OHS Youth Volunteer Program

OHS offers youths age 12-17 unique short-term and long-term volunteer opportunities.


Short-Term Opportunities

Youth Volunteer with shelter cat
Youth Volunteers have a variety of opportunities to help the pets at OHS.

Please read the information below if you are a youth 12-17 years of age interested in helping the animals at OHS on a short-term basis.

One-Time, Two-Hour Visits

We are currently full for our July sessions; August sessions are filling fast. Please check back in late July for September dates!

Youth interested in helping OHS can sign-up to attend a one-time, two-hour animal socialization visit. Your help will provide the animals with the attention they need and the social skills that help them get adopted.

Who can volunteer?

  • Individual youth, who are not part of a group, that are 12-17 years of age (Please see the group volunteer page for information about scheduling group’s of youth for a visit)
  • Squat, twist, bend, lift and/or stand for long periods of time
  • Tolerate frequent loud, chaotic, and crowded environments
  • Comprehend and follow instructions, adhere to shelter policies, procedures and protocol, and be able to think and act quickly to ensure volunteer, animal and public safety
  • Be responsible, respectful, hard-working and self-directed under limited supervision

When do visits occur? Sessions are generally held once or twice a month on weekends or Portland Public School District In-Service days and are usually held from 10 am–12 pm or 1–3 pm.

Can I volunteer more than once? Due to overwhelming demand, we have a limited number of spots available.  Youth are limited to one visit per three month period of time.

What do one-time visits include? Visits are two hours in length and begin with a 45-minute training/tour that includes information on the shelter and animal handling skills. After training, the volunteer session includes approximately 45 minutes of visiting time with the dogs in our outside yards, and approximately 30 minutes of visiting time in colony rooms with the cats.

While visiting with the animals, volunteers help with animal socialization (petting, exercising, and grooming) and cleaning (scooping poop, etc.). Socialization helps pets get adopted faster and provides needed attention.

Note: We may alter volunteer activities based on shelter needs, and group size limitations may vary.

How do I sign up? To sign up, please email the Youth Volunteer Department and we will send you a list of available dates. See above for availability.

Helping From Home

Youths interested in doing volunteer work from home can help in the following ways:

  • Make dog biscuits for the dogs at OHS! Please include the recipe ingredients on the treat container.
  • Organize a fundraising/donation drive and donate money/supplies to OHS. See our Wish List for needed supplies.

Youths can bring in donations whenever the shelter is open. Thank you for helping our pets!

Long-Term Opportunities

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Youth Volunteers can help socialize the animals at OHS.

We currently are not accepting applications for our long-term Youth Volunteer program. Please see “How Do I Apply?” below for details.

Please read the information below if you are a youth 12-17 years of age that is interested in making a six months or longer volunteer commitment to our shelter pets.

What OHS Youth Volunteers Do

  • Dog walking (including dogs that are big, bouncy and pull on a leash)
  • Socializing animals (petting and spending time with them)
  • Bathing and grooming animals
  • Basic training (sit, down, off, etc.)
  • Cleaning animal areas (including scooping poop and cleaning litter boxes)
  • Helping with other shelter cleaning (washing windows, walls, dishes, etc.)
  • Developing and organizing projects that help the shelter
  • Helping with a variety of other shelter jobs as they arise

See our Youth Volunteer Handbook for more details.

Youth volunteers do not interact with the public or handle puppies or kittens.

Youth Volunteer Requirements

In our long-term program, youth are required to make a six-month commitment and volunteer every other week during a specific shift. While in the shelter, youth volunteers participate in basic animal care and other shelter activities while under the supervision of the Youth and Community Group Volunteer Coordinator. All volunteer work takes place at our Columbia Blvd. location in Portland, OR.

Other requirements include:

  • Have an interest in socializing and caring for shelter animals (dogs, cats, rodents)
  • Must be 12 to 17 years old (no exceptions)
  • Have current medical insurance (no exceptions)
  • Purchase volunteer supplies totaling $33 (details here). However, if you are financially unable to cover the cost, please let us know and we can find a way to help
  • Commit to volunteering for at least six months, come to a regularly scheduled shift every other week, and be absent from this shift no more than three times during each six month period of service
  • Be willing to spend a great deal of time (sometimes the entire two-hour shift) walking dogs.
  • Be able to squat, twist, bend, lift and/or stand for long periods of time and be able to tolerate frequent loud, chaotic, and crowded environments
  • Be able to comprehend and follow instructions, adhere to shelter policies, procedures and protocol, and be able to think and act quickly to ensure volunteer, animal and public safety
  • Be responsible, respectful, hard-working and self-directed under limited supervision and be willing to work as a part of a cohesive team of Youth Volunteers
  • Read your email and the OHS YV Newsletter regularly
  • Attend a three-hour orientation

Benefits of Being an OHS Youth Volunteer

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Youth Volunteers at OHS
  • Gain an insider’s view on how an animal shelter operates
  • Learn valuable animal handling skills
  • Develop friendships with other youth interested in animals
  • Gain work experience that can fulfill school community service hours
  • Develop leadership skills

When Can I Volunteer?

OHS requires youth volunteers to commit to volunteering for at least six consecutive months. Once in our program, volunteers may continue volunteering until they turn 18 as long as they meet our service requirements.

Upon admittance, volunteers are assigned one regularly scheduled two-hour shift that they must attend every other week. Volunteers are assigned shifts based on the information they provide on their application. Volunteers are allotted three absences/misses per six month period of service and should plan ahead to ensure they can attend the shifts for which they apply.

Depending on availability, youth will have the option to apply for open spots during these shift times: every day from 4-6 pm or every Sat.-Sun from 10 am-12 pm. Open shifts/spots will be posted on this page during the application period only. There are ten spots in each shift. Once those spots are filled, the shift is considered full and we will not accept applicants for those shifts until a volunteer leaves the program.

How Do I Apply?

The Youth Volunteer Program is not accepting applications at this time. Please check back this summer for upcoming opportunities.

To become a Youth Volunteer, follow the steps below.

Step 1: Review the program requirements carefully.

Step 2: Submit an application online during the application period. The link to the application will be activated here during the application period.

Step 3: Your application will be reviewed by the Youth Volunteer Coordinators. If your application is accepted (it is thoughtful, complete and you are applying for an open volunteer shift), your name will be entered into a randomized lottery drawing for the shifts for which you apply. You will be notified by email no later than two weeks after the close of the application period if you have been selected to be a Youth Volunteer and will receive an invitation to attend orientation with instructions. If you are not selected, you will be notified by email as well. If you are not selected and are still interested in volunteering at OHS, you will be required to reapply during the next application period. We do not keep applications on file or have a waiting list.

Step 4: Attend the three-hour Youth Volunteer Orientation to learn about OHS, the program, and animal handling. Parents are encouraged to attend, but not required. You must attend the orientation directly following the application period (see above section in orange for orientation date). If you cannot, you will be asked to reapply during the next application period.

Step 5: Start attending your regular volunteer shifts on your assigned start date, come every other week for at least six months, and have fun!

OHS Youth Volunteer Portal

Current youth volunteers can log in to the Volunteer Portal to view their schedule, schedule classes, view or print a report of hours, and/or update your volunteer profile.

Contact Information

For further questions, please contact the Youth and Community Group Volunteer Department at (503) 416-5032 or by email.