Volunteer Information Packets

Event Sign Up

Surf Dog Surf-a-thon

Junior Vol. Applications

Animal Questionnaires

2016 Volunteer
Orientation Dates
August 20
October 8

Sessions start at 9 am


You can make a difference...Volunteer

At the Helen Woodward Animal Center (HWAC), people help animals and animals help people. The Center serves the community by teaching and practicing humane behavior toward man and all living things. Our lives are more precious when trust, unconditional love, respect and care exist as the primary bond between animals and one another.



Sign up for Surf Dog Surf-a-thon 2016 


How to become a Volunteer at Helen Woodward

What is the first step in becoming a volunteer?
All prospective individuals must attend a volunteer orientation and tour. This will help you learn about our volunteer programs; the benefits to the animals and the community; and the commitment involved. Volunteer openings are limited, and are posted at the orientation.
What is the minimum age to volunteer?
The minimum age to volunteer at 14 years old; however some departments require that volunteers must be either a 16 or 18 years of age.
How do I get a volunteer application?
To obtain your volunteer application, download the volunteer opportunities package/application. Please bring your completed volunteer application with you to the orientation.
What is the time commitment needed to become a volunteer?
Volunteer positions require a weekly 3-6 hour commitment for 6 months or 70 hours. Each program will have a different shift times and days where volunteers can assist. They will be highlighted at the orientation.
Is there a time to talk about my specific interests and schedules?
Yes. Within 2 weeks after the orientation, a one-on-one interview is required. Immediately following the orientation, we will forward your application to your top volunteer choices. The Department Manager will review your application and schedule and contact you if they would like to schedule an interview. Interviews are scheduled only if you have completed the orientation and are available for the specific training dates and shift openings.
After attending an orientation and interview, am I guaranteed a volunteer position?
Not automatically. Generally, we accept most of the applicants who apply for the program. However, we cannot guarantee a spot for every individual. At different times throughout the year, we may have more applicants than positions available. Sometimes an applicant's availability may not meet the timeframe of the program. Additionally, for some of our programs, applicants must have specific animal experience to be qualified for that opening.
Are there specific qualifications for the volunteer positions?
Yes and No. We have a wide variety of volunteer positions and openings. Some require existing experience and others have training provided at the Center. The qualifications and experience needed will be reviewed at the orientation.
When are the dates and times for the upcoming Volunteer Orientations?

Orientation sessions are held on these Saturdays mornings, from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon . To sign up for the orientation, or for more information, please call or email the Volunteer Coordinator at 858.756.4117 extension 370. Be sure to include your name and email address and phone numbers.

Orientations are on the following Saturdays from 9:00 am-noon. 

2016: August 20, October 8

Can I volunteer at your special events? Do I have to attend a volunteer orientation to participate in these projects?
Yes, we always need help at our fundraisers. We conduct several fundraising events each year, such as The Spring Fling, Surf Dog Surf-A-Thon, HOPE Telethon and our Spooktacular People Pet Walk. You do not need to attend an orientation for these projects; however the tasks do not include "hands-on" activity with the animals. Examples of tasks include: registration, cashiering, check-in, stuffing bags, flyer distribution, etc.
If accepted, when do I start and what is the training schedule?
If accepted, training dates and volunteer schedules are usually assigned within the same month. Each department will have a specific training date and schedule. Some departments have group trainings and others conduct one-on-one training. Group training dates will be announced at the orientation.
Where are the orientations conducted?
At HWAC. Our street address is 6461 El Apajo Rd. in Rancho Santa Fe. Please arrive 10 minutes early to park at our main lot and walk to our lecture hall �Morse Hall'. Signs will direct you to the hall. Important parking information: Do not park in hospital or reserved parking spaces. Wear comfortable shoes. Please do not bring pets or small children to the orientation.
Free Center Tours
Tours are conducted during the Volunteer Orientation. If you would like to join us for the tour only, the timeframe is from 9:30-11:00 am . Please do not bring pets or small children to the orientation. To sign up, contact the Volunteer Coordinator at 858-756-4117 x370.
Does Helen Woodward Animal Center offer court-ordered community service?
Under no circumstances will Helen Woodward Animal Center be able to verify any hours for court ordered community service. Please contact the court for a list of participating non-profit organizations to verify your hours.

Volunteer Opportunities

Adoption Department

Pets awaiting new homes need extra T.L.C.!  Working in the Adoption Department includes exercising and socializing dogs or cats, kennel cleaning,, grooming, laundry and clerical duties.  Volunteers must be at least 14 years old to apply.  Openings are very limited.  Once trained, volunteers are scheduled to come in once a week for a 3-hour shift.  Shift times start at 9:30 am, 12:30pm and 3:30pm ending at 6:00pm.  Shifts available Sundays through Saturdays.  Volunteers work with minimum supervision.  Volunteers working with dogs need to be physically able to handle very large, enthusiastic dogs.  Commitment required is 6 months or 70 hours with a regular weekly schedule. 

