Volunteering At MCAS
What is a Volunteer?
A volunteer is an individual who freely donates his/her time to assist the Shelter in the accomplishment of its mission. Volunteers do not receive compensation or monetary reimbursement for their work nor are they eligible for any benefits including, but not limited to, insurance, worker’s compensation or professional certifications. Volunteers must be at least sixteen years of age. Volunteers under the age of eighteen must provide a Parent/Child Waiver, Release and Indemnification form signed by at least one parent/guardian. If an individual is a County employee, he/she may volunteer only with prior written approval from the Shelter Director. County employees may not volunteer to perform the same type of services as those for which they are employed to perform for the County. County employees may only volunteer during their personal time and not during work hours.
What Can You Do For MCAS?
At the end of this Handbook, you’ll see a variety of job descriptions. Look through them, and then talk to the Volunteer Coordinator who will help you to decide where you are needed most based on your background and your interests.
We are looking for committed volunteers who can participate in MCAS activities at least once a month if possible. While not required, regular participation helps the animals at MCAS and keeps you connected with the rest of the MCAS team. If you cannot commit to regularly scheduled volunteer times, there are other ways you can volunteer. We always need help with special events and donation drives. Be sure to check your email for upcoming events and opportunities to get involved at MCAS.
Daily Opening and Closing Time
Volunteers may only work at the Shelter between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. unless approved otherwise by a Coordinator or Shelter Management.
Log Your Volunteer Service Hours
Log your volunteer hours on www.MyVolunteerPage.com after completing your volunteer service assignments. Logging time is important for the shelter for grant purposes, community support, and program development as well as volunteer appreciation! The hours log can also be used to submit to schools, businesses and organizations for proof of completion of required volunteer service hours. It is your responsibility to ensure that your hours are turned in accurately. Be aware, volunteer hours are NOT offered for court ordered community service.
It is important to keep your contact information up to date at all times. Therefore, volunteers should notify the Volunteer Coordinator of changes in address, phone number, emergency contact or email address in a timely manner.
The volunteers’ role is to assist with the operations of the Shelter. You are a representative of MCAS’s brand and image and are expected to conduct yourself in a professional manner. You must be respectful and courteous in your interactions with the public and with staff. Conduct or an action (verbal or non-verbal), while volunteering or during off hours, that interferes with or is disruptive to Shelter operations, mistreats, demeans or is derogatory towards staff or patrons, is discriminatory, harassing, obscene, defamatory, threatening, vulgar or otherwise violates Shelter policies or these rules may result in immediate dismissal from the MCAS Volunteer Program.
This Code of Conduct applies to online and/or written material as well as personal interactions with staff, other volunteers, and members of the public. Volunteers must adhere to these rules, as well as to the rules of the Shelter. The code of conduct is designed to help everyone understand what is expected while participating in the MCAS Volunteer program. In short, you should be dedicated to providing excellent service to our visitors, staff, and fellow volunteers. Violation of any of these rules may result in immediate dismissal from the Volunteer Program.
Non-MCAS Guests/ Pets
It is not appropriate to bring children who are not your own to volunteers or your own pets to the Shelter while you are performing volunteer services. Volunteers with unapproved guests or pets will be asked to leave.
Please refrain from offering the public information on fees or policies. These questions should be referred to MCAS staff. Personal information about customers of the Shelter, including their address, email and phone number, are confidential and must not be disclosed to the public. Failing to respect patient and client information may result in immediate dismissal.
Only MCAS approved signage and messages are allowed on MCAS premises and at MCAS events. Do not write notes or messages on kennel cards, on paper signs or affix any other signs or messages without prior approval from MCAS management.
Volunteers must adhere to the following practices:
- Post links and positive comments about experiences while volunteering with MCAS.
- Celebrate successes. For example, recognizing great work by staff and other volunteers.
- Post positive comments about MCAS such as topics about animals, events, news and other animal related topics.
- Share, "Like", react, and comment on MCAS social media posts.
