Preparing to volunteer

Dec 01, 2005

Q. How can I prepare to volunteer during a disaster?

Dr. Carol Foil
Disaster response centers want volunteers who are flexible, who can make commitments and stick to them, who don't mind long hours and hard work, and who have a high tolerance for chaos. "In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, volunteers with animal-handling skills—who could commit to at least a week of work and who were self-contained—were just golden," says Carol Foil, DVM, Dipl. ACVD, a professor of veterinary dermatology at the School of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University. "The people who came and said 'I'm willing to do anything' were most valuable."

To prepare for the next disaster, staff members should stay active in local shelters. "There'll be a lot of similarities in the day-to-day challenges of a typical animal shelter to an emergency shelter," Dr. Foil says. You can also look for opportunities to help through Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams (, the Humane Society of the United States (, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (