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Volunteer FAQ

I am under 16, but am very mature for my age. Do you make exceptions to your minimum age rule?

For the safety of our volunteers and animals, we do require that all volunteers be at least 16 years of age to volunteer without exception. Although youth must be 16 years old to volunteer, we have many other ways for youth to support the animals and learn about animal welfare. Please click hereto get ideas on how to make toys for the animals, hold your own fundraiser or collect items from our “wish list” from the surrounding community to support the animals.

We also have special youth programs available at our sites for all ages of students. These programs are geared towards youth with a love of animals and a yearning to learn more about how to help the world become a more humane place for them. This is a wonderful way to become involved and learn more about animal welfare. To learn more about these programs, please click here.

Youth can also consider having a parent apply to be a foster volunteer. Although the primary volunteer must be 18 years of age, the entire family can participate in the fostering experience. To learn more about our foster program, please click here.

Will I have training before I start volunteering?

Yes. Each role has training sessions that cover all aspects of the volunteer role. Training is done with both staff and volunteer mentors. The time it takes to complete training varies, based on volunteer availability, training schedules and the specific training needs of the volunteer role.

Can I choose my own hours and how often do I need to volunteer?

We require our volunteers to fill a regularly scheduled shift at least once every other week. For example: Every other Monday from 3pm to 6pm. Depending on where their shift falls on the monthly calendar, that means two or three shifts a month. Volunteers are welcome to work more often if there is a need for shift coverage, either in a regularly scheduled shift, or by picking up open shifts online. Volunteer shifts typically range from two-four hours.

Why do you ask for a full-year commitment? That seems like a long time.

In order to provide the animals in our facilities the best care and support, we do require volunteers to commit to a full year of volunteering on a regular schedule. This requirement is needed to ensure quality training and to maintain a consistent level of volunteer coverage. We do allow for vacations and needed days off.

If you find you will be unable to volunteer for three or more months within the year, our foster program does allow for longer breaks if needed. This position also requires a one-year commitment, but volunteers are only required to have an animal physically in their home for a total of 24 days in the year. This can be broken up any way volunteers would like, based on the animals they choose to foster. Most foster placements are 3-4 weeks based on the care needed. If you would like to know more about the foster program, please click here.

Do you have short-term or summer volunteer positions available?

Due to limited resources and the required training for each volunteer position, we are not able to offer short-term or summer volunteering experiences working on site.

We do have one event that is a short term volunteer experience. Our Walk for Animals fundraiser is held each spring. This is a one-day event open to the public and we welcome new volunteers. To find out more about the Walk for Animals, please click here.

Do you allow youths under 16 to volunteer if they are accompanied by a parent who is also a volunteer?

Due to the nature of the work at Animal Humane Society, and often confined physical space, we are unable to accept partnership volunteering teams. For safety reasons, all volunteers must meet our general requirements and be able to work independently. Individual volunteers must also individually complete the application process.

Our foster program is a great way for youths and parents to have a rewarding volunteer experience together. Although the primary volunteer must be 18 years of age, the entire family can participate in the fostering experience. To learn more about our foster program, please click here.

I have a group that is interested in volunteering at one of your locations. What do you have available for group volunteering?

Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate groups of volunteers in our sites. Groups can be supportive of the animals by making toys, collecting and donating items from our “wish list” or holding a fundraiser. Click hereto see the many ways a group can support the animals.

After your group has held a fundraiser or donated items for the animals, a tour is a wonderful way to top off the experience. This is a great way for the group to see exactly how the animals are being supported by such efforts. They will get to see the animals using the toys and donated items, and see the different ways their fundraising efforts help. Tours are available at any of our five locations. To schedule a tour for your group, please click here.

I just want to walk the dogs. Why does that require so much training?

Surprisingly, walking the dogs actually involves more than just walking the dogs. We want to make sure the animals consistently receive a high-quality level of care and stay as healthy as possible. To do this, we need to educate our volunteers about safety procedures and protocols that are currently in place to limit the transfer of disease within our shelters. We also want to educate our volunteers on how to correctly interact with our shelter animals in order to reduce stress on the animals.

In addition, some of our dog walkers are also adoption support volunteers who help customers during their shifts. We want to make sure our volunteers have the information they need to assist customers and help with visitations.

All volunteers attend the specific training required for their volunteer role. Volunteer training includes the duties required for the role, safety procedures and protocols required and animal handling.

I am not able to volunteer independently. Can I bring a helper with me when I volunteer?

Animal Humane Society often gets requests from persons wishing to volunteer as a team. Sometimes this is a parent-child partnership, an aide-client partnership, a teacher-student partnership and others. Due to the nature of the work at Animal Humane Society, with limited resources and often confined physical space, we are unable to accept volunteering teams of any number.

Each volunteer at Animal Humane Society must go through the volunteer application process individually and be able to independently fulfill the responsibilities of their role.

Why do you have an application fee? Can it be waived?

Our application fee helps offset the costs involved in our application process. We process over 1,500 applications a year, and this fee is needed to help cover the costs associated with processing each applicant, including conducting interviews, orientations and training sessions. As a nonprofit with limited resources, we are unable to waive this fee for applicants.

I don’t have a computer or email. Can’t I just fill out a paper application form?

