Amy Baker, Volunteer Coordinator, MSPCA at Nevins Farm
September 1, 2010

1. Can you describe your typical day at the shelter?


My day at the MSPCA is somewhat unique compared to most of the other people who work here because my focus is on people rather than animals.  Because of that, I begin my day by checking my email and phone messages.  I am in constant communication with people interested in beginning to volunteer as well as current volunteers.  Next I attend our staff meeting where we discuss animals and all of the different things going on here at Nevins.  I spend most of the rest of the day in my office where volunteers can find me to ask questions, change their schedules, etc. 


Sometimes animals need a break from their cage or kennel so they come into the office for a visit.  So luckily, I get to spend some time with animals also!

2. What role do volunteers play in running the daily operations of the shelter?


Volunteers play an incredibly important role in the daily operations of the shelter.  Actually, there is no way we would be able to function without their help!  We have a small staff and a huge number of animals so we rely heavily on volunteers to do a little bit of everything.  Some of the things that volunteers do are:  dog walking, cleaning cat and small animal cages, mucking stalls, picking pastures, office work, laundry, dishes, helping the vet team in our surgery suite, talking to potential adopters about different animals, transporting animals, assisting with dog training, giving tours, and helping with special events.

3. About how many volunteers are there at the shelter?


We have about 600 volunteers:  400 at the small animal adoption center and 200 at the barn.

4. Do volunteers need training before they start their work?


Yes!  New volunteers attend an orientation that includes a power point presentation which goes over the history of the MSPCA and Nevins Farm as well as all of the programs and events we have.  Then, there is a tour of adoption center and barn to learn more about the specific volunteer opportunities here.


Once new volunteers have attended the orientation, we have them meet with a volunteer mentor (an experienced volunteer) who shows them how to specifically work with the type of animals they are interested in -  cats, dogs, small animals or farm animals.

5. Can kids get involved in volunteering at the shelter?


Volunteers must be 16 years old to work here with the animals.  However, there are lots of other ways for kids under 16 to help the animals.  These include:  having a bake sale in our lobby, collecting donations from our wish list, participating in our special events such as the Walk for Animals, or organizing your own fundraiser through your school or club!  Check out our “Kids for a Cause” program on our website for more ideas.

6. Recently you had a case in which over fifty rabbits and chinchillas were brought into the shelter. How does that affect the shelter’s workload?


Cases like these increase our workload significantly!  There isn’t enough time in the day for staff members to care for all of the animals already at the shelter PLUS a huge number of new animals, so we ask volunteers for extra help.  We are so incredibly lucky to have a group of volunteers who are extremely passionate about animals and generous with their time.  When this case came in, we called on our special group of volunteers named “The Small Animal Task Force”.  This is a group of people who have a special interest in small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, etc.  They came in to help on their regularly scheduled volunteer day as well as several other days that week!  We couldn’t have cared for all of these animals without their help.

7. Do more people seem to want to volunteer in the small animal adoption center or with larger animals in the barn?


We have more people volunteering at the small animal shelter verses the barn, although we have very dedicated people in both areas.  More people are familiar with the smaller animals because they are more common pets.  Although both species need a lot of loving care, it’s much easier to have a cat as a pet than a horse!   

8. Has the downturn in the economy affected your volunteer pool?


It has affected our volunteer pool dramatically.  As the unemployment rate has increased, the volunteer rate has also increased.  There are so many talented people without jobs right now who want to stay busy, and volunteering is a great way to do that.  The number of applications I receive has more than doubled in the past year resulting in a huge boost to our volunteer team.

9. What kind of education and personal skills do you need to do your job?


An undergraduate degree is required for my position, as well as a passion for animals, of course!  It is also extremely important that someone in my position has an ability to communicate well with many different types of people.  With so many volunteers, it’s essential that I enjoy working with all different types of personalities and have the ability to identify volunteers’ strengths and skills so they can benefit the animals in the most effective way while making sure their experience is rewarding.

10. What’s the hardest part of your job?


The most challenging part of my job is keeping the volunteer base consistent.  Many times, people want to volunteer but they overestimate the amount of free time they realistically have.  So they only end up staying for a short period of time.  We have a great group of volunteers who have been here for a while (some for more than 10 years!) but we are always looking to increase that number.

11. What’s the best part of your job?


The people!  Getting to know this extraordinary group of people who are unbelievably dedicated and passionate is an amazing experience.  Our volunteers are a selfless bunch who are always willing to do anything that we ask (even scoop dog poop and clean litter boxes!) time and time again.  They are truly inspiring.


12. Have you always wanted to work with animals?


My husband and I adopted our first dog, Scout, 10 ½ years ago.  He was huddled in the corner of his kennel, shaking.  It took 10 minutes to coax him to the front of the kennel to sniff our hands.  From the minute we brought him home, I knew a career working with rescue animals like Scout was for me!