If you're passionate about animal welfare and conservation there are plenty of volunteering opportunities for animal lovers both at home and abroad. Take a look at what's on offer
By volunteering with animals 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:
- animal nutritionist
- animal physiotherapist
- animal technician
- farm manager
- veterinary nurse
- veterinary surgeon
To find out more, search for volunteering opportunities.
Animal charities in the UK
General animal welfare charities in the UK include:
- Blue Cross - It's rehoming and veterinary services help thousands of pets every year. As a volunteer you can become a pet foster carer, help deliver pet education programmes to young people, 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) - Prevents cruelty, promotes kindness to and alleviates 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 35,000 volunteers, all of who 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 eight organisations: Canine Partners, Dog A.I.D., Dogs for Good, Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Medical Detection Dogs, Support Dogs and The Seeing Dogs Alliance. More than 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 - 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 25,000 disabled people every year. It is run by 18,000 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 - Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage. 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
Based in Eastern Cambodia near the Vietnamese boarder you’ll help with elephant conservation on a 1,500-acre sanctuary, which is home to 10 rescued Asian elephants.
You’ll observe the elephants and assist with health checks, help to grow and harvest banana and bamboo trees for food, work to maintain and clean the sanctuary and treatment areas as well as help out on current research projects.
You’ll have the weekends to yourself but the location you’ll be staying in is pretty rural.
Leopards and lions in South Africa
South Africa's climate ranges from desert to sub-tropical and travellers often head to the country to relax on wine tours or tick off the 'big five' while 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 in South Africa.
Sea turtles in Costa Rica
Head to North America, Costa Rica to be exact if you'd like to help to protect sea turtles from extinction while teaching in local schools, conserving beaches and learning Spanish.
With a number of conservation projects available you could be patrolling beaches watching for nesting turtles coming out of the sea, working in and constructing hatcheries, releasing sea turtle hatchlings into the ocean, maintaining facilities and shelters, monitoring sea turtles, protecting turtle nests and assisting with any ad hoc research or data collection tasks. You may also be involved in teaching local children and young people how to conserve the creatures for future generations.
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 voluntary tasks 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 and taking pictures onboard whale-watching boats, taking part in coastal expeditions, educating tourists through ethical watching tours, beach cleans, identification of marine fauna and raising awareness of marine conservation issues.
Domestic animals and strays in Jamaica
A popular tourist destination and often thought of as the star of the Caribbean, Jamaica boasts sun, sea and a distinctive culture.
Based on the north-eastern coast in the parish of St Mary’s you'll work as a veterinary volunteer providing care to strays and other domesticated animals. You'll work closely with other veterinary staff and observe a range of practices and procedures such as assisting with operations, administering vaccinations and helping to examine and treat animals.
Your weekends will be free and as you’re close to the port town of Ocho Rios there will be plenty of restaurants, craft markets and art galleries to explore.
Find out more
- Discover more volunteer projects in South America.
- Learn more about working abroad.
- Explore jobs working with animals.