Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Animal shelters offer volunteer opportunities

Megan Smith

A plump tabby cat named Nelson spends his days sprawled on Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter director Judy Hill’s desk, content with his rule of the roost.

“Nelson was a storm kitty – we all fell in love with him,” Hill said.  “He was so skinny when he came in, but look at him now.”

The shelter, like Nelson, has slowly returned to normal since the hectic days following April 27. Only four “storm dogs” still board at the shelter while their displaced owners look for pet-friendly residences – a tiny number compared to the nearly 800 animals that found a home at Metro in the weeks following the tornado.

During the summer months, shelter employees worked long hours placing animals in adoptive homes and sending them to less crowded shelters around the country. Some were sent as far away as Long Island, N.Y. and Texas. A total of 179 were reunited with their families.

The staff is now relieved that the busy summer days have slowed down. Still, as the only shelter serving Tuscaloosa, Northport and greater Tuscaloosa County, things are always hectic.

On a daily basis, Metro houses between 200 and 250 animals in their kennels.

“We don’t turn any animals away – we don’t pick and choose,” Hill said. “The only time we slow things down is when we run out of cage space. We ask people to then wait and bring the animals back. We have to do what we can do for the comfort of the animals – we can’t house too many or it’s detrimental to them.”

Despite having several full-time employees, there is always work to be done at the shelter. Trained staff members take care of feedings, medications and behavioral evaluations – but the dogs and cats need bathing, exercise and social interactions as well. This is where University students come in.

“We always need volunteers for walking, bathing the dogs and interaction with the cats,” Hill said. “We’re also trying to get our nursing home visitation going again – there’s a lot of prep time that goes into that.”

Volunteers don’t have to have any experience. Simply attend an orientation held Thursday at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. Hill urges anyone who cannot make the Thursday meetings to call the shelter to schedule another appointment for orientation.

While Metro is the only animal welfare organization in the area with a public kennel, there are numerous other organizations for students to volunteer their time and get involved with.

According to their website,, The Humane Society of West Alabama is always looking for animal lovers who want to volunteer. Opportunities include working with the animals, foster care, or working on publicity or fundraising campaigns.

For students who want to get involved and meet like-minded individuals while doing so, Bama PAWS may be the place for you. Bama PAWS is the UA student organization affiliated with T-Town PAWS, a non-profit animal welfare organization.

“We have lots of fun events planned for the fall already,” said Madison Gordon, President of Bama PAWS.

These events include fundraisers, a dog splash at the Rec pool, and working the adoption room at a local pet supplies store. In addition to service hours, Bama PAWS members get to check out dogs for exercise and socialization – a great opportunity for students who can’t have a pet in their dorm or apartment.

Wherever students want to give their time, Hill believes volunteering with animals helps individuals as much as it does the dogs and cats.

“I think it’s a good thing – especially people that are away from home for the first time,” Hill said. “It’s a big comfort to have something to take care of.”

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