If you love pets, volunteering at one of Long Island's animal adoption centers will seem less like work than hanging out with friends, albeit four-legged, furry ones.
You'll care for, groom and feed puppies, kittens and grown-up dogs and cats at North Shore Animal League America in Port Washington and Bideawee in Westhampton. Both are no-kill shelters with a long history of rescuing animals and preparing them for adoption.
"All they want to do is be your best friend," says Diane Zoppa, spokeswoman for the North Shore Animal League America in Port Washington.
Amy Hraniotis, learning center manager at Bideawee in Westhampton, says that, currently, 70 volunteers look after 26 dogs and 50 cats. They recently opened a new dog park, with sections for dogs under and over 35 pounds, where volunteers can unleash and play fetch with the animals in the open. Bideawee in Wantagh, meanwhile, is only accepting volunteers for its pet therapy program, and you have to bring your own animal.
The more than 250 volunteers at North Shore tend to be "very dedicated," says Joanne Yohannan, senior vice president of operations. Dog walkers are "that special person that knows these adult animals need time and socialization out of the cages," she adds.
Puppy and cat socializers and cat caregivers are needed at North Shore. They also have a mill-dog rescue program, which saves small breeds such as cocker spaniels, poodles and Maltese, which otherwise would have been destroyed. "Ninety-five percent of the [rescued] adults have been living in cages and don't even know what grass is," she says.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
The (possible) downside? All volunteers perform tasks that may necessitate holding your nose. "Puppies can be very messy, and part of the volunteer's job is cleaning up after them," says Yohannan.
Who should think twice about volunteering? If you are allergic to dogs or cats, that is a consideration. You can volunteer for non-animal contact tasks, but if you're puppy-crazy, that might be barking up the wrong tree.
WHERE TO VOLUNTEER
The work: Adoption Center volunteer, dog walker, foster care and other volunteer positions at a "no-kill" animal rescue and adoption organization.
Requirements: 16 and older and willing to make a four-hour commitment every week for a year, during standard shifts. Also, an interview and two, two-hour training sessions.
The work: Adoption Center duties include walking dogs, socializing cats and puppies, and assisting trainers.
Requirements: 18 or older (10 or older, if accompanied by a parent).
The work: Though the shelter also houses dogs, helpers are especially needed to care for, feed, groom and socialize cats and kittens. Also, scoop litter and clean pens.
Requirements: Volunteers accepted as young as 14, (under 14 it accompanied by a parent). Visit and fill out an application form.
LAST HOPE ANIMAL RESCUE AND REHABILITATION: 631-425-1884, lasthopeanimalrescue.org
The work: Socializing and grooming dogs and cats, walking dogs, and maintaining kennels, at this 28-year-old no-skill shelter organization.
Requirements: Over 18 unless accompanied by a parent. Orientation session. Fill out an application online or via mail. A volunteer coordinator will contact according to your interests.
The work: Hands-on with animals, special events, also need volunteers with carpentry skills.
Requirements: Must be 18 or over. Send an email through the Web volunteer page or call.
SAVE-A-PET ANIMAL RESCUE & ADOPTION CENTER: Port Jefferson Station, 631-473-6333, saveapetli.net/whatyoucando/volunteer/
The work: Junior volunteers start at age 14 and can sweep up and clean cages. To work with animals you need to be 18. Dog walking, feed and socialize cats. Also need fund raisers.
Requirements: Attend a one-hour volunteer orientation, fill out an application. To apply, call the volunteer center or e-mail through the Web site link on their volunteer page.