- Take responsibility for ensuring that any references to MCAS policies and procedures are factual, complete, and accurate.
- Show respect for the individuals, partners, and communities with which they interact.
- Post photos or videos of animals or community members receiving services from MCAS without permission from MCAS administration.
- Disclose personal information of MCAS staff or other volunteers.
- Harass, bully, discriminate or post negative, obscene, or defamatory information about MCAS staff or other volunteers.
Come prepared with the mindset that anything that you wear will get dirty or stained. When working with animals you are advised to positive cover as much skin as possible to avoid scratches, exposure to zoonotic communicable illness, ringworm, mange (scabies), fleas and/or ticks. Volunteers are expected to exercise good judgment in matters pertaining to attire and grooming in order to project a public image. Apparel should be safe, neat, and of good taste. Inappropriately dressed volunteers will be asked to leave and change clothing before returning to complete their shift. As a MCAS volunteer, you are required to wear the following during each volunteer activity for MCAS:
- MCAS Volunteer Shirt - It is imperative that all volunteers be dressed according to MCAS standards so that they are consistently recognizable to the public. MCAS shirts are preferred to be worn by volunteers while on scheduled activities.
- Long Pants - Long pants are required – jeans, khakis or other long pants. No shorts, skirts, skorts, or other garments that expose portions of the leg to potential scratches or scrapes are allowed.
- Comfortable Close-Toed Shoes - Close-toed shoes with good traction. No sandals or flip flops.
- MCAS Volunteer ID Badge - A volunteer ID badge will be given to you once you have been consistently volunteering. Single time volunteers will not receive MCAS volunteer ID badges. Volunteer ID badges must be worn by volunteers while working scheduled activities.
Storage of Personal Items
If you need a place to store your personal items, we encourage you not to bring them into the Shelter as there is no convenient or secure place to store them. MCAS cannot guarantee the safety of any personal items on Shelter premises.
Smoking is prohibited inside the Shelter. Volunteers who wish to smoke must do so at the one designated smoking area outside of the Shelter building. This area will be shown to you during orientation. While working at off-site events as a MCAS volunteer, you may not smoke except when on breaks and out of public view.
Drugs and Alcohol
Under no circumstances shall a volunteer work at our facility or off-site event while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If suspected of being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, you will be asked to leave immediately and will be subject to dismissal from the MCAS volunteer program.
While you are at the Shelter, we want you to be safe and keep your focus on the animals in your care and the customers in need of assistance. Volunteers are allowed to have their cell phones with them. However, cell phone use while handling or working with animals is prohibited because both hands must be available when handling the animals. Volunteer's full attention must be given to the animals at all times. If a volunteer wishes to photograph an animal, someone else should hold the animal.
If it is necessary for you to have your cell phone with you while volunteering, set the ringer to vibrate or silent, and only use your cell phone in areas outside of the public view when making calls. Ear buds, headsets, and headphones are also not allowed to be used at any time while volunteering at MCAS. Lastly, volunteers may not use their cell phones while interacting with MCAS customers unless the use is required to assist the customer.
You are responsible for your own health and welfare. Please be sure to follow all signs and safety precautions. If an injury is suffered while volunteering, the injury must be reported immediately to the staff and an incident report must be completed. A first aid kit for the treatment of minor cuts or scratches can be requested from a staff member. Volunteers are encouraged to consult a physician, at their own expense, to decide on the best treatment.
Your point of contact regarding volunteering or Shelter activities is the Volunteer Coordinator. If you have a questions, concerns, or a complaint regarding a staff member or an issue with MCAS policy, it should be directed to the Volunteer Coordinator. If you are not satisfied with the resolution, you may take your complaint or appeal any issues directly to the assistant director and/or director of MCAS.
If you have difficulties working with other volunteers or staff members, bring the situation to the attention of the Volunteer Coordinator as soon as possible. We want to resolve issues quickly so that we can all work effectively as a team. Immediately report anything you interpret as harassment from staff, other volunteers or the public to the Volunteer Coordinator to ensure your safety and the safety of everyone on the premises.
