Content DogAccording to the ASPCA, millions of animals call a shelter their home. Additionally, millions more rely on foster parents, rescue organizations, and animal sanctuaries to provide them with the love and care that every animal deserves.

Without the assistance of volunteers, caring for the many animals in need would be impossible.  In fact, some of these establishments rely entirely on the kindness of those in the community to keep them running.However, volunteering with animals can mean so much more than just touching the heart of an animal, it can also mean impacting the human population of a community as well.

Often times when we think of volunteering with an animal, we picture helping to bathe or walk an adorable puppy at our local animal shelter. While this is one way of lending our love, there are a myriad of other options that are as diverse as the animals in our community that are in need. Some of these opportunities include:

Smoky Mountain Service Dogs: The work of this organization touches the lives of not just the animals, but the Veterans with disabilities that these special dogs will one day devote themselves to. Providing our service men and women with fully trained assistance animals is a big job and that is where volunteers come in. Ways that volunteers can help are by working as a Puppy Raiser, Socializer, or a Respite Provider.

Puppy Raisers work with puppies for a six to nine month period. During this time, they work closely with trainers to housebreak, crate train, and teach the puppy good manners and basic obedience skills.

For those who like to get out and about, that is where a Socializer comes in. Socializers introduce the animals to the public and different environments. They form a strong bond with the animal and are instrumental in working with the dogs beyond the puppy stage to teach them the basic skills that every service animal needs.

Respite Providers are those with huge hearts coupled with the ability to provide homes for service animals in cases of emergency, vacations for Puppy Raisers and Socializers, or while an animal is awaiting adoption.

H.A.B.I.T.: This acronym stands for Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee. The group is comprised of representatives from the University Of Tennessee College Of Veterinary Medicine, volunteers from the community, and private veterinary practitioners with the goal of exploring and promoting the human-animal bond.

The special thing about H.A.B.I.T. is that the volunteer position is available for pets too! Human and animal volunteers visit the elderly, special needs children, hospitals, and mental health centers. To work in this program is to provide those in need with companionship as well as to give the animals the opportunity to do what they do best, be social!

Feral Feline Friends: For those who feel comfortable working with and providing care to those animals who do not have a home, this is the perfect opportunity. Volunteers feed, water, and provide medical care for homeless cats in East Tennessee.

The Elephant Sanctuary: Elephants are majestic animals and the opportunity to work for their benefit is indeed a rare treat. Tennessee has the privilege of being the home of our nation’s largest natural-habitat refugee built specifically for endangered elephants. Many of the animals that come to this sanctuary have inspirational stories of survival and perseverance, and as the goal of the sanctuary is to give them a place to roam free and feel safe, volunteers do not work directly with the animals. To give time to this cause is truly a selfless act that includes helping the staff with the numerous tasks necessary to give these gentle giants a home.

The Knoxville Zoo: If going to the zoo is exciting, imagine working with the animals and trainers! Adults and youth can volunteer with this opportunity doing such varying tasks as assisting staff with educational programs and interpretation services, general upkeep of the zoo, and fundraising.Ready to Go Home

STAR: The Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding is unique in that it allows Special Needs individuals the opportunity to work directly with horses which provides long-lasting, well-documented therapeutic benefits. For Special Needs individuals, this therapy is invaluable to quality of life and the need for volunteers to work with this organization cannot be overstated.

Youth as well as adults are welcome at STAR and ways that they contribute are by helping directly with the animals, facilities tasks, and working with those receiving therapy during lessons.

Happy Paws Kitten Rescue: Happy Paws is a wonderful opportunity for those who have room in their homes and in their schedules to foster a kitten. The organization supports those who are able to foster by providing funding for all medical expenses and only asks that foster parents provide other basics for the foster animals such as food and litter.

Small Breed Rescue of East Tennessee: This volunteer opportunity focuses on fostering small breed dogs.

AARF (All About Rescue and Fixin’ Inc.): Multiple opportunities available including fostering a pet. This group does not euthanize or put time frames on when an animal in their care must be adopted out.

Horse Haven of Tennessee: Nonprofit rescue operation for abused and neglected equine. Opportunities include the ability to directly provide support to rescued horses through various tasks at the facility.

SPCA of Tennessee: Dedicated to rescuing, providing care to, and finding of homes for all breeds of dogs. Volunteer opportunities vary.

Adopt A Golden: Specifically for Golden Retrievers with fostering as a primary opportunity.

Humane Society Of The Tennessee Valley: This organization works to end homelessness in the dog and cat population of our community and volunteer opportunities vary.

Young-Williams Animal Center: Instrumental in providing a myriad of public services including public education, outreach, and other services that benefit animals and humans alike. Young-Williams offers a wide spectrum of volunteer opportunities.


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