Taking Shelter: Let Your Local Animal Sanctuary Surprise You

I decided to take the plunge and do something I’ve talked about for years.

I decided to volunteer at an animal sanctuary.

I suppose the main reason I’ve never actually got off my vegan butt to do this before was because I was scared. Scared of just finding the whole thing very traumatic, imagining I would literally be crying uncontrollably all the time, bringing all the animals home with me every week and being thoroughly miserable all the time as a result of seeing so much suffering.

It’s only recently that I have come to realise that these thoughts and fears are also at the root of the many excuses people use for not taking responsibility about eating and buying animal products, and not considering the consequences of their choices. This is why people say “Oh, I can’t watch Earthlings as I may get upset”- you know what I mean?

I realised that it’s not “allaboutme.com”, it’s about helping animals… Image: Shutterstock.

I realised that it’s not “AllAboutMe.com”, it’s about helping animals, however upsetting it may be – and so I decided that I just need to suck it up and get on with it. The result was surprising…

Taking the first step

I found out about a shelter near me, and whilst checking out their website my highly sensitive “vegan references” radar homed in on the precious words “vegan cake”. Yes!!! Total jackpot – an animal shelter, run by vegans, just 20 minutes away from me!! And they have a totally vegan café too!! The omens were good…The shelter’s website asked for volunteers to commit to four hours a week, which I admit seemed like a pretty big chunk of my precious weekend, but I decided to go for it anyhow.

I (bravely) went along to sign up as instructed on the website. When I arrived at the shelter I met a lovely woman who had volunteered at the shelter with her husband for four years. They dedicate their whole Saturday every weekend and also helped out during the week; suddenly my generous four hours didn’t seem so heroic… She was really friendly and jolly, not the grief stricken, emotionally fragile shelter worker with mascara running down her face I had in mind. She introduced me to her husband who runs the vegan café and they insisted I had a cuppa and cake – it would have been very rude to refuse of course.

Her husband showed me around the shelter and one of the cutest things was seeing lots of hedgehogs all asleep under their own little blankets! Soooooo cute! The shelter takes in all kinds of animals from dogs, cats and rabbits for rehoming to wildlife such as swans, hedgehogs and ducks who get nursed back to health and are then released back to the wild. No animal is euthanized unless they are untreatable, in pain and it is advised by the vet. So there I was having a fabulous time, smiling, laughing and connecting with noble animal lovers who actually walk their talk, and not a teary eye in sight! Not really what I imagined at all!

Take the plunge: try to volunteer at a shelter or a sanctuary you connect to. You might find the whole experience rewarding and beneficial for you and for them… Image: Shutterstock.

Most importantly, we all get to give lots of love to animals in need. You would think working in a shelter would harden people, but they don’t lose their compassion or sensitivity at all; they just become very practical and even more compassionate. When you see just how big the whole issue of animal neglect is, you realise very quickly that no one person can deal with this alone – that a community is needed to deal with the demands on a practical and emotional basis. I’m still a newbie but I’m very happy to be there and finding I want to spend more and more time there instead of my regulation four hours. In short, I would highly recommend volunteering at your local shelter, you can help in all kinds of ways – it’s the best thing I’ve done since turning vegan!

You are more than welcome to visit the website of the shelter I am volunteering at, Animals in Need; have a look, see for yourself, donate or volunteer if you would like, and don’t forget to look up a shelter or a farm sanctuary near you – it could just turn out to be one of the most rewarding experiences you could have if you just give it a go…

Cover image: Shutterstock.

Jacqui Barnett

Writer & Reviewer

Vegan Mind & Body Columnist

I live in the UK with my fantastic partner and two beautiful dogs - we are all vegan. I’m passionate about animal welfare, veganism and spreading the vegan word through education, support and hugs! When I’m not writing for The Vegan Woman I teach yoga as I believe Yoga truly helps practitioners to become more compassionate and conscious in every way – which is good for all beings. For fun I love spending time with my vegan crew, helping out at an animal shelter and watching corny sci-fi

More about Jacqui

Check out Jacqui’s website JacquiYoga