Montgomery County promotes a system of progressive discipline for its employees and MCAS extends that system to include our volunteers. Volunteers who commit minor violations of policy and procedure will be verbally counseled. Repeat, or more severe violations, such as disruptive behavior, habitual absenteeism, or purposeful misstatement of MCAS policies may result in additional counseling or dismissal from the MCAS Volunteer Program.
Participating in the MCAS Volunteer Program is "at will." At any time the volunteer or Volunteer Coordinator may terminate the volunteer relationship, with or without notice. As a courtesy, all parties should attempt to give the other reasonable notice if the relationship is expected to end soon. Dismissed volunteers will only be permitted entry to public areas within the Shelter at appropriate times.
It is expected that MCAS volunteers will treat all animals in the Shelter’s care with compassion and gentleness. Request assistance from MCAS staff when needed, and use caution at all times. Please do not hand write messages on kennel cards. If updates are appropriate, you should notify MCAS Staff so changes may be noted about the animal on the kennel card. Volunteers may not diagnose medical cases, remove sick animals from the Shelter without permission from the Director, or take any animals from the Shelter without proper documentation and approval from the front counter or foster/rescue coordinators. Violation of this policy will subject the volunteer to dismissal from the MCAS volunteer program.
Handling of Animals
All Shelter animals must be handled and trained in the same manner. Only positive reinforcement training may be used on the animals. Yelling, hitting, rough handling, choke chains/prong collar, yanking of leashes or other similar treatment is prohibited. When handling an animal, volunteers must always have the animal’s kennel card with them. The Shelter will provide treats for dogs and cats. No outside food or treats are to be given to the Shelter animals unless requested or approved.
All dogs, when removed from a kennel/cage, must have a slip leash/harness on (leashes may be obtained from the front counter or Volunteer Coordinator). For safety reasons, collars are not used on the dogs while in their kennels. A dog may only be taken to one of the dog parks to run off leash if there are no other dogs in the park and the gate is locked prior to releasing the dog. The only exception to this is that kennel mates may be off leash together in a yard park when two volunteers are present. NOTE: Only dogs that are approved by staff may be walked by volunteers. New strays, puppies under 6 months or that have fewer than 3 sets of vaccinations, injured/sick dogs, or dogs recovering from surgery may ONLY be handled by staff or a volunteer with special permission.
Shelter dogs are not the same as household dogs. A household dog knows his/her surroundings and is familiar with his/her owner’s personality and expectations. Dogs in the Shelter are many times in a confused and stressed state. They are in an unfamiliar setting, surrounded by other equally stressed dogs, and handled by strangers., sometimes multiple times in a single day.
Volunteers should always follow the guidance of the staff. If a volunteer is told that a certain dog can only be handled by more experienced volunteers, the volunteer must accept the staff member's judgment. The Shelter is happy to train individuals to become experienced volunteers, but neither volunteers nor animals should be placed in a dangerous situation.
Volunteers should always use caution when dealing with dogs and be alert to their surroundings. The dog’s body language should always be closely observed. If there are signs that a dog is nervous or fearful, the animal should be removed from the situation immediately.
It is easy to misinterpret what dogs are communicating. Volunteers can learn more about dog body language and training by speaking with the Volunteer Coordinator. Remember, the role of the volunteers is to keep the Shelter animals as stress free as possible and to avoid situations that promote inappropriate behavior.
Dog Handling Requirements:
- Check the dog’s kennel card first; this provides information about the dog.
- If a kennel card says “Staff only”, a volunteer should not enter that kennel.
- If a kennel card says “do not touch”, a volunteer should not touch the dog or put fingers into the kennel.
- Handle only one dog at a time.
- Choose a dog appropriate for your size, age, and skill level.
- Maintain control of the dog at all times; never drop the leash or let the dog interact with another dog. (Exception: Dogs Playing for Life ™)
- The leash should be examined prior to use to ensure it is in good repair.
- When removing a dog from a kennel, the door should be opened slowly and just enough to allow the volunteer to enter.
