Please note that we have temporarily paused our in-house volunteer onboarding due to the ongoing pandemic. We do not have a timeline on when it will restart, but please do check back periodically for updates.
So much of our Shelter's lifesaving work is because of our volunteers' amazing efforts and commitment! Are you interested in joining our in-house volunteer team? Read on for the requirements to volunteer and information about what types of positions are available in the shelter!
General requirements to become an in-house volunteer:
- Must be 18 years old - sorry, no exceptions!
- Be able to commit to a minimum of six hours per month*. (*Temporarily paused due to ongoing pandemic.)
- Have access to a computer to receive pertinent email updates and communication, and to manage your volunteer schedule.
- Understand that some of the volunteer positions require more physical capabilities and will have additional requirements.
- Commit to treat all animals and people with respect and kindness.
**If you are looking for short-term, court ordered, or youth volunteering opportunities, you can find those types of opportunities through Volunteer Fairfax or with the Fairfax County Government. Please note that the Shelter is unable to accommodate these types of volunteer opportunities.**
What volunteers do:
Volunteers help in every aspect of Shelter operations, from providing excellent customer service for visitors, to providing direct care to our Shelter pets, to helping and supporting our staff. If you are looking for a unique opportunity to serve others, work with animals, and at the same time make new friends and learn new skills, consider volunteering with us! We depend a great deal on our volunteers and their gift of time.
You, as a volunteer, can enjoy a genuine sense of satisfaction from helping others and take pride in being actively involved in meaningful service. Each year our volunteers contribute a significant amount of their time helping us provide high quality care to our visitors and animals in our care. We love our volunteers and couldn't do all that we do without them!
You can look through detailed descriptions of all our volunteer opportunities here. If you have a desire to help animals and people, we have lots of options for you! Here is a general list of the types of volunteer roles that exist:
- Cat Room Assistant
- Clean Team - Dishes
- Clean Team - Laundry
- Customer Care Associate
- Dog Kennel Assistant
- Dog Running Crew - AM and PM
- Shelter Tour Guide
- Small Animal Assistant
We offer flexible volunteer opportunities!
Fairfax County Animal Shelter volunteers assist in the Shelter between the hours of 8:00am – 8:00pm every day, rain/shine/wind/snow, 365 days a year.
You can fulfill your six hours per month requirement any way that works best for your schedule. (You can also volunteer more than six hours a month, and many of our current volunteers do!) Volunteers have the opportunity to sign up for a regular schedule or they can sign up when they are available. You can complete your six hours in one day, or come in for one hour on six different days, or come in for three hours every other Thursdays... scheduling is flexible!
After four months of service we also offer cross-training opportunities if you would like to expand your service to other areas of the shelter.
Essential capabilities of all FCAS volunteers:
- Average vision to move safely around the building, to be able to observe animal body language, and to be able to read notes on animals’ paperwork or computer memos as needed.
- Ability to effectively communicate verbally as well as in written form.
- A fairly high level of experience, familiarity, and/or desire to learn about cats, dogs, and small animals.
- Must not have strong allergies to dogs, cats, or other small animals (as it pertains to individual volunteer assignments) that can’t be managed by medication, or to chemicals used in grooming or cleaning.
Essential physical capabilities for animal care volunteers:
- Quick reflexes and ability to use both hands simultaneously (for example: open cage door while handling an animal).
- High level of manual dexterity to leash/harness animal, and to lock and unlock doors and gates in kennel areas for walking and showing animals.
- Ability to travel unaided on unpaved, uneven, rugged, and sometimes muddy and slippery exercise yard and lawn areas (when walking dogs outdoors).
- Ability to bend and squat in order to leash/harness, scrub kennels and/or pick up an animal and animal droppings as needed.
- Ability to stand/walk for significant periods of time as required by the volunteer assignment.
- Average sense of smell and touch in order to assess body conditions of animals and to note signs of illness and/or injury.
- Ability to hear if animal is making sounds indicating fear or pain.
- Ability to maneuver well in tight spaces and move quickly in order to prevent animals from escaping as required by the volunteer assignment. This requires average vision, hearing, steadiness of hands and body, quick reflexes, physical strength, and mental alertness.
- Cats/Small Animals up to 30 lbs.
- Dog volunteers must be able to control dogs up to 110 pounds who may be untrained/pull/jump/etc.
- Ability to tolerate strong and unpleasant odors, fleas, feces, and possible wounds or injuries that occur.
- Ability to tolerate a loud environment due to animal noises.
- Ability to judge an animal’s behavior and use the appropriate voice (soft, strong, or authoritative tone) in order to calm an animal’s response and/or to give commands.
- Must have good physical endurance along with the willingness and ability to do hard, physical, and often times dirty work as it pertains to volunteer assignments.
- Must be aware of the possibility of exposure to zoonotic diseases such as ringworm and mange, among others.
Essential mental capabilities:
- Ability to understand, remember, and follow exact instructions and procedures.
- Ability to work independently as required by the volunteer assignment.
- Possess reading, writing, and communication skills (example: understand words such as quarantine, isolation, and other common industry-related terms), and a mastery of the English language.
- Possess problem solving skills.
- Recognize potentially dangerous situations when working with the animals and ability to:
- Remain calm with animals who show signs of stress.
- Show good judgement by reacting sensitively, confident, and appropriately.
- Ability to effectively communicate with the public including providing customer service an education on topics as it pertains to the volunteer assignment.
- Ability to understand and accept the boundaries between the role of a volunteer and the role of a staff member.
- Possess a professional and positive attitude with a solution-oriented approach when facing challenges.
- Ability to understand the decision making-process of the staff as it pertains to animal welfare.
Essential emotional capabilities:
- Ability to cope with unexpected animal behavior without assistance.
- Ability to cope with a highly emotionally-charged environment with some animals that are homeless, abandoned and/or abused, as well as the reality that some of the animals in our care may be euthanized.
- Ability to understand FCAS’s policies and positions regarding animal welfare issues, and how our work intersects with Animal Protection Police.
- Ability and willingness to appropriately and accurately represent all FCAS policies and procedures when interacting with the public or otherwise representing FCAS.
Level of supervision:
- Once trained, must have the ability to work with minimal supervision; yet must also recognize limitations in knowledge and abilities, and ask for help when needed.
- Once trained, must have the ability to work independently as well as with other volunteers and/or staff.
To become a volunteer at the Shelter you will go through several steps. Each step will need to be successfully passed to continue through the process. This process is designed as a screening tool for our Shelter to ensure that you are a good fit and have the appropriate amount of time to commit, and the interest in the volunteer duties at the Shelter. The process is also designed so that you, the potential volunteer, can personally assess if you are interested in the duties of a volunteer within our Shelter and agree to abide by the policies and procedures of our Shelter. The onboarding process takes approximately 30-60 days to complete.
Currently our onboarding process steps include:
- Complete the Volunteer Application.
- Attend an online Webinar Volunteer Orientation Session. (Details on this step are emailed following Volunteer Application.)
- Attend an in-person Volunteer Information Session. (Details on how to sign up for this step are be emailed following the successful attendance of a Volunteer Information Session.)
- Attend an in-person mentor training session (or two if needed) in your designated service area. (Details on this step will be emailed following successful attendance of a Volunteer Information Session.)
- Begin volunteering! You may also request an additional shadowing/training session prior to starting your regular shift, if you would like!