Volunteering at the Fredericton SPCA

Volunteering at the Fredericton SPCA
by Mary Hill

I became an SPCA volunteer about two years ago, a few months after my husband and I adopted our cat Ashley from the shelter.

Ashley was an adult cat, with a soft, plush grey coat and big green eyes. Now five years old, she is the one responsible for converting my husband, who had never had a pet before, into an official cat person. And it was also Ashley who inspired me to become involved with the SPCA. Knowing that the animal shelter had saved her made me want to give something back.

I now help out at the shelter on Sunday mornings, working mainly in the cat rooms, and recently began walking dogs on the weekend along with my husband.

When I tell people that I volunteer at the shelter, their most common reaction is: “I love animals, but I think it would be too hard to volunteer at the SPCA. I would want to take all the animals home.”

They say, “Doesn’t it bother you?” I understand where they are coming from; those same feelings initially held me back from volunteering.

Many people who do decide to volunteer show up at the shelter with visions of kittens and puppies dancing playfully in their heads; many do not return after their actual experience turns out to be different than what they had expected.

The reality is that it is hard and dirty work. Before the shelter opens to the public, there are endless chores to be done to simply tend to the basic needs of the shelter residents.

All of the kennels must be cleaned out, the animals fed, dogs walked, and dishes and litter boxes washed. It is not for the squeamish — you will scoop your share of poop, hardly a pleasant experience!

In the cat rooms, you will sometimes be met with hissing instead of purring. Not all of the animals will appreciate your efforts; some are scared, not used to being cared for by human companions, and are on the defensive in their strange new territory.

While it is not unusual to go home with a few battle scars, these are quickly forgotten when you learn that your charges have been adopted into loving homes where their true personalities will blossom.

As for the question of it bothering me, the answer is yes, it does. Do I want to take the cats home? Yes, of course I do. But as a shelter volunteer, you will realise quickly that you could never take home every animal that catches your eye.

Hundreds of cats and dogs pass through the shelter doors each year. The mission of the SPCA is to provide temporary shelter to these animals until they find new homes.

The work of the shelter staff and volunteers improves the animals’ lives and helps keep them safe, healthy and warm until they can be united with a new family that is out there waiting for them. It is a dedication to the cause that motivates me, not simply a love of animals.

If you are unsure of whether shelter work is for you, there are many other ways to contribute your time. If you like dogs, consider becoming a dog walker. Regular training sessions are offered to teach you how to handle the often exuberant dogs, and you can walk dogs anytime during the shelter hours of 10am to 4pm every day. Being taken for a walk is the highlight of a shelter dog’s day, and by teaching them how to walk properly on a leash and to obey basic commands; you help make the dogs more attractive to potential adopters.

The SPCA also hosts annual fundraising events, such as the “Bark in the Park,” that require many volunteers to fill a range of roles. Participating in fundraising events for even a couple days a year helps bring in much needed funds that keep the shelter running.

For more information on the volunteer opportunities that are available, visit the shelter website or stop by and talk to a staff member. You may have special talents or interests that will fulfill a need, or ideas that will improve shelter operations or increase donations.

Let us know what you have to offer!!

Mary Hill is originally from Nova Scotia but has lived in Fredericton for the past 4 years. She works for the Vice President of Research at the University of New Brunswick and is also completing a master’s degree part time. Mary has been volunteering with the Fredericton SPCA for over two years and her husband is also volunteer. Mary can be reached by email at mhill@unb.ca.  For more information, visit www.FrederictonSPCA.ca.