- When inside, stand directly in front of the door with a leash ready to slip over the dog’s head and adjust as needed. Maintain a soft and even voice.
- Always approach the dogs calmly. If possible, wait for them to sit before opening the kennel. (This will help train them to sit when a potential adopter approaches).
- Do not allow dogs to jump up or play nip. When a dog jumps, it is jumping for attention. Remove the attention by turning and ignoring the dog until all four paws are on the floor. Then reward the dog with attention. Never hit a dog, hold a dog on the ground, yell at the dog, or push on them to get a desired behavior. The goal is for them to learn good habits, feel safe and build a trusting relationship with humans.
- A dog should never be left unattended and a volunteer should not ask someone else to return a dog to his kennel unless they are in need of assistance from another volunteer.
- A dog should never be put in a different kennel than the one they were in. If a volunteer is unsure of where a dog belongs, they should find a staff member to ensure that the dog is returned to the correct place. Not all dogs get along with each other. Placing a dog in the wrong kennel could cause a fight or introduce the dog to an illness.
Working Around Dogs
Volunteers should make every effort to avoid and prevent dog bites. Some suggested precautions:
- Volunteers should read the kennel card completely before handling any dog.
- Volunteers should not handle any dog that they feel may be a threat to themselves or to others. Any such concerns should be communicated to the Animal Care Technician (“ACT”) or Volunteer Coordinator immediately.
- Volunteers should try to evaluate a dog’s mood before approaching or entering the kennel.
- A volunteer should call for help if they feel at risk.
- If a dog is giving “unwelcoming” signals (stiff body or trembling, cowering, head lowered, a hard stare with wide eyes, growling, lunging, showing teeth, etc.), the volunteer should immediately stop what he/she is doing, slowly back away, and alert volunteer coordinator or staff member.
- Volunteers should NOT turn their back on an angry dog. Instead, they should slowly back away.
- Volunteers should keep all dogs on a leash or confined to a specific room/yard.
- Volunteers should not walk dogs past each other and should keep dogs 10 feet away from each other if possible. Volunteers should take into consideration the length of their leash. In hallways or other confined areas, it may be necessary for one volunteer to retreat in order for another person walking a dog to pass.
- A volunteer should never try to break up a dog fight. If a volunteer witnessed a dog fight, the volunteer must immediately seek assistance from a staff member. (Exception: Dogs Playing for Life™ trained members. These members are trained to handle such situations.)
- If a dog gets off his leash, a volunteer should get help from a staff member immediately.
Letting staff know of a potential problem or change in behavior of an animal enables MCAS staff to properly market the dog to a rescue group or a home that is equipped to deal with a certain behavior. Failing to share concerns could result in a dog seriously injuring an unsuspecting member of the public or being returned to the Shelter after being adopted.
Preventing bites and "play nips" is not only important to the volunteer’s health and well-being, but to the dog’s as well. The Shelter assesses every bite. Many adopters and rescue groups will not consider a dog with a “bite history,” so bite prevention is very important. It is critical that volunteers learn basic dog behavior and not take unnecessary risks when working with dogs.
Immediately report dog bites to Staff. If a volunteer is bitten while on duty ,you must call a staff member and the animal must immediately be secured to prevent further injury to the volunteer or others. Wounds must be washed thoroughly for a full five minutes with antibacterial soap. The volunteer must complete an incident report that describes the circumstances under which the bite occurred. Following state law, the dog will be quarantined for ten days and then have their behavior assessed. Most animals on the adoption floor will have been fully vaccinated. This may be confirmed by reviewing the animal’s kennel card.
Cats are very different than dogs. They respond to stimuli and display their stress and happiness in different ways. Volunteers can help cats to be happy and well-adjusted during their time at the Shelter. Domestic cats form bonds with their owners, as well as with other animals in their home. The Shelter environment is very different from a home environment, and any animal that has lost its family will need help to adjust. When cats first arrive at the Shelter, they are often stressed. They are in an unfamiliar, frightening environment. Volunteers can help reassure the cats and put them at ease by speaking in a soft and even voice, petting them gently, and moving slowly around them. Cats that have recently arrived or seem stressed should be handled carefully, but firmly and with confidence.