Foster Care

Care for pets in your home.  Volunteers provide varying levels of care for orphaned dogs or cats, ranging from a warm quiet place to promote weight gain, to socializing with humans, noises and new surroundingsOur most intensive level of care requires bottle feeding or medical administration around the clock.  This is a separate application process(The general adult volunteer orientation listed on the cover page is not required.) Volunteers participate in an interview and training process for certification.  The foster application is available from the Foster DepartmentVolunteers must be at least 18 years of age. Once trained, volunteer’s name is put on a list to be called to care for baby animals 2-8 weeks of age, as the need arises. (Volunteers are not ‘on-call’ indefinitely.  They are called at the time of need to see if they are available for about 2-8 weeks.) The pets are brought back to the Center after foster goals are met.


This program provides free food to the pets of homebound elderly or disabled citizens.  Route Representatives pick up food from donation bins in pet supply stores.  You build rapport with store employees, helping them understand how beneficial AniMeals is to their stores and to the pets who receive the food.  (Once per week or twice per month/car necessary).  Food Packagers custom package a week's worth of meals for each pet (Once per week).  Organizational skills necessary.  Meals Delivery People pick up the packaged meals and deliver to Meals on Wheels Centers. (Once per week/car necessary).  Volunteers must be at least 18 years old to make deliveries.

AniMeals Pet Food Drive

AniMeals is a pet–food-on-wheels program that provides regular meals free of charge for the dogs and cats of homebound elderly and ill people.  Junior volunteers 10 years old and up may hold a pet food drive at a local supermarket.  Parental supervision is required.  Please request specific guideline information.  (The general adult volunteer orientation listed on the cover page is not required.)

Club Pet

Club Pet is looking for energetic volunteers to give our boarding dogs and cats lots of attention and T.L.C! Volunteers are needed 7 days a week. You must be able to commit to a 3 hour block of time, once per week, for at least 6 months. Our volunteer shifts are 9am to 12 noon, 10am to 1pm, 11am to 2pm and 12 noon to 3pm. Our dogs and cats miss their families, so our volunteers step in to give them the love and attention they need while boarding. Volunteers exercise our dogs by taking them on walks and doing off leash field play. For our older dogs, T.L.C. and Cuddle times in the kennel or out in the sun on the lawn are offered. Our cats look forward to their Feather time sessions. Felines also enjoy Bubble time, Cuddle time and T.L.C. sessions with our volunteers as well. Volunteers must be at least 16 years old to handle animals. Volunteers must also pass our dog handling class, which is given as part of the Club Pet Volunteer orientation and training program. Volunteers can be at least 14-16 years of age to help with cleaning kennels, doing laundry and washing dishes only.

Therapeutic Riding Program

Therapeutic riding emphasizes the use of the horse as a means of recreational sports riding for individuals with challenges.  The therapeutic riding lesson provided is instrumental in improving a rider’s emotional, social and physical development.  Volunteers help to provide the necessary environment of support, education, and therapy.  Volunteers assist in individual lessons, either as leaders of the horse or as side walkers, helping the rider with balance and motor skill planning.  Care and grooming of the horses are also involved.  Volunteers are requested to come to the same lessons on a weekly basis, usually a 3-5 hour shift per week.  A 6 month overall commitment is required.  Shift times range from 8:30- noon or 1:00-5:00 Tuesday through Saturday. Volunteers must be able to help lift and support an adult rider.  Junior volunteer openings (ages 16-17) are very limited.  For junior volunteers, an extensive background of lessons or comparable horse experience is required.  (Volunteers do not have the opportunity to ride our horses.)  We may have several camps in the summer where juniors are needed for 1-2 weeks (Tues.-Fri. ).   (Call the Manager of Volunteer Services for details).  A background of lessons or comparable horse experience is required for all volunteers.

Equine Hospital Volunteers

Volunteers in the Equine Hospital assist the technicians with cleaning and animal husbandry.  This opportunity is generally for those studying large animal medicine.  Extensive experience with horses is required.  A 3-6 month commitment is required.  Shifts are once a week for 6 hours.  Multiple interviews are necessary.  Volunteers must be at least 16 years old.  Another volunteer position is helping in the office on weekdays. If you are detail oriented, with or without horse experience, helping our four legged friends in the office may be for you.

Pet Encounter Therapy (P.E.T.)

“P.E.T.” involves taking a variety of animals to visit patients in convalescent homes, hospitals, shelters, and mental health facilities. (P.E.T. is for adult volunteers only).  Volunteers use Center owned rabbits, guinea pigs, reptiles and birds.  The only dogs used in this program are owned by individual volunteers, after screening by P.E.T. personnel.  Ask the Manager of Volunteer Services for screening forms to find out if your pet is suited for this type of volunteer work.  All volunteers begin training with Center owned rabbits and guinea pigs.  Volunteer owned dogs are screened and introduced to the program after the volunteer is trained.  This rewarding program requires patience and an outgoing personality.  A commitment of 4 shifts (usually 3 hours each) per month, scheduled in advance is requested.  Generally this program is on weekday mornings or early afternoons. Saturday shifts are very limited. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old.

