This article is part of our series, “Questions From You,” where you send us questions about the shelter, and we post the answers! Have a question? Send it to us at

“When you say you “work at the SPCA,” do you mean you’re a volunteer? Paid staff? What are the differences between what a volunteer does and what a staff member does?”

It takes a whole community to keep the SPCA of Hancock County running. We have both paid staff and volunteers, and both are vital to the success of the shelter!

The first and most obvious difference between volunteers and staff is that our staff are paid, and volunteers are not. We typically have about 9 staff members, most of whom handle Animal Care. This is a small number of people to care for our 100-150 resident animals! Thank goodness for our crew of volunteers, who come in and help us clean and care for the animals, and maintain our grounds and building. Volunteers donate their time and labor, which lets us spend more of our resources directly on the animals.

We’re sometimes asked why we have staff at all – “Wouldn’t you do it anyway if you weren’t paid?” We sure would – and we often do! All of our staff are people who are dedicated to animal rescue, and we would be rescuing animals no matter what. If you ask us, we all have rescued/former shelter animals at home, and can tell endless stories about this or that animal we found in need of help in our off hours and we just had to do something.


Shelter Manager (staff) Lori gives the kittens their dewormer and checks their weights to make sure they are strong and healthy, with no “unwanted passengers” in their tummies.


However, having at least some paid staff is better for the facility and the animals we care for. It ensures continuity: familiar faces for the animals every day, people who know the routine of the shelter inside and out, and we develop years of experience working within the world of animal rescue that helps us respond better to crises and challenging situations. Having staff makes it easier for us to network reliably with other organizations and hold ourselves and our organization accountable for the many lives we are responsible for.

How do the duties of staff and volunteers differ? Volunteers typically help us with tasks that take many hands to complete: we have lots of cages to clean, dishes to wash, and laundry to fold, and these tasks take time. We also need lots of hands for administrative tasks such as putting together the folders that go home with every adopted animal, stuffing envelopes when it’s time to send out mailings, and setting up documents for spay/neuter trips.


A volunteer cuddles the kittens. Kitten socialization is an important task, particularly for the babies that grow up at the shelter. This helps them be social with humans and other cats when they are adopted.


Staff members participate in these duties, but also need time to attend to things like kittens who have upper respiratory infections, making sure new intakes have their vaccines up to date, and networking with Animal Control Officers and other organizations to help as many animals as we can. In addition to that, we’re handling adoptions, answering questions, and making sure every animal gets individual attention each day!


Staff member Dani helps photograph kittens. Sometimes it takes more than one person to take pictures, because the animals don’t always hold still. The other challenge is to take a photo primarily of the animal rather than the person. Sometimes we miss and you get an accidental staff portrait!


Without volunteers, our staff would be swamped with the sheer number of tasks that must be completed each day. We are also supported by our Board of Directors, our Facebook followers, our Flyer Crew, and those who donate to the shelter or bring us food for the animals. It truly takes a village to do this work! And just think – by reading this article, you become part of our village.

We’ve started sharing a series of articles right here on the 4-Paw Post titled “A Day in the Life of a Shelter Worker,” to give you a window into the dedication of our staff members. We’re interviewing individual staff so that we can share personal accounts of what this work looks like from the inside.

To read all of these articles, click the tag below called “a day in the life.”

Would you like to hear from our volunteers, too? Send us an email at, and we’ll answer your question right here as part of Questions From You.