Many students leave behind beloved family pets when they head off to college. This can be heartbreaking for most students.
“I have two dogs at home, Raja and Rocky,” Ravali Bheemanathini said. “I’ve had them since I was 8 and I miss them.”
Bheemanathini is a junior at Auburn University. She is majoring in agriculture communications and is currently interning at the Lee County Humane Society (LCHS). As an intern, Bheemanathini volunteers her time to LCHS by promoting their adoptable pets on social media. (Photo, left, courtesy: Rachael Barnes)
While adopting is a great way to help local shelters, many students cannot adopt because of apartment restrictions and financial reasons. Fostering pets or volunteering at local animal shelters are ways to help and greatly influence an animal’s life.
“I feel that volunteering and fostering are excellent ways to help if you cannot adopt at that time,” said T.J. McCullough, LCHS shelter director. “It helps that person understand why they should not adopt while in school or how much care is needed to adopt a pet.”
LCHS is a non-profit organization. This limits the number of staff available and the amount resources available to care for their animals. Volunteers and interns help relieve stress on the staff and ensure that animals are given the attention and care they need.
“Volunteers and interns provide socialization for animals that staff may not have time for,” McCullough said. “They also assist with offsite events and day to day duties, such as laundry, cleaning, social media, the pet intake process, animal transports and again, so much more.”
Volunteering is also a good way to earn community service hours, whether you need them for an on-campus organization or just want to be involved in the community.
Students can apply to volunteer on LCHS’s website, www.leecountyhumane.org/ways-to-help/volunteer/. All volunteers must go through an off-site orientation and a shelter tour.
LCHS also employs student interns throughout the year. While this is an unpaid position, interns gain valuable experience during their time at LCHS and can also earn school credit.
“I chose to intern at LCHS because I have always had a passion for helping animals and I was involved with my local humane society back home in Florida, so I wanted to get involved here too,” Erin McDyer said. “I also am majoring in public relations, so the internship was perfect because it would give me experience and I could do more than just volunteer and walk dogs, etc.”
McDyer, a freshman at Auburn University, is a social media intern at LCHS. Social media interns help promote animals, events and the need of the shelter. This helps increase awareness in the community and helps increase the shelter’s funding. (Photo, right, courtesy: Rachael Barnes)
“My favorite part about interning at LCHS is getting to know the animals personally and getting to interact with them,” McDyer said. “Also, I love that in addition to that, I have the chance to share their personalities with the public to try to get them adopted through social media, so I'm actively trying to help them for their future instead of only making their time at the shelter better.”
Other intern positions include the areas of animal health, animal care, and public relations. Students can apply to be an intern by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteers and interns are a crucial part of the LCHS team. From cuddling with kittens and walking dogs to helping with laundry, volunteers and interns provide relief and assistance to the LCHS staff.
“I feel that volunteering and interning gives everyone a different view of what is going on in our community,” McCullough said. “It raises awareness that we do have a pet overpopulation problem, that funding to care for all of them is low and much needed. It also shows that caring for so many animals isn't just about cute animals needing hugs and kisses.”
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