplies. Specific trainings on safety, emergency management, the Incident Command System and other critical aspects of care are required.

All volunteers have an initial commitment period of one year and are expected to participate in at least one deployment per year to remain active. Minimum length of rotation is dependent on travel requirements (at least four days if flying in, less if driving). To help remove barriers to volunteering, approved travel expenses are paid or reimbursed by the HSUS.

An HSUS volunteer helps with rescue transport of a dog in a crate
Kevin Wolf
AP Images for HSI

All volunteers must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Travel from within North America.
  • Meet the requirements outlined in the Essential Capabilities document.
  • Be able to pass a criminal background check.

Application process

  1. Use the links above to select the opportunity you’re interested in, then click the red "Apply Now" button at the top right corner to complete an application.
  2. Sign and return the Essential Capabilities document that comes in your welcome email.
  3. Complete an interview and discuss next steps, which may include a background check and additional paperwork

Candidates are assessed and interviewed on their initial deployment by HSUS staff. If the deployment goes well and both parties agree it’s a good fit, the candidate will be fully admitted into the program as an animal rescue volunteer.


Deployment process

  • Trained, vetted and approved volunteers let us know their deployment preferences and their ability to travel.
  • When animal rescue response is needed, a call goes out 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 availability and are then scheduled for deployment. The HSUS helps to make arrangements for travel and accommodations and reimburses deployed volunteers for travel expenses incurred, including mileage and a per diem for food.