We all know that most high school students are required to fulfill a certain amount of community service at one time or another. Most see it as just another thing to worry about getting done in order to move on in life, but have you ever thought about the people who volunteer just to help out? I was able to meet many of the people who volunteer at the SPCA Serving Erie County.
---- The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a nonprofit shelter founded in 1867 to house animals in order to prevent suffering due to abuse, abandonment and any other forms of cruelty. The 1,343 volunteers at the SPCA, located on Ensminger Road in Tonawanda, help to find loving homes and bright futures for animals. Before animals can be adopted, they must be healthy, both physically and emotionally.
---- There is a variety of jobs for volunteers. The SPCA also offers a youth volunteer program for students in grades seven to 12. Though they are not able to work hands-on with the animals, they can help keep the shelter running smoothly by making toys for the cats and dogs, filing, cleaning and preparing crafts for the preschool programs.
---- One type of work volunteers may choose is to be a kennel assistant. Kennel assistants help match families with pets. Their job involves answering questions people may have about a specific dog or the adoption process. They also help potential adopters take a dog they are interested in for a walk in the dog park and explain to them how to obtain a preapproval card. Without this card, people cannot take a dog for a walk. Kennel assistants also help to ensure the safety of the animals and the visitors.
---- Another job in the kennels is called dog enrichment. The volunteers spend time with the dogs and teach dogs proper behavior and basic commands. By spending so much time with each dog, they really learn their personalities, which helps make adoptions easier, quicker and more successful.
---- In the cat room, cages line the walls with eager cats trying to steal the hearts of visiting families. Cat room monitors take care of the cats and make sure they have clean cages. They also help inform potential owners and make any recommendations on what cats would make a good match. They also help people get preapproval cards so they can bond with prospective pet cats in the play room.
---- In the cat room, volunteers called advocates help frightened cats to feel more comfortable at the SPCA. This is often accomplished by taking the skittish cats into the play room and spending some time to pet the cat and help him or her to relax.
---- The Chillin' Village is located near the cat room. This is where all the kittens up for adoption live. It's a very popular area of the SPCA.
---- Other volunteer opportunities include bunny huggers and working at the Educational Farm and the Petique. Bunny huggers interact with the bunnies and make sure the cages are clean. They also inform people on how to take care of a pet bunny.
---- The SPCA is home to many other types of animals up for adoption including hamsters, guinea pigs, birds and more. The Educational Farm also doubles as a petting zoo.
---- The SPCA would not be complete without its Petique, which is full of pet merchandise needed for new owners. The Petique workers also teach new owners about the proper way to take care of and train their new pets as well as recommend the best products for their animals.
---- While all of these volunteer jobs are important, the SPCA would not be able to function without its adoption counselors. They are the people who legalize and finalize the adoption and make sure the adopters are able to take care of pets. This process starts with a photo I.D. and an interview with the adopters. The process ends with making sure the animal is spayed or neutered and has a microchip implantation so if for any reason the SPCA gets possession of the animal again, they will have the information about this pet on the microchip.
---- Also, there is a program called Pet Connect that lets potential owners work with a counselor to find the right pet.
---- Fostering is also an important part of the SPCA. Many foster owners take in animals who are either too young to be put up for adoption or animals who are taking medication. Many pets are on a short-term medication plan, which makes them eligible to be "foster to adopt" pets. This means that while they are still on their medication, they will be legally owned by the SPCA. However, someone could foster them until they are healthy enough to be adopted.
---- While volunteering at the SPCA shelter is a great way to help the community and local animals, there are also many other things that people can do to aid this nonprofit sanctuary. Donations of food, pet supplies and money are always appreciated. And, if you are given approval by the SPCA, you can run fundraising events to gather needed items for the animals.
Rachel Wieclaw is a sophomore at North Tonawanda High School.