When working with a cat that is exhibiting strange, defensive, or aggressive behavior, the cat should be left alone and the behavior reported to the staff immediately. The cat may just need some time to calm down. Once a cat has been at the Shelter a while and has had time to adjust, they often seek attention. Time spent by volunteers grooming and petting cats is encouraged and beneficial.
While spending time with the cats in the Shelter, volunteers should:
Reinforce good behavior in response to bad behavior by discontinuing petting and walking away. This training helps a cat be more adoptable and reduces the chances they may be returned.
Maintain low voice levels and a calm tone. Visitors, especially children, should be monitored and educated on how to respect the animals in their space. Volunteers should always recommend that visitors sanitize or wash their hands before petting other animals in the Shelter.
Immediately alert staff and follow a cat if it escapes from its cage or from the cat playroom.
Always pay attention to the cat’s body language.
Take health precautions. Obey signs regarding sick rooms, wash hands often, and do not touch your eyes or put hands in your mouth.
Report behavior or health concerns to the kennel tech or Volunteer Coordinator immediately.
Brush cats to eliminate shedding fur and mats, and request assistance if a cat is excessively matted.
Always wash brushes thoroughly between cats to avoid the transfer of contagious disease.
Signs of Illness
Maintaining the health of Shelter animals and helping to prevent the spread of disease is everyone’s job. If a Shelter animal shows any signs of illness, their kennel card should be read to determine if the symptom has already been noted and treatment has been started. If there is no notation on the kennel card or if symptoms seem to have worsened, volunteer coordinator should be notified immediately. Any animal showing signs of illness must not be removed from its kennel by anyone other than staff.
Watch for symptoms such as:
Eye discharge/nasal discharge
Anorexia (loss of appetite)
Lethargy (lack of energy)
Abnormal walking or muscle control
This list is not exhaustive. If other symptoms are noticed that raise concern, a staff member should be notified. It is better to be safe than sorry when trying to keep the Shelter animals healthy.
Volunteers should not handle injured animals. If a volunteer notices an injured animal, they should immediately notify staff.
A zoonotic disease is something that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Potential agents of zoonotic disease transmission include fungi, bacteria, viruses, parasites and arthropods. Extreme caution should always be used when volunteering in the Shelter. Hands should be washed regularly. Gloves should be worn when appropriate.
Types of zoonotic disease include, but are not limited to:
Special considerations for immunocompromised people. Zoonotic diseases may be more severe for immunocompromised people. People at an increased risk include those with HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy patients, those being treated for an immune mediated disease, those with organ or bone marrow transplants, the elderly, the very young, and pregnant women. Volunteers who meet any of the above mentioned conditions should should consult their physician before working at the Shelter or before deciding to add an animal companion to their home.
To prevent the spread of disease from animal to animal or animal to human, volunteers should do the following:
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot water or with hand sanitizer after handling any animal.
- Wear disposable gloves when appropriate (cleaning up feces or other animal fluids, etc.) or when advised by staff.
- Wear clothes that are exclusively used for volunteering. This includes shoes, if possible.
- Check the soles of their shoes before leaving the Shelter and remove shoes before entering their home.
- Prevent animal waste from building up in the environment.
- Maintain a regular program of veterinary care for their personal animals.
To prevent accidents, volunteers should:
- Never handle an animal they are unsure of or are unable to handle.
- Use caution when handling cats as they may scratch or bite.
- Immediately report to a staff member when an animal has urinated or defecated on the floor outside of a kennel or clean up the soiled area following the protocols learned in training.
The Shelter uses Accel to disinfect the kennels. Volunteers should use caution around any chemical cleaner and only use with the direction of a staff member. Volunteers should disinfect hands with hand sanitizer after touching an animal. Never touch another animal without properly sanitizing your hands in between. Failure to sanitize can result in spreading disease. The public should be educated about the importance or proper hand sanitizing when they the Shelter.
