Animal Volunteer Options in Sacramento

By Kelly Conroy

Two years ago, I decided I needed a dog in my life. My childhood memories of family pets were fading too quickly and, despite all the distractions midtown had to offer, my twenty-something life just wasn’t complete without a canine companion.

It wasn’t until after I had made up my very stubborn mind that I realized where I was living – in a tiny one bedroom apartment with a strict no dog clause in the lease…

After a handful of torturous afternoons scanning the “adoptable pets” section of every animal shelter in the Sacramento area, I finally decided that nothing would get in my way of puppy love! So, I volunteered. And for one, glorious month, I scheduled myself for dog-walking shifts whenever I could and happily exercised and played with dogs until they could rest easily in their kennels again.

But after only four weeks, I knew I needed more.

After much coaxing, my parents came to the shelter with me “just to look” at the available dogs. List in hand I knew exactly which dogs I wanted to meet before making any decisions. And suddenly, there she was. My list vanished while she sat politely and grinned at us with her big, pit bull smile. It took about 30 seconds in the play yard to know she was mine.

I continued volunteering with the shelter for a year after the adoption and am so grateful to have had the opportunity. While it was heartbreaking at times, it was always worth it to know that I was making a difference in an animal’s life. Twenty minutes outside of a kennel means more to a dog than you could imagine.

While it’s a reality that many people wish to ignore, animal shelters are bursting at the seams with adoptable companions and if you think the budget cuts to other government programs have been rough, you should see the skeleton crew that government run animal shelters are operating on. Even the city and county shelters would shut down if it weren’t for volunteer support.

Sacramento is so lucky to have such an array of animal shelters. From the SPCA to breed-specific rescues (,, to government run shelters (county and city), there are tons of opportunities to get involved!

If you find yourself yearning for the unconditional cuddling of a furry friend, but don’t have the time, energy, or space (let’s face it, most of us really don’t!), to adopt, think about volunteering. Anything from dog walking to laundry to front desk services can be a big help to a shelter with a small staff!

Each shelter has a different process for recruiting and training volunteers, so be sure to visit the website and see when the next volunteer training is taking place. I promise, the staff and the animals will be happy to see you!

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  1. Jeni says

    This sounds like me! I got my own place in may and now that I don’t have roommates I’m feeling the urge to get my own puppy. But, my place has a no pets policy…how did you handle that? I’ll definitely take a look at the shelters since I’ve got some extra time on my hands and a love for cats and dogs 🙂

  2. Celeste Ingrid says

    Nice article, Kelly! Thank you for adopting a shelter pit bull, and getting the word out about the incredible dogs in the shelters. As much, thank you for stressing how important volunteers are to keeping municipal shelters operational, such as ours. We miss you volunteering with us at Sacramento County Animal Care, come back any time!

  3. Jen says

    Great article. Our pup came from the Bradshaw location and 9+ years later she is going strong and sharing her love with all. After volunteering as a dog walker my son too adopted a middle age pup that had became ill. This dog too is a neighborhood favorite and gorgeous!
    We tell everyone that every breed age and size pup is at these shelters and how glorious it is to get to walk play care for all the animals if you are not in a position to adopt. !!!

  4. Debbie says

    Thank you for writing about your own experiences and promoting shelter (or any animal welfare) volunteer work! I’ve been a volunteer for around 9 years and found it very rewarding. To see a cat or dog go from homeless to a beloved family member–well, if you love animals, there’s just nothing like it!

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