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Volunteer with Animals Abroad

Home | Written by Shay Gleeson | Last updated 6th Mar, 2023.


Volunteer with animals abroad


In this guide, we run through the most common questions you might have about volunteering with animals abroad and conservation projects.



Animal volunteering abroad contents




Volunteer with animals abroad projects


Animal volunteering abroad projects offered by HelpStay in the main involve working with animal rescue shelters, animal clinics and animal sanctuaries.


These projects are set up by local charities, individuals or even expats, who take it upon themselves to help improve the conditions and welfare of the local animal population. Many dog and cat rescue shelters fall under this category type.



What animal volunteer abroad first-timers should consider


If animal volunteering abroad is new to you, you’ll have concerns about your safety. There are things you can do to alleviate these concerns.


  1. Travel with another person - a friend, a partner, a family member or a spouse. Travelling solo is for the experienced traveller. Travelling with another person ensures you will have someone to fall back on if things don’t go to plan - they’ll have your back.

  2. Keep it relatively familiar by avoiding countries or environments that are too different to where you live. For example, if you’re a western female, countries that have limited freedoms around women's rights might not be a good choice. If you always need to be connected to the grid, many developing countries have limited and often sporadic electricity supply. Don’t assume every country is like yours - do your own research.

  3. Select your project wisely. Do your research, spend time browsing projects and talking to hosts. Reach out to many hosts, don’t be too hasty and don’t be afraid to ask many questions of the host. We suggest you start planning your volunteer stay 3-4 months before travelling. Be sure to read our free guide as there are a few things you’ll need to watch out for. It was written by Margherita, an experienced helper, who volunteered on projects across multiple continents.

  4. Plan your journey, spend time on the details. Think about all the travel scenarios that can go wrong and put a backup plan in place. For example, If you’re landing late in the evening and your project destination is far from the airport - make sure you have pre-booked accommodation close to the airport.



Volunteering with animals abroad skills required


Volunteering in an animal sanctuary is rewarding but it’s hard work. Animals need round the clock care which includes feeding them, changing their bedding, exercising them and maintaining their surroundings.


To be a good volunteer with animals abroad, you need to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get stuck-in. You don’t need any specific skills but you do need the right attitude and a good work ethic. Remember, there’s a lot of dirty work that needs doing.


If you’re training to be a veterinary surgeon or nurse, then working in such an environment will help you gain valuable experience.


Likewise, volunteering with wildlife and environmental conservation projects will provide valuable first-hand experience if that’s the field that you wish to pursue as a career.



Volunteer abroad animals and who is eligible?


The answer is anybody and everybody over the age of 18. If you're under 18 and travelling with a parent, you'll find some animal volunteering abroad projects that cater to families too.


You'll be happy to hear that a big percentage of our members who go volunteering with animals abroad are in the 50 + bracket. Remember, hosts love to hear from older volunteers as they tend to have more real-world work experience.



Do I need to be fit to go volunteering with animals abroad?


The main prerequisite when volunteering with animals abroad is that you're somewhat fit and healthy because some of the projects do require a fair bit of manual work.


If you think the tasks required when animal volunteering abroad might be a bit too much, have a conversation with the host, tell them your concerns. We're confident that a grown up conversation between two adults will lead to a happy compromise.



Risks to health and safety when animal volunteering abroad


Generally speaking, working with animals can be dangerous. You never know what way the animal is going to be behave. You need to have your wits about you at all time and never take unnecessary risks.


You'll also need to ensure you're appropriately vaccinated and equipped with the correct medical advise. For example, if working with stray dogs, you'll need to ensure your protected against rabies.


Most countries have medical centres that specialise in travel medicine and advise. In Ireland, we use The Tropical Medical Bureau.


Covid-19 will be knocking around in various guises for some time. As part of your preparation, always research the latest travel-related information in relation to Covid019 and the country that you're planning to visit.


We do advise that you have appropriate travel and health insurance when volunteering with animals abroad. It's better to be safe than sorry. Any travel insurer should be able to provide you with the correct cover. The partner we work with is SafetyWing.



Is it expensive to volunteer with animals abroad?


Choosing a HelpStay is the the cheapest way to go volunteering with animals abroad. The majority of opportunities on HelpStay charge no fees. You'll be receiving free accommodation in exchange for work.


In most cases the host needs help to run their animal-related and conservation projects. In return for such help, usually no more than 30 hours a week, the host provides accommodation, and sometimes food too. Generally,  the helper is responsible for all their other living expenses.


Running an animal shelter or sanctuary is a labour intensive business. It requires constant round the clock care of the animals including feeding, changing bedding, exercising, socialisation and general maintenance of the sanctuary. So if you apply, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in.



Explore animal volunteering abroad opportunities


Join our Climate Compliance 6 month Program (Caribbean)
Saint Vincent And The Grenadines
Else Marie
Marketing & Enrollment Manager
From 18 € / day:
Dormitory Shared
Full Board
Help with Ecosystem Restoration (Missouri)
United States
Rex & Amy
Project Founders
Double Private
Help with a Horse Trekking Centre in Devon (England)
United Kingdom
Host Family
Single Private
Half Board
Volunteer restoring a Cloud Forest by Planting Trees (Colombia)
Project Coordintor
Double Private
Conservation Field Volunteer & Internship positions on Greek Islands (Greece)
Director & Volunteer Coordinator
From 20 € / day:
Dormitory Shared
Volunteer with a Dog Hotel & Training School (northern Italy)
Marco & Elisa
Dog Centre Managers
Single Private
Love Animals? Volunteer at our Animal Sanctuary (northern Spain)
Sanctuary Manager
Single Private
Full Board
Conservation volunteering & Internship opportunities (Paraguay)
Marketing & Communications Officer
From 50 € / day:
Dormitory Shared
Full Board
Help with projects at our Vegan & Animal Sanctuary (western France)
Host Family
Dormitory Shared
Volunteer at a Animal Shelter, Farm & Hostel in the Andes (Colombia)
Resident & Host
Single Private
Volunteer with Animals (Caribbean)
Saint Vincent And The Grenadines
Volunteer Coordinator & Host
Double Private
Volunteer with our conservation project on a beach (Nicaragua)
From 30 € / day:
Single Private
Full Board