Volunteering with animals is easy when there are so many options to choose from. You can work in conservation or welfare, at home or abroad. Take a look at what’s on offer
If you love animals and feel passionate about their rights and wellbeing, working with them in a voluntary capacity can be incredibly rewarding. You get to do something that you truly believe in, all while giving something back to society.
No matter the voluntary opportunity you'll gain important transferable skills in areas such as administration, animal care, campaigning, communication, fundraising, IT, research and teamwork.
What's more, voluntary experience can be the perfect preparation for a career working with animals in roles such as:
Learn more about some of the animal charities that you can volunteer with in the UK, discover what's available overseas and search for volunteering opportunities.
Animal charities in the UK
General animal welfare charities in the UK include:
- Blue Cross - This organisation's rehoming and veterinary services help 40,000 pets every year. As a volunteer you can become a pet foster carer, help deliver pet education programmes, work in a Blue Cross charity shop, take part in fundraising activities, provide emotional support to bereaved pet owners and help with walking, grooming and feeding animals and cleaning kennels.
- The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) - The UK's leading vet charity has 48 dedicated pet hospitals across the country. Volunteer placements are available in PDSA charity shops, offices and hospitals. At their head office you can volunteer in finance, marketing, education and fundraising roles. In the hospitals you can help to care for sick and injured pets and work on reception. Voluntary opportunities also exist for qualified vets and nurses.
- The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) - Works to prevent cruelty, promote kindness to and alleviate the suffering of animals. Volunteering opportunities include fostering animals, assisting the re-homing service, photographing animals and fundraising. You can also volunteer in RSPCA branches as an administrator.
- The Wildlife Trusts - Protects and benefits the UK's natural environment. It cares for 2,300 nature reserves and has 43,000 volunteers, all of whom help to secure the future of precious habitats and species. As a volunteer you can survey species, care for nature reserves and get involved in community gardening.
Assistance therapies and specialist charities
Several UK charities help people with day-to-day living by providing contact with animals. These include:
- Assistance Dogs UK - Made up of seven individual organisations: Canine Partners, Dog A.I.D., Dogs for Good, Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Medical Detection Dogs and Support Dogs. Over 7,000 disabled people in the UK rely on assistance dogs to help with day-to-day tasks. Volunteers are needed to help educate puppies aged between six weeks and one year. Tasks include socialising, emergency and short-term fostering, and dog-walking to familiarise the puppy with public places.
- Pets as Therapy - First established in 1983, the charity relies on volunteers to share their time and their pets with people in need. Volunteers provide a visiting service in hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and a variety of other venues across the UK.
- Riding for the Disabled Association - Arranges horse and pony-based activities such as riding, vaulting, show-jumping, hippotherapy and carriage driving for around 28,000 disabled people every year. It is run by 19,000 volunteers across 500 groups; voluntary opportunities include mucking out, grooming, tacking-up, and leading and side-walking.
- The Cinnamon Trust - Helps elderly and terminally ill people to care for their pets. Around 15,000 volunteers perform dog-walking and other tasks including short-term fostering when the pet's owner is in hospital.
Chimpanzees in Zambia
Zambia is home to the stunning Zambezi River, the world-famous Victoria Falls and one of the largest chimpanzee sanctuaries on the planet. Here, you can rescue injured and orphaned chimpanzees - an animal whose very existence in Zambia is threatened by poaching, logging, habitat destruction and the illegal bush meat trade.
You'll research chimpanzee behavioural interactions, gathering character and age data about individuals to help build an identification system. This will help the sanctuary to create family trees, and improve information guides and literature for its education centre.
You'll also feed and create enrichment activities for the animals, plus maintain enclosures, help out on the farm and tend to its fruit tree garden.
Elephants in Indonesia
The Indonesian island of Sumatra is one of many destinations in Southeast Asia where you can help rescued and retired working elephants.
You'll feed, wash and care for Sumatran elephants, learn animal husbandry skills from local mahouts, teach English to local schoolchildren and plant trees in the jungle.
All of this takes place in a beautiful location that boasts volcanoes, jungles and beaches. What's more, there are plenty of villages that you can explore and adventure activities you can enjoy; you could go white water rafting, scuba diving or volcano trekking, or even take part in a wildlife safari or rainforest canopy tour.
Leopards and lions in South Africa
South Africa's climate and ranges from desert to sub-tropical and travellers often head to the country to relax on wine tours or tick off the 'big five' wildlife list on safari at one its many national parks.
To make your trip to South Africa one to remember you could join an active research team and contribute to important wildlife conservation research in Kruger National Park at the Kruger conservation and leopard monitoring project. The team focus on leopard population monitoring - essential for the protection of the species. Volunteers receive bush craft training, which gives you a foundation of knowledge on animal identification, tracking, and behaviour. You'll conduct conservation research and predator monitoring and take part in game reserve management and community development projects.
Find out more about working South Africa.
Sea turtles in Costa Rica
Grenada, Mexico and Costa Rica are three tropical North American destinations where you can help to protect sea turtles from extinction while teaching in local schools, conserving beaches and learning to surf.
In Costa Rica, you can work with four different species of sea turtle that are in danger of extinction due to human activities such as infrastructure development, light pollution, transportation of vehicles and the capture of adults. Working in one of four project locations, you'll preserve some of the few natural nesting sites that don't hold official protection by the Costa Rican government.
Tasks include releasing sea turtle hatchlings, maintaining facilities and shelters, constructing hatcheries, monitoring sea turtles, protecting turtle nests and undertaking beach patrols.
Bears in Romania
Help to protect and conserve brown bears in Europe's largest bear sanctuary. Located in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains just outside of the medieval city of Brasov the sanctuary cares for bears who have suffered at the hands of hunters and rescues those forced to dance in the street or cycle around circuses for entertainment.
Typical tasks for volunteers include preparing food, watching the bears to see how they're coping, giving sanctuary tours to educational groups and sanctuary conservation work.
In your free time you'll be able to hike the surrounding mountains, visit Dracula's castle and explore hilltop fortresses.
Whales and dolphins in Tenerife
If you head to Tenerife you'll have sandy beaches, the third largest volcano in the world and Mount Teide National Park to explore in your spare time.
The largest of the seven Canary Islands, Tenerife is one of the top whale and dolphin-watching destinations in the world due to its assortment of marine life.
As a whale and dolphin conservation volunteer you'll make a valuable and significant contribution to the protection of vulnerable whale and dolphin species. Activities include conducting visual surveys on board whale-watching boats, taking part in coastal expeditions, identification of marine fauna and raising awareness of marine conservation issues.
Find out more
- Read more about charity and voluntary work.
- Find out everything you need to know about volunteering.
- Explore opportunities for working abroad or studying abroad.
- Discover what you could do on your gap year.