After working with a slashed budget and reduced staff for many months, the Santa Monica Animal Shelter is relaunching its volunteer program to help further its commitment to rehabilitating rescued pets.

Volunteers play an important role in the operation of the shelter and the team is looking forward to welcoming community members back with Covid restrictions in place.

“The volunteer program is incredibly rewarding because you see that transition from an animal that came in helpless to one that is trusting and loving, and you connect with people from the community who are basically adopting a new family member,” said Carmen Molinari, chair of the Santa Monica Animal Shelter Foundation and ten year volunteer.

Due to the financial impacts of Covid-19, the City eliminated the kennel attendant positions and an animal control officer at SMAS. As a result, the remaining animal control staff have been working double duty as kennel attendants and are greatly looking forward to having volunteers back on board who can spend more time with the animals.

“The more enrichment and attention animals get the more likely they are to be adopted,” said Molinari. “With lots of care and attention animals become trained faster, which helps them find their forever homes.”

SMAS is looking for volunteers who are willing to come in and help with the day-to-day care of animals by feeding them, cleaning their kennels, providing them with warm beds and toys, interacting with them and grooming them.

Interested volunteers can also learn animal training and social rehabilitation skills.

“It’s a great opportunity for someone who wants to help animals who are particularly in need, whether it be medically or with training younger animals as well as older senior animals,” said SMAS Administrator Robert Silverstein. “Usually the people who get involved are very compassionate, very caring, and really want to help these animals get out of the shelter and back into a home environment.”

The volunteer program is flexible and people can sign up for varying amounts of hours, however the shelter asks volunteers to make a firm commitment to regularly attending their chosen shifts.

SMAS is also looking to revitalize its teen program and students from Samohi or other local high schools are welcome to sign up for service hours.

The shelter is currently closed to the public, but open to volunteers seven days a week. Those interested in signing up should call the shelter during business hours at 310-458-8595 and ask for Martin Hernandez, who coordinates the program.