Oregon Humane Society
A volunteer dog-walker at OHS

The Oregon Humane Society was founded by 14 volunteers in 1868, and today relies on more than 1,000 volunteers to keep the shelter operating. Volunteers are involved in virtually all aspects of OHS, from helping find homes for animals to keeping up the grounds. 


OHS offers a variety of volunteer opportunities. Adult volunteers are 18 years of age or older, while our Youth volunteer program serves those ages 12-17. Other opportunities include being a foster caregiver, volunteering with a community group, court-mandated community service, and some off-site/short-term opportunities.



Current volunteers: find your site login information here.


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Volunteer Requirements

Interested in volunteering at the shelter or at OHS-affiliated events? We welcome you to apply to our Adult Volunteer program if you are:


  • At least 18 years old (if you are 12-17 years old, see the Youth Volunteer Program).

  • Able to provide at least 12 hours of service per month. Dog Walking volunteers must commit to one scheduled shift per week.

  • Able to squat, bend, twist, lift, or stand for long periods when working directly with the animals.

  • Possess strong customer service skills and are able to write and communicate clearly, since all volunteer positions work directly with the public, staff, and other volunteers.


Important notes:


  • We do require a standard national criminal background check for all adult applicants. This is NOT a credit check and no one will be looking at credit information.

  • If you have a prior felony conviction you may be declined, depending on the crime.

  • Special Note for Students: due to an overwhelming number of requests, we can no longer accommodate students who are required to fulfill short-term community service hours. OHS will not grant community service hours to any volunteer unless they can make a 6-month commitment of 12 hours per month.

  • We also do not accept any general short-term volunteers (even during the summer) due to extensive training requirements.

  • Please note: participation in the Adult Volunteer Program requires purchasing volunteer supplies. Materials costs are: $27 for cat-handling volunteers, shelter resource volunteers, and administrative volunteers; $46 for dog-handling volunteers; and $30 for small animal-handling volunteers. We value your service and appreciate your help with these costs. However, if you are financially unable to cover the cost, please let us know and we can find a way to help.

Become a Volunteer

Once you've decided which type of volunteering best suits you, here are the steps to become an active OHS volunteer:


  • Complete the appropriate application. Once we receive your application, you will be contacted to schedule your volunteer orientation.




  • Note: all applications are online. If you do not have Internet access at your home, you can go to any library to use the Internet or you can come to OHS and use our front lobby computer to complete the online application. We will not be able to send any applications by regular mail.

  • Attend your orientation. You'll get an overview of our volunteer program, a tour where applicable, and details about our services.

  • Next steps depend upon which type of volunteering you are interested in. Learn more below:


Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteers are involved in virtually all aspects of shelter operations, from helping find homes for animals to keeping up the grounds. Select an activity below to learn more.


In-Shelter Care of Animals (Cats, Dogs, Birds, Rabbits, Rodents)

When you socialize and care for the animals, you help to make their stay here more enjoyable. Depending on which type of animal you choose to work with, in-shelter care includes: taking dogs out to the play yards; cleaning the kennels in the cattery or dog areas; and working in the cattery and/or in the small animal room. Specific tasks might include grooming the animals (bathing, brushing, clipping nails, etc.), for example. You will help make the animals happier and more appealing to adopters.


This is also your opportunity to work directly with OHS customers directly. You will help the OHS adoption assistants by answering questions about the animals; show a variety of animals to customers; help match customers to the most appropriate animal for their specific situation; and make the customers’ visit to the shelter a pleasant experience. A mentoring session and animal safety and handling classes are required (available monthly at OHS).


Dog Walking

Guaranteed to keep you and the dogs heart-healthy and happy! Every dog deserves a nice walk outside every day. OHS volunteers take the dogs out for strolls around the property twice a day. This is also a great time to reinforce good manners and teach your canine walking partner some skills, like sit, stay, and heel. You can also join the OHS power walker or runner group and take dogs out for some serious exercise on Saturday mornings. Dog safety and handling training is required and volunteers must also commit to one scheduled shift per week.


Foster Care

When an animal arrives at OHS who is not quite ready for adoption, OHS relies on the love and homes of our foster care volunteers. These volunteers open their homes to kittens needing time to grow, pregnant or nursing cats, dogs who need a little extra attention, or a companion animal recovering from an illness or injury. In 2011, over 1,338 animals were given a second chance all thanks to the time and love given by their foster families. Many foster families assist with finding new homes for their fosterling. All fostered animals are included on our online list of adoptable pets.


For more information contact the OHS Foster Care Program (email; 503-416-5025). You can also apply to be a foster volunteer only. Find the foster-only application and learn more here.


