Veterinary technicians: Read this before you volunteer


Here are answers to the most commonly asked questions.

If you've considered volunteering abroad, check out this list of frequently asked questions with answers from Susan Logan, BS, CVT.

Q: Many volunteer organizations open to veterinarians, technicians, and assistants require a donation. Is it appropriate to pay to participate?

A. It's true that many volunteer organizations require a donation from the volunteer, but the fee should be minimal. It simply helps pay for the accommodations, meals, and transportation as well as the veterinary supplies the organization needs. Some places will offer accommodations, but some may not. Research the average cost of local meals and accommodations in the area you would like to visit. The fee you pay to a legitimate volunteer organization should be less than this because you are providing a much-needed service.

Q. What do I need to know to have a good experience volunteering abroad?

A. Keep an open mind. The place you visit may not have a state-of-the-art hospital or high-tech equipment. Because many animal-related nonprofit organizations use volunteers, there's often a higher rate of turnover. So be prepared to be in charge if you're the most experienced person on the team.

Also remember to learn about the culture you plan to visit, and stay flexible. Most important, bring a good attitude, a sense of humor, a stethoscope, and some Pepto—just in case!

Q. Where can I find volunteer opportunities?

A. Start by reviewing postings with your local veterinary technician organization. You may also consider the two organizations below that accept volunteers. Just be aware that volunteer opportunities and leadership can change over time, so confirm the details before you commit.

• Elephant Nature Park

This organization gave me the chance to work with elephants in Thailand. Be warned, though—you will fall in love with an elephant while you're there.

• Soi Dog Foundation

The Soi Dog Foundation helps spay and neuter dogs on the beautiful island of Phuket in Thailand. Former volunteers told me it was rewarding, though backbreaking—and sometimes heartbreaking—work.

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