Working with MCAS
Volunteers are specifically prohibited from speaking on behalf of MCAS with any representative of the media. All media questions must be redirected to the Shelter Director, Aaron Johnson- firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteers, fosters and rescue groups are permitted to access the public areas of MCAS during normal operating hours. Admittance is prohibited to restricted areas, including but not limited to surgery, treatment, medical, quarantine, and receiving areas. Some volunteer activities may include access to restricted areas. Unless being escorted by a MCAS staff member, at no time are any volunteers, fosters or rescue groups to walk through or spend time in unauthorized areas.
Euthanasia is an unfortunate occurrence at MCAS. It is always our last option and we always strive to place an animal into a good home first. As a volunteer for MCAS, you may be exposed to animals facing euthanasia. However, you will never be required to witness an actual procedure. MCAS uses a humane sodium pentobarbital solution injected intravenously. Please be aware, this is a daily reality at Shelters and our staff has to deal with its administration and its effects. If you are not comfortable being in a facility where this occurs, you may be better suited to volunteering at another worthy animal shelter or agency in the area.
MCAS is responsible for ensuring public safety including rabies control and other zoonotic disease containment. As a volunteer at MCAS, you must be sure to wash your hands frequently as well as clean all animal handling equipment thoroughly to prevent the spread of disease in the Shelter.
If you are bitten or scratched, you must report the incident to the Volunteer Coordinator. Be sure to have the name of animal and animal ID ready. The animal may be quarantined for observation. You are responsible for your own personal health and are advised to seek medical treatment at your expense from your doctor.
Community Groups and Events
Ad Hoc Activities and Events
MCAS schedules and plans activities and events (on-site as well as off-site) for adoptions, public awareness campaigns, and other outreach initiatives several months in advance. As such, MCAS has established protocols, procedures, branding standards and assigned resources. All activities and events, either on the MCAS premises or located off-site must be coordinated and approved by MCAS management at least 45 days in advance. Unapproved, unscheduled or impromptu activities or events will not be supported or endorsed by MCAS.
Volunteer Groups or Organizations
Any groups or organizations wishing to hold an event or group volunteer project must contact the Volunteer Coordinator in advance to make such arrangements. Groups will not be allowed to assemble at event or on-site function and promote their business, cause or messaging without prior approval from MCAS management.
While we hope we can find homes for all the animals that come into the Shelter, the reality is we receive many more animals than we have people who want to adopt. That’s where rescue groups come in. Rescue groups are organized 501(c)3 groups that transfer animals from the Shelter into their program to care for and place the animal into a permanent home. In 2016, MCAS partnered with over 100 rescue groups.
All first-time rescue groups that wish to transfer an animal from MCAS must submit documentation validating they are a 501c(3) and be approved by the Rescue Coordinator. Each rescue group will need its own signed rescue contract completed before animals can leave the Shelter. There is no charge to registered rescue groups to transfer animals from our Shelter into their care.
Every day at the Shelter, previously homeless dogs and cats make their way into forever homes through the process of adoption. While many pets become adoption-ready soon after their arrival at the Shelter, our foster program is crucial for achieving an adoption outcome for dogs and cats in need of an extra bit of care in becoming ready and available for their forever families. Most commonly, these “fosterable” animals are ones especially vulnerable to illness due to age or weight, or in need of care for an existing health issue. In other instances, a “fosterable” animal may in fact already be adoption-ready yet need foster care in order to attend an off-site adoption event or prepare for release to a rescue transport. Supporting all such animals as they make the journey from “fosterable” to “adoptable” is the primary purpose of the MCAS foster program.
For more information regarding policy and procedures for fosters, refer to the Foster Handbook.
- Adoptions Host
- Dog Walker
- Cat Handler
- Photographer/Photographer's Assistant
- Vet Staff/Surgery Assistant
- Marketing/Communications Team Member
- Offsite Adoption Team Member
- Phone Receptionist
- Dog Bather