Volunteering With Animals – Part Six: Veterinary Clinic Volunteers

When I started trying to break into veterinary nursing a lot of people told me volunteering in a clinic is a great way to get experience and improve your chances of landing a job. However, when I asked around and local clinics none of them were interested in taking on volunteers. So how do you land a volunteer role in a vet clinic?

It doesn’t hurt to ask anyway, and you never know if your local clinic is different to the ones I approached. If you know someone already in the industry then ask if the clinic they work at would be willing to let you volunteer a few hours a week. It’s not uncommon for the kids of vets to help out around the clinic, so having the right contact who can vouch for you might be a way in.

Otherwise some of the not-for-profit animal hospitals do take on volunteers in their clinics. Around Melbourne these include the RSPCA and Animal Aid. Volunteer roles in the clinic are very popular, so you may be added to a waiting list. It’s highly recommended that you take on shifts as an animal attendant or dog walker in the meantime.

I’ve only done a couple of volunteer shifts in veterinary clinic, so I can’t be sure that they’re all the same. You can expect to be cleaning and resetting enclosures, restocking supplies, helping with feeding routines and doing lots and lots of laundry. You might take dogs out for toilet walks or spend time with patients while they’re in recovery. Animals that are sick or recovering for surgery usually need to be kept quiet and inactive, so these kinds of positions may not involve all that much animal handling. What they do offer is the opportunity to see the inner workings of a veterinary clinic and what vets and nurses do day-to-day. It also offers great networking opportunities – introducing you to industry professionals and giving you priority consideration if they start looking for new employees at the clinic. This kind of role is great for people wishing to work in a vet clinic, but if you’re in it for the cuddles I would look at other ways of volunteering.

A lot of the patients you might deal with at a shelter clinic will be surrendered animals undergoing routine desexing surgeries. However, you may also be faced with animals that are recovering from severe neglect, cruelty or disease. Since you will only be there for a few hours a week, and most patients are not in the hospital for more than a day or two, you won’t find out the outcomes of every patient – but, not all of them will make it. These are things to keep in mind when considering a role in a vet clinic.

All-in-all volunteering in a vet clinic is a great way to give back, and to gain experience and contacts in this rewarding field!

Have you ever volunteered at a clinic? If you know of other clinics that take volunteers I’d love to hear about them!


Feature Pet: Gus the Tibetan Terrier

I recently read an article discussing the disputed phenomenon known as “Black Dog Syndrome“. Basically, staff who work at animal shelters have found that black dogs are less likely to be adopted than lighter coloured dogs. There are a few theories as to why – superstition, black dogs being view as aggressive, black fur showing up more on light coloured clothing and larger breeds being more frequently dark coloured (and larger dogs are harder to re-home). One theory is that many people turn to Internet profiles to help them choose a dog, and black dogs are harder to photograph well. This theory inspired photographer Fred Levy to create the Black Dogs Project, a collection of beautiful pictures of black dogs against a black backdrop.

I certainly discovered that black dogs are difficult to take good pictures of last weekend when I met this months feature pet – Gus the Tibetan Terrier! Coupled with the fact that Gus is a rambunctious 5 month old; he proved to be a very tricky subject.

Do you have any great snaps of your black pooch? I’d love to see your pictures!

Volunteering With Animals – Part One: Puppy Raising (Assistance and Guide Dogs)

Since I first started volunteering at the Cat Haven (in Western Australia) in 2012 I have found volunteering with animals to be endlessly fulfilling. Volunteering in any form is rewarding, but volunteering with animals has the added bonus of cuddles with your favourite critters, and of helping creatures that can’t speak out for their own welfare. It was this first volunteering role that lead me to pursue a career with animals.

Back in my home city of Melbourne I have been volunteering with the RSPCA (Vic) shelter in their admissions department (and a couple of sneaky shifts in the vet clinic). With a bit more time on my hands I decided to find out what other opportunities where out there, and was amazed to see how many different options there are. Over a series of posts I will share with you these options, starting with… 

Puppy Raising – Assistance and Guide Dogs

With the biggest time commitment of any volunteering role, puppy raisers are a special breed. These foster families take in puppies on their way to becoming guide dogs or assistance dogs (for other disabilities) from about 7 to 10 weeks of age, until they are 12-18 months old and ready to start their training. In this time, the puppy must be toilet trained, learn to walk on a lead, and be exposed to as many different places, people and experiences as possible. To be chosen as a carer you will need to have a fully enclosed and safe back yard, be able to keep the puppy in doors at night, not have children younger than school age and be able to commit to supervising the puppy for most of every day – the puppy should not be left alone for more than 3 hours a day. 

Once they are old enough, the puppies return to the training organisation for assessment and, if successful, training. After a year or more as part of the family, it can be very difficult to say goodbye. However, knowing that you have helped someone with a disability will help to fill that space in your heart with something else that’s warm and fuzzy. And who knows, they might just come back into your life once they retire from service…

If you live in Melbourne and you’re interested in becoming a puppy raiser you can find more information at the following websites:


I’d love to hear your puppy raising stories! Please share in the comments below if you’ve ever been a puppy raiser, or met any of these wonderful assistance-dogs-in-training.