Volunteers find best friends at animal shelter

Matt Kuhns

Editor’s note: This is the fourth of a five-part series on volunteer opportunities in Ames. Anyone interested in volunteering can call the Volunteer Center of Story County at 232-2736, the ISU Volunteer Placement Center at 294-5254 or the Ames Animal Shelter at 239-5530.

Volunteers at the Ames Animal Shelter had better be prepared to do more than just play with kittens, said Lorna Lavender, the shelter’s director.

“You have to come into it with a real ‘roll up your sleeves’ attitude, [because] it’s work,” Lavender said.

The volunteer program has been in place at the shelter for about 10 years, and “it’s worked out relatively well,” she said.

Along with sheltering stray or abandoned animals, the Ames Animal Shelter, 325 Bill Sunday Road, helps enforce city animal codes, responds to calls from citizens and helps find and return lost animals, Lavender said.

She said the shelter houses mostly dogs and cats but also gets rabbits, ferrets and a few other exotic animals.

Volunteers are called upon to help with cleaning and maintenance, but one of their foremost tasks is providing company for the animals the shelter houses, Lavender said.

Animals at the shelter are in a “stress environment,” and volunteers provide them with more socialization opportunities, Lavender said. As a result, the animals are happier and more friendly, and thus more likely to be adopted.

Brad Hecht, graduate student in water resources, said interacting with the animals is one of the best things about volunteering at the shelter.

“The animals are so receptive to human interaction” as a result of spending most of the day confined, Hecht said.

Hecht, who has volunteered at the shelter for about two years, said he got involved with the Ames Animal Shelter because he enjoys working with dogs and would eventually like to go into semi-professional dog-training.

Hecht said the biggest downside to volunteering at the shelter is occasionally seeing animals he has grown attached to euthanized. He said everyone does his or her best to get the animals adopted.

Paul Meenan, graphic designer for the Iowa State Athletic Department, has worked with the shelter staff since the volunteer program’s inception.

“They’re great people to work with,” Meenan said.

Meenan said he has continued volunteering with the shelter because there are always new animals, and he feels like he is “cheating” the animals if he does not go in every week.

“We’re there for [the animals’] benefit” and to help raise their spirits, Meenan said.

Not all volunteers stay with the shelter as long as Meenan, Lavender said.

She said the volunteers who stay the longest are usually those who strongly support the shelter’s cause.

However, Lavender said she does not mind those volunteers who leave, because they still learn something about the program.