Volunteering at a pet shelter is a great way to get involved in your community and can be extremely fulfilling as you see the evidence of how you’ve improved these animals’ lives. From the outside, it may seem like easy work, playing with puppies all day, but the reality is much more demanding. In reality, becoming a pet shelter volunteer is a journey that requires training and dedication from those who take up the mantle.
POMI understands that with that dedication comes a risk. In volunteers’ attempts to help the animals, they can put themselves in jeopardy of injury or illness. By following our safety tips, you can ensure that you can continue doing your good work for a long time.
5 Tips for Staying Safe at a Pet Shelter
A risk you may face while volunteering at a pet shelter is coming into contact with a zoonotic disease, an illness that can be passed from animals to humans and vice versa. Animal shelters especially need to be aware of the threat zoonotic diseases pose because of the unknown medical background of the animals they take in.
Luckily, the easiest way to help avoid coming into contact with these diseases is to follow a few simple rules.
Frequently Wash Your Hands
Diseases can spread orally, through open wounds, and mucous membranes, by washing your hands thoroughly, and often, you can help prevent any germs that get onto your hands from entering your body. An effective method to wash your hands is to use an iodine-based disinfectant soap, scrub your hands together for 10-15 seconds, and then rinse under a forceful stream of warm water.
To be extra cautious, make sure to use gloves when handling aggressive animals, or cleaning cages, food and water bowls, and litter pans.
Get Precautionary Vaccinations
Any staff that will be handling animals should get a pre-exposure rabies vaccine. Even if you experience minimal contact with the animals, rabies is an extremely vicious disease that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The rabies vaccine is given in a series of three injections, with titers required every two years to maintain an adequate immune response.
All volunteers should also consider getting vaccinated against tetanus. This vaccine requires a much less painstaking process, only requiring a single dose that lasts 10 years before needing to be renewed.
Certify That Your Shelter is in Compliance with OSHA’s Regulations
It isn’t relatively well-known that OSHA’s regulations apply to animal shelters, but they are, in fact, under their jurisdiction. Discuss with your shelter how they’re complying with the regulations and make sure that the material safety data sheets (MSDS) are on file and accessible at the shelter.
OSHA designates that your training should include:
Techniques for proper sanitation and dilution of disinfectants
Proper signage for wet floors when mopping
Headphones to block out excessive noise from the kennels
Techniques to safely lift heavy objects or animals
To learn the extent of the regulations, talk to the shelter’s supervisor and review them in full.
Learn to Recognize Details of Animal Behavior
Being able to identify different behaviors in the animals you handle will help limit the possibility of being bitten or scratched because you’ll know when it’s time to back off. A lot of behaviors that we perceive as friendly can actually be a sign of tension or anxiety when combined with other behaviors. By seeking out training within, or outside, of your organization you can prepare yourself to have healthier interactions with the shelter’s animals, which will be better for everyone overall.
Get Trained to Identify When an Animal is Sick
It is not only in the animal’s best interest to get treatment when they’re sick, but it is in yours as well. When one of the animals get sick there may also be the possibility it can be transmitted to the staff if proper safety procedures are not taken, and bacteria gets into a cut or a mucous membrane. Recognizing when an animal is behaving unusually can help with early illness detection and keep everyone safe from the potential transmission.
Take Shelter with POMI
You want your clients to be covered as they give back to their community. That’s why POMI offers coverage to animal shelter volunteers in the case of accident medical expenses, accident dental expenses, accidental death or dismemberment, paralysis, and more. Where we set ourselves apart is with our flexibility. Many of our policies are DIY, so you can build the best policies for your clients. For your more complex clients, we are happy to connect you with a policy expert who can help create a unique policy to meet their individual needs.Contact us today to start your POMI experience!