Animal lovers often enjoy visiting pet shelters to greet new inmates and play with the resident animals. If you just can’t resist walking by a recue home store front without popping in to say hello, a natural next step would be to consider volunteering there! Even if you are only able to commit a few hours a week, such a service could be a great relief to the workers involved. Here are some reasons why you might enjoying this kind of volunteer work.

1. Make new friends. When someone commits to supporting their local animal shelter, they will not only be spending time with the rescue pets who need good homes, but also with their fellow workers. This means by volunteering, you will meet like-minded people who also share your compassion for animals, and have your same enthusiasm for wanting to make a difference in the community. Because you will be working for the good of the animal inmates with your fellow volunteers, the bond you share will be meaningful and consistent, which can be hard to find in busy cities or lonely rural areas.

2. Give back to the community. With millions of cats and dogs left homeless and abandoned, the overpopulation of domestic pets in the United States is very real problem. The worst thing one can do is acknowledge the issue, and then sit back and do nothing about it. Dedicating time and effort to volunteering at local shelters and recue homes will provide active rescue workers the support they need to continue finding homeless animals and bringing them to a safe and peaceful environment. Many hands make light work!

3. Bring positivity to your life. There is a reason that we humans are drawn to animals. They bring an energy of excitement, or a steady calming presence to our chaotic and complex lives. Most animals love unconditionally in a way that can be healing and deeply comforting to us. Simply spending time playing with a dog benefits our health and petting a cat releases endorphins!

4. Gain work experience. Even unpaid internships show prospective employers how hard-working and determined an individual might be. Similarly, having “volunteer at a rescue home” on a resume would reflect a person as someone investing in the community, extending good will to the needy, and having the flexibility required of one who works with animals.

5. Stay active mentally and physically. Keeping track of new animals, feeding schedules, answering phones, supervising visits, and managing adoption paperwork can keep you on your toes! Any task you are given at the shelter, (even if it is simply sitting in a playpen and spending time with some of the affection-hungry cats or dogs) is bound to present you with new challenges and skill sets. Plus, playing with a passel of pets is much more appealing (and physically engaging) than wasting an empty afternoon watching Netflix!

6. Find a forever-friend. By spending time with the animals in the shelter, you will see new ones come and go, and will be able to closely observe a dog or cat’s behavior. This will give you an edge when it comes to pet adoption, since you will have more than a few moment’s exposure to the animal before deciding who would be a good fit. Even if you are not immediately in the market for a pet, working closely with animals will give you the insight and experience needed so that when you do go searching for a dog or cat, you’ll be able to recognize which ones are trouble and which would make great companion.

Note: To find pet shelters in your area, search on this volunteer opportunity tool with your zip code to find positions, rescue homes and events near you!