Exotic Animal Care Assistants

Volunteers assist the Exotic Animal Caregivers with husbandry, cleaning, exercising, and socializing of the exotic pets used in our Education and Pet Encounter Therapy programs. The animals are divided into three different categories including: amphibians and reptiles, birds, and small mammals (chinchillas, guinea pigs, and rabbits). Volunteers will typically start in just one category of animal as is deemed to best suit their exotic pet experience, but there are opportunities for growth into the other animal categories with time and commitment. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old. A 6 month or 70 hours commitment is required. Shifts: 9am-noon or (rarely) noon-4pm.

Education Barn Animal Care Assistants

Volunteers assist the Barn Animal Caregivers with husbandry, cleaning, exercising, and grooming of the hoofstock and barnyard creatures used in our Education and Pet Encounter Therapy programs. The animals can include a variety such as: alpacas, chickens, goats, invertebrates, miniature horses, and sheep. Volunteers must have some prior animal experience and attention to safety in order to work with these larger animals. Volunteers must be at least 14 years old. A 6 month or 70 hours commitment is required. Shifts: 9am-noon.

Paws in the Ranch Pet Boutique Assistants:

Volunteers assist staff in final adoption paperwork, pet supply sales and answer phones. Be a part of sending an animal home with its new family! Customer service experience needed. Ability to learn to use computerized register required. Volunteers must be at least 21 years old. Volunteers commit to two, three-hour shifts per week for 6 months.

Education Department Assistants

Our summer camp program has 9 week-long sessions.  Junior volunteers, ages 14 and up, may apply to be teacher assistants for one week, Monday through Friday.  Junior volunteer assistants help instructors teach pet responsibility to students (student ages 4-10), resulting in greater compassion for all living things. 
* Important note to Juniors:This program has a separate application, interview and training program to teach classroom leadership skills and determine junior volunteer readiness to be classroom assistants.  The “Critter Camp” application is available in January or early February.  (The general adult volunteer orientation listed on the cover page is not required.) The application period is January through March, with summer assignments made in late April/early May.

Special Events

Our fundraising events include the Spring Fling black-tie event (early June); HOPE Telethon (October/November), the Puppy Love 5K Run/Walk (March) and Surf Dog (September). Volunteering only for events does not require the general orientation and tour.  It does require an on-site training session and a 5-8 hour shift on the day of the event.  Tasks include set-up, take down, registration, auction sales, cashiering, vendor assistance, course marshals, etc.  Limited positions are available for junior volunteers (14 and up) with parental supervision at the training and the event.  Ask for a Special Event sign-up form. (The general adult volunteer orientation listed on the cover page is not required.)

Special Event Planning/Marketing and Fundraising

Be a part of planning fun and productive events.  Opportunities are available to take on leadership and support roles for fundraising events.  Positions include marketing and fundraising, planning and completion of tasks within deadlines, clerical and phone assistance, preparation of mailings, setup and take down on the day of the event, etc.  Opportunities to help with securing event underwriting, auction items, and sponsorships may also be available.  Volunteers see projects through from beginning to end, including the many details of major events.

Helen Woodward Cares for Critters Outreach Program

This program involves volunteers going to various locations around San Diego County (such as shopping malls, stores, etc.), setting up a booth and soliciting donations for the Center as well as talking with the public about Center programs and handing out brochures. At most events, an adoptable dog is brought to increase traffic. NOTE: In order to transport/handle any adoption animals, you must complete the Animal Handling Training class. Classes are scheduled usually following a Volunteer Orientation. Volunteers must be at least 14 years of age or older to participate in this program.

Coins for Critters

A fun and flexible way to help the Center’s programs!  Join a program where you monitor donation canisters in retail locations near your home.  Volunteers exchange full canisters for empty ones on a weekly basis.  We need volunteers who live in coastal North County.  We also need volunteers to help recruit new business.

Orphaned Objects Resale Shop

Orphaned Objects is a boutique style shop offering some of the best deals in San Diego. We carry one-of-a-kind items, furniture, home décor, games and toys, books, jewelry, art, clothing, shoes, sports equipment, pet products and more.

All sales at Orphaned Objects Resale Shop benefit the programs and pets at Helen Woodward Animal Center. Volunteers help ring up sales, organize and sort through inventory, assist with projects as needed from the store manager and tag items for sale. Volunteers must be at least 16 years of age or older.
Office Assistants

We often joke that the animals will not do any "paper work" but the reality is that the office, administrative and fund raising side of our work is invaluable fuel for all of the programs for the people and animals that we serve.  The Center uses Microsoft Office software, including Word, Access and Excel.  Volunteer positions are usually a weekday shift for 3-5 hours.  We need volunteers who have organizational skills and attention to details.