"Pet Pals" Training

DOGS: Our Pet Pals program gives you the opportunity to work one-on-one with a dog to teach him/her the basics (sit, down, walk on a loose leash etc.) until he/she finds a new home.


You'll receive training from OHS instructors, who are Certified Professional Dog Trainers and use positive reinforcement and relaxation methods. This training may take 4 weeks, but it is well worth the time spent. After you have spent some time with your Pet Pal, you will be amazed by how eager he/she will be to please prospective parents.

CATS: Cat Lovers Unite! If you are interested in learning more about cats and how to better help the cats at OHS get adopted, Pet Pals for Cats is a good place to start. Besides working with selected kitties, we learn fun things, exchange ideas with other volunteers and talk about how we handle different situations. Reducing stress and helping to enrich their environment, as well as learning more about our cats' personalities, helps OHS staff and volunteers do a great job of matching them with the right homes.


Retail Store Assistant (Best Friend's Corner)

Assistant sales associates who volunteer in the retail pet store will work in one of the busiest departments in the shelter: in 2011, the retail store processed over 29,000 register transactions. Sales associates not only ring up sales, adoption fees, and assist donors with monetary donations; they also educate walk-in customers and new adopters on pet products, issue pet licenses, engrave pet tags, and clean and stock the store.


Sales associates must have excellent customer service skills and truly enjoy interacting with people and working in a fast-paced environment. All sales associates need to be comfortable asking for donations with every register transaction. Volunteers must be able to comfortably lift up to 40 pounds, and stand, twist, and bend at the waist. Volunteers need to commit to assisting in the store a minimum of 3 hours per week. Retail experience is helpful but is not mandatory; training will be provided.


Humane Education

Humane Education volunteers can assist our program in many different ways. Volunteers can help during our after school clubs; guiding youth interactions with the shelter pets and assisting with projects or presentations. Volunteers can also choose to help with shelter tours, or even train to lead tours. Help is also needed for our large-scale annual poster contest event: volunteers can assist with data entry and with the judging days and awards ceremony. Education volunteers can also assist with our very popular youth summer camps, by helping with camp lottery data entry and youth volunteer training. Assistance is also needed at a variety of community events throughout the year, helping to educate the public about humane education opportunities at the Oregon Humane Society.


Adoption Outreach

Each weekend, OHS has animals available for adoption at various off-site locations. As an adoption outreach volunteer you will spend time educating the public about the shelter (OHS policies and procedures), answering questions about the available animals, showing off the animals, and finalizing adoption contracts to place pets in new homes directly from the outreach location. Additional training is required: Dog Safety and Handling class (offered monthly); 30 days of volunteering in the dog area; Adoption Outreach Orientation (1-hour class).


Special Events

OHS hosts a number of special events and fundraisers throughout the year. These include Santa Paws, Doggie Dash, Pug Crawl, Telethon, and many others. While working at an event you may help with setup or cleanup, staff an information booth, answer questions about the shelter, judge a pet-related contest, help Santa keep his glasses on straight, direct traffic through the event, and much more. Special events are always full of fun surprises.


Running with Dogs

The Running with Dogs program takes our high-energy dogs out into the community to run off extra energy, build additional social confidence and acclimate them to new settings. It is a way for volunteers to share their passion for running and exercise with many dogs who need the same workout.

We typically run as teams and/or individuals in a neighborhood close to the shelter. Distance and pace of the run are variable and depend on both the volunteer and their canine companion. We try to get the dogs out on the mornings of Friday, Saturday or Sunday before the shelter opens. There is some flexibility in the program and it is possible to take dogs out for a run at various days and times.

There is some required training so that we can be sure our canine buddies are in good hands. You will need to take the dog safety and handling class as well as the Pet Pals program (which consists of 7 classes once per week) before participating in the Running with Dogs Program.



The shelter has over 11 acres of grounds and buildings, including an award-winning rose garden. There is always something that needs to be done: gardening, minor building repairs, painting, cleaning up, and more. Your “handy” skills are always needed somewhere at OHS.


Spay & Save

This is a pioneering partnership of animal shelters within the Portland metro area to reduce the cat overpopulation in our community through spay and neuter. Spay and Save reaches out to low-income residents to alter their cats and some dogs for little to no cost. We need a significant amount of volunteer assistance with data entry, phone calls, outreach and promotion. Our goal is to do 10,000 surgeries per year!


Westside Adoption Center

Dog walking and cattery volunteers also help care for the pets at our Westside Adoption Center, located inside of LexiDog Social Club and Boutique at 6100 SW Macadam Ave. (about a mile north of the Sellwood Bridge in the John's Landing neighborhood). For many volunteers, this location is a convenient alternative to our main shelter in NE Portland.