Help people by volunteering with animals

Animals play a key role in the lives of many people around the world.  They help people with day to day living, bringnig them joy through visits, helping them through therapy exercises & providing them with a livelihood.
Animals have an amazing ability to reach those parts of us that many people can't reach - right into our hearts, at a stroke.  It's like they have a direct line to our very being.  The true animal lovers among you will know what I mean.  An animal's love is absolutely pure.  Consequently for these and other reasons, many of us will do things for animals we wouldn't perhaps do for people.  And many animals, such as dogs, donkeys & horses whose temperaments are the right ones, can be trained to help people.  Enter animal assistance therapies & specialist charities. 
Many animal assistance charities need volunteers around the UK to help them, and here are a few below.  The help they require will clearly vary from charity to charity, as will the geographic spread of volunteers needed around the UK. Many - but not all - will have links to partner organisations around the world
The Cinnamon Trust have a network of volunteers to help the elderly & terminally ill only with pet care, including dog walking.  The charity is always keen to hear from reliable, pet & people loving individuals who understand the very special & unique bond that exists between pets and their elderly owners, in particular.  


The Donkey Sanctuary has donkeys who work with children with special needs.  Their centres in Leeds, Birmingham, Ivybridge, Manchester and Sidmouth have volunteers who help with the children & donkeys, tacking up, grooming, exercising & doing anything they can to help. And read about the work donkeys do visiting the elderly in care homes here - there are some wonderful stories 


Riding for the Disabled have thousands of volunteers who help people with disabilities enjoy achievement, have fun & therapy as they enjoy their time in the saddle or having a go at carriage driving. They have a variety of volunteer roles, such as the Session Volunteers who give support to riders & drivers by leading horses, side walking, helping them to mount etc, and coaches, instructing the sessions.   There are other roles, too, so click here to find out more
Pets as Therapy cats & dogs visit half a million bedsides each year, giving smiles & unconditional love to animal lovers in hospitals, hospices, day care centres & care homes.  If your dog or cat has the right temperament, they could volunteer with you!  The charity's website can be accessed here - go to the Information Menu & then "Visiting Scheme" to find out more in the first instance, then check on the How to Join link within that page.  And watch the online film, narrated by Roy Barraclough


Many of the assistance dog charities need puppy socialisers or puppy parents (terms will vary) to educate & socialise puppies in the first year of their lives.  The idea is that you train the puppy for a year, giving him or her the socialising & training he needs;  you'll probably get your pup used to going into places such as supermarkets, on trains, into the hairdressers, into schools & so on.  At the end of that time, you'll pass them back for more advanced training. 
They may also need boarders, to help with emergency dog care, boarding on a B&B basis (at the weekends for instance) or when puppy socialisers or parents are having a holiday.  Some of these opportunities are regional, other UK wide.  If you can't do the hands-on dog stuff, there will be plenty else you can do to help.  Between 80,000 and 100,000 people in the UK could benefit from an assistance dog
The hard part is clearly lettting go of a young dog (six months to a year, depending on the charity) you love very much. The wonderful part is that you know they are going on to help someone else live a more indepedent, fulfilling & happier life. 
Some of the assistance dog charities, collectively known as Assistance Dogs UK, are listed below.
Canine Partners need volunteers to help as Volunteer Puppy Parents to start the process of turning a bundle of fur & mischief into a fully trained assistance dog.  They also need B&B & weekend foster parents, the B&B to care for dogs in their advanced stages of training, and the foster parents to cover holidays etc.   They have training satellite centres around the UK, and most of their volunteering with dogs needs are found in these areas.  The charity has other volunteer needs, too - click here to find out how you can get involved
Dogs for Good need people who will work with their puppies to give them all the experience they need to start off on the road to becoming an assistance dog.  You need to live within one hour of Banbury in Oxfordshire. Their dogs will during the course of this year go into all sorts of places, including supermarkets, schools, train stations, the hair-dressers so puppy socialisers play a key role in educating these puppies. They also need volunteers who will care for dogs while the puppy socialisers are having a well earned break!  There are other ways you can support Dogs for the Disabled - click here for info  
Guide Dogs need people to help with the early education & training of puppies who are going to be Guide Dogs.   Puppies are with you from about six weeks old through to a year, when you'll hand them over to the training centre to go on with their more advanced work.  Guide Dogs also need boarders who love dogs but can't have a dog of their own.  This may be on a B&B basis (you collect the dog at the end of the day and drop him off at the start of it), or it could be emergency help you give, where a carer is ill, or even for an interim period for a dog who hasn't made the grade and who is being found a permanent home.   Find out how you can volunteer here
Hearing Dogs for the Deaf need volunteers for emergency Hearing Dog helpers, fostering, walking, puppy socialising & b&b socialising, too - so lots on ways in which you can help. These are mainly in Yorkshire & Buckinghamshire. There are also work experience opportunities for one to two weeks but only in Buckinghamshire. There are other ways you can get involved in this amazing charity
Support Dogs train dogs to improve the quality of life of people with epilepsy by training them to act as safe & efficient assistants.  A trained dog can give someone with epilepsy some 45 minutes' warning that they will have a seizure, giving them time to find a safe place to be in when then they have it.  Support Dogs need volunteer socialisers & they also need foster carers.  For more ways in which you can help & get involved, click here