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Shelter Handbook: Guidelines and Expectations for Volunteers

These are the guidelines for Volunteers at the Monroe County Animal Shelter (MCAS). It is considered a supplement to our Volunteering Guidlelines listed on the MCFA website. No Volunteer handbook can answer all the questions you might have about our daily routines, necessary safety precautions or needs for special events. The Orientation Session provides a person-to-person experience so that we can better get to know each other, express our views, and build a rewarding experience for you and the MCAS.

MCFA depends on its Volunteers…your success is our success. Please don't hesitate to ask questions!


All MCFA Shelter Volunteers work under the direction of the Shelter Director and Kennel Manager, with assistance from the MCFA Volunteer Coordinator and Volunteer Leads. Working at the Shelter can be physically taxing. Be realistic and candid in accepting your assignment, taking into consideration your skills, interests, and availability, as well as the needs of MCFA and the shelter.

Let the Volunteer Coordinator know what tasks/assignments you are willing to undertake. Keep in mind, the days & time of your volunteering needs to compliment the daily schedule of the shelter.

Volunteers are expected to conduct themselves in a professional and respectful manner while helping at the Animal Shelter. Theft, offensive language, drugs or alcohol use will not be tolerated and will result in a Volunteer's termination from our Volunteer program.

All new Volunteers are REQUIRED to attend an orientation before volunteering. Protocols must be followed when volunteering at the shelter. These protocols are not only for your safety, but the safety and proper care of our animals. Volunteers may come into contact with diseases, i.e., parasites, fungal infections, or be exposed to aggressive dog or cat behaviors. It is imperative that Volunteers follow these guidelines or the instructions from the Shelter Staff.

Trustees (non-violent Inmates):

The trustees are there solely at the discretion of the Monroe County Sheriff and their requirements are separate from Volunteer duties. The Trustees have specific assigned tasks at the shelter. If you need a trustee to help you, please ask the Kennel Manager or Shelter Director. Only request assistance from the Trustees AFTER you have talked with the Kennel Manager or Shelter Director. Do not treat the Trustees as volunteers, but treat them with respect. Do not bring gifts, offer money, food or cigarettes to the Trustees. These infractions could cause your dismissal from our Volunteer program and disciplinary action against the Trustees.

Emergency Procedures:

This document should not be considered a substitute for informed decisions and common sense when an emergency occurs. Emergencies take many forms and may require different actions. No one can foresee the type or extent of the emergency, so it is impossible to provide definitive, all encompassing advice. Review emergency plans that posted on the bulletin board. In case of a fire, all Volunteers should meet in the parking lot away from the building. A headcount needs to be taken to assure that all Volunteers are present.

Timesheets/Record Keeping:

Because MCFA is actively seeking grants for animal programs, the number of hours a Volunteer donates is critical information in obtaining financial support. Please sign in when you arrive on the clipboard hanging next to the kitchen door (on the right). Please record the hours you work when performing ANY tasks for MCFA.


Smoking is not allowed in public areas or around animals. If you must smoke, you will need to go to your car in the parking area to smoke.


At the Shelter, there is one way in and one way out of the shelter, just follow the paw prints. Please drive slowly and be considerate of the Volunteers and animals often sharing the road up to the Shelter. Do not park in front of the Shelter. It is a busy and often dangerous area. The few front spaces are used by individuals/customers doing shelter business. Volunteers should park near the grassy area towards the side of the Shelter, but not on the grass.

Hours of Operation:

The Shelter is open Tuesday-Saturday, but closed on Sunday and Monday and for the holidays whenever the County offices are closed. The hours for the Shelter are Tuesday through Friday, 11:00 AM to 4:30 PM and Saturday 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

Dress Code:

When volunteering around animals, clothes can become soiled or torn easily. Dress appropriately and respectfully for working at the shelter. Do not wear your favorite clothes.

Tank tops are not acceptable, t-shirts are preferred. Closed toe shoes and long pants/jeans are requested. Puppies can nibble on your feet, accidents can happen. In the summer months, appropriate knee length shorts may be worn.

Do not wear jewelry when working with animals. Wearing jewelry could result in injury if an animal's paw/nails were to catch your jewelry. Work aprons are available at the shelter.

We suggest that Volunteers not wear baseball caps while working at the Shelter, simply because some dogs may become aggressive when they see such a hat.

Do not bring personal items to the Shelter. It is a busy place without lockers for Volunteers. Keep all valuables or medications with you or lock them in your car.

What To Bring With You:

Bring your own cooler and keep it in your car for drinks and snacks. If you need to take a break, a picnic table is provided for Volunteers near the Volunteer parking area .



Shelter Management will maintain a White Board that will provide you with tasks that need to be completed, or dogs that need to be walked, socialized, or bathed. After a dog has been bathed, the Volunteer should line thru the dog's name, sign and date beside the line.

The White Board will also indicate which Trustee is responsible for cleaning and feeding a particular area of the shelter.

Quarantine areas: During Orientation, the Volunteer will be shown the Quarantine areas. Volunteers should not work in the Quarantine area unless the Volunteer is specifically under the direction of the Kennel Manager.

Rainbow Room: This is the room where necessary euthanasia is performed. Volunteers will be shown where the Rainbow Room is located. However, only Shelter Management is allowed in the Rainbow Room.