Due to the high volume of volunteer applicants we receive each year and the costs associated with paper applications, we are no longer able to process paper applications. The most cost-effective way for us to communicate with volunteer applicants and our current volunteers is with online services and email. For this reason, we have moved our application process online along with all of our volunteer scheduling.

Using email and online scheduling saves money on postage and printing costs, and helps to keep our program viable and efficient. Plus, the vast majority of communications between AHS and our volunteers is done via email. For this reason, we require that all volunteers have online access and a current email address.

Do you accept court-ordered community service hours?

Yes, in certain circumstances we do accept court-ordered community service volunteer hours. These hours are not part of our regular volunteer program. Please click hereto find out more information on this opportunity.

I am 16 years old, do not have my own email address and am shy about making phone calls. Can I have my parents or someone else call or email on my behalf?

All of our volunteer positions are adult-level roles. To serve successfully in their chosen role, students need to be comfortable independently complete all steps of the volunteer intake process:

Completing the application online, scheduling and attending a one-on-one interview

Scheduling and completing the required Orientation and training sessions

Handling all individual phone and email correspondence independently

Following safety protocols and procedures

Managing their own individual volunteer schedule using our online scheduling program

    We can understand and appreciate that parents want to be a part of the volunteer process their child is involved in. We do, however, have a policy that we need to be able to communicate directly with all of our individual volunteers for optimal coaching and to promote mutual understanding. Students must be able to provide an individual email address so that we can contact them directly. Due to this policy, we are also unable to accept email or phone correspondence on a student’s behalf. Students need to be able to individually manage all correspondence as it relates to volunteering.

    Can I be part of the volunteer program if I have a criminal record?

    The Animal Humane Society does not accept volunteers with a criminal record in relation to (1) sexual offense, (2) violent crimes or (3) animal neglect or cruelty within the last 15 years. The Animal Humane Society requires all persons applying to volunteer to state any past criminal record and reserves the right to conduct a background check on any volunteer.

    If I am fostering, do I get to choose the foster animals I bring home?

    Communications about animals that are available for foster go out via email to all current foster volunteers from the Foster Coordinator. These animals are placed into homes on a first-come, first-served basis. Foster volunteers are never expected to take an animal that is not a good fit for their home or family. Foster animals are not yet available for adoption, so are not listed on our website.

    Do I need to have experience to volunteer?

    No prior experience is needed to volunteer in our entry level positions, but we do require all volunteers to have good communication skills and a willingness to learn. We supply all the training needed for each entry-level position.

    For our advanced volunteer positions, we require 36 hours of experience working in an entry-level volunteer position as a prerequisite.

    We require our Animal Ambassador volunteers to be part of the Pet Partners Certified Therapy Program with their animal. We do not train animals in our shelters for this volunteer role and volunteers use their own trained therapy animals when volunteering.

    When are the volunteer shifts?

    Each site has slightly different volunteer scheduling and shifts. We schedule Adoption Support shifts when our Adoption Centers are open. Our Adoption Centers are open from Noon to 8pm weekdays and 10am to 6pm on weekends. Adoption Support shifts range from two-three hours long.

    Other positions have varied shift times depending on need. Typically shifts are two-four hours depending on role and some advanced positions are scheduled before the Adoption Centers open during the morning hours. We do not offer volunteer shifts in the evening after our Adoption Centers have closed.

    I’m an avid runner. Can I take AHS dogs out for a run during my volunteer shift?

    As with people, dogs need to slowly build up muscle strength and endurance in order to avoid potential injury when running or jogging. The dogs on our adoption floor have not had the training needed to prevent injury or to build the endurance to sustain them on runs. To avoid injury, we ask that the dogs be walked, and do not allow running or jogging.

    Volunteers are scheduled a minimum of one shift every other week. What happens if I want to go on vacation?

    We understand that life can be busy and have made our scheduling process as flexible as we are able. To make scheduling easy to manage, volunteers have a set schedule working the same shift time on the same day of the week. Volunteers manage their own schedules online and we allow for regular vacations and pre-arranged shift adjustments. When removing themselves from the schedule, volunteers are welcome to pick up a make-up shift, but it is not required.

    What if I only want to work special AHS events?

    We welcome new volunteers at our Walk for Animals event held each spring. Volunteering at this event is separate from our regular volunteer program and does not require an application fee. To learn more about this event and how to become involved please click here.

    For all other events, we recruit from within our current volunteer pool and for this reason do not offer an “Events Only” volunteer role.

    Animal Humane Society locations


    4375 Hwy. 55 S.E.
    Buffalo, MN 55313
    (763) 390-3647

    Operating hours

    Coon Rapids

    1411 Main St. N.W.
    Coon Rapids, MN 55448
    (763) 862-4030

    Operating hours

    Golden Valley

    845 Meadow Ln. N.
    Golden Valley, MN 55422
    (763) 489-2201

    Operating hours

    St. Paul

    1115 Beulah Ln.
    St. Paul, MN 55108
    (651) 645-7387

    Operating hours


    9785 Hudson Rd.
    Woodbury, MN 55125
    (651) 730-6008

    Operating hours

    • Administration
      (763) 522-4325
    • Animal Admissions
      (763) 412-4969
    • Pet Behavior Helpline
      (763) 489-2202
    • Boarding
      (763) 489-2222
    • More contact info »