Volunteers Are the Cat's Pajamas at Animal Services

Volunteer in a kennel getting kissed by a pitbull

What could your workplace accomplish with 42 more employees?  For Multnomah County Animal Services (MCAS), over 400 volunteers made this hypothetical question a reality in 2017-2018, volunteering 88,058 hours, or the equivalent work of 42 full time employees (FTE).

It wasn’t always this way. When Volunteer Coordinator Melinda Hickey started, Animal Services only had 25 volunteers to help with the basics.  Over the years, the need for volunteers grew as MCAS began to adopt out more animals, save more animals, and animals were sheltered for longer periods of time.  More help was needed to walk dogs, socialize cats, transport animals to regional shelters and rescues, attend outreach events, and help find the right pets for interested adopters.  One of the most unassuming but important volunteer roles is doing laundry, washing and folding up to fifty (50) loads a day to make sure the animal hospital has clean surgical linens, staff have towels for cleaning, and each animal has clean, warm bedding.  Today, MCAS saves 93% of the animals in its care, thanks in part to the contributions of its dedicated volunteers.

The lion’s share (74%) of volunteer time is spent fostering animals.  Volunteers open their homes to foster newborn kittens and puppies, senior pets in need of respite, and pets recovering from surgery.  During kitten season, sometimes there are more animals in volunteer foster homes than in the shelter, doubling capacity, and saving lives.

To become a volunteer, interested candidates must attend a Volunteer Information Session hosted by Melinda Hickey, held at MCAS on the 4th Wednesday of each month at 7 pm.  There, they learn about the expectations of volunteering, and the different roles and positions available.  Roles vary by skill, interest, and time commitments, and include everything from office help and social media support to taking dogs on potty walks at 6 am or serving as a Reserve Animal Control Officer. After the Information Sessions, candidates may complete an application and schedule an interview with Melinda.

Animal Services launched a Volunteer of the Month program in September 2018 to recognize the exceptional service of volunteers, highlight their important contributions to life-saving work, and shine some light on the unsung heroes working behind the scenes.  Nominations can be submitted online or at the shelter by members of the public, employees, or other volunteers.

Watch a recent video feature about the Multnomah County Animal Services Volunteer Program and its lifesaving work!