Cat Intake Room: This area is off-limits to the MCFA Volunteers, unless under the direct supervision of the Kennel Manager and/or Shelter Director.

Canine Behavior Assessment Building (CBA): This is the building where specifically trained Volunteers will take a dog and assess it's personality for potential adoption or rescue. This building can sometimes be used for socialization of a dog. Please ask before using.

HAND WASHING REQUIREMENTS: Volunteers must wear gloves or wash/sanitize their hands between handling each animal so that disease or illness is not spread to another animal.

Watering the animals: Ask before giving water to an animal. Many animals may be prepped for surgery or returning from a surgical procedure and the animal cannnot have water. Ask the Kennel Manager or trustee assigned to that particular animal before giving water. If a water bowl is not present, ask before placing one in the cage.

Feeding the animals: Volunteers should not feed the animals, unless otherwise directed by Shelter Staff. It is the responsibility of the Shelter staff and the Trustees. An animal may be on a special diet, need medicines or being prepped for surgery. If you have questions regarding the feeding of an animal, ask the Kennel Manager.

Assistance with new animal collaring: New animals to the shelter will be placed with either a blue or pink collar (based on sex of the animal). For proper sizing, the collar has to be snug enough not to come off, but loose enough not to choke the animal. Two fingers must easily be placed between the animal and the collar. During the animals stay at the shelter, check the collars on animals to assure they haven't gotten too snug (due to growth or increased weight) or too loose if the animal has lost weight.

The new collar should note the animals name & weight.

Caring for the Cats:

  • Most cats that arrive at the shelter are friendly and easy to manage. However, some maybe nervous and scared and are harder to handle. They may be terrified by their new surroundings or in pain, or have issues due to abuse. Approach each cat with caution and be aware that a cat's reaction, just like a dog, can change in an instant. Do not try to handle a cat that is hissing, swatting or biting. Volunteers will only work with cats in the Cat Adoption Room.

  • Utilize appropriately sized litter boxes for kittens (low walls).

  • Sanitize litter scoops in between litter boxes-do not transmit disease/worms.

  • When sanitizing litter boxes makes sure to sanitize exterior of litter box..

  • Report any medical issues ( for example: coughing, sneezing, throwing up, blood in the feces, no poop or excessive urination).

  • Collars on cats should be checked for proper sizing. Frequently check the collars of kittens to assure that as they grow, the collars do not become too tight.

Dogs: Walking/Exercising the dogs: Dog walking hours are 10:30 to 3:00 so that feeding times are not interrupted.

Only Volunteers over the age of 18 (and physically able) may walk the dogs due to the potential for aggressive behavior by the dogs or unexpected lunging or strong tugging.

The Shelter Staff will mark the cages of dogs that MAY NOT be handled by Volunteers. Read the kennel card for updates or changes before walking a dog.

  • Ask questions about the personality of the dog. Do not handle any dog that you feel may be a threat to you or others.

  • Acknowledge the dog before approaching or entering the kennel. Approach them slowly, calmly and use a soothing voice. Try not to tower over the dog.

  • Slip leads should be placed on the dog while the dog is inside the kennel. Never allow a dog to come out of the kennel to place a slip lead on.

  • Slip leads should be held securely, with the slip leash handle over your wrist.

  • If a dog is giving "unwelcoming" signals (stiff body or trembling, cowering, head low, a hard stare or wide eyes, growling, lunging/showing teeth, etc.), stop and slowly back away. NEVER RUN FROM A DOG. Running from a dog instills an instinctive behavior to give chase and possibly attack.

  • If you think a dog is going to bite, try to put something between you and the dog, such as a chair, fence or jacket.

  • Volunteers will be instructed where to safely walk the dogs. Take a poop bag with you to clean up after a dog defecates. Poop bags are provided throughout the shelter. Used bags should be discarded in the large dumpster to the right of the building.

  • Never take the dogs over to the personal property area of the current land owner, which is to the north side of the driveway.

  • Do not let them eat anything in the yard or from the ground.

  • Do not encourage them to bite their leashes.

  • Dogs should be walked a minimum of 15 minutes with a maximum of 30 minutes.

  • Never allow any dog to be off-leash, unless it is in the CBA building and being socialized.

  • Do not allow any of the dogs to interact due to the possibility of aggression or the spread of contagious illness. Keep dogs five to ten feet away from other dogs while walking them.

  • Should a dogfight start while you are handling a leashed dog, try to separate the dogs by pulling on the leash. NEVER get between fighting dogs or try to stop a fight with an unleashed dog. Go and get help from the Shelter Staff or trustee.

  • When taking the dog back to the kennel, do not walk the dog close to other dogs in the kennel. Being in such a close proximity enhances aggressive behavior. Place your body between the kennel and the dog on the leash.

  • Report to the Kennel Manager any difficulties with the dog or if you notice the dog's behavior has changed in any way. Report anything wrong with the dog, such as coughing, bloody stools, cuts, weight loss, etc.

Puppy Kennel/Puppies: Volunteers will be trained on the proper protocols for handling puppies during orientation. Many puppies may have been recently altered. Special care and handling is required so that sutures will be not be torn or incisions reopened. Never let a puppy drop to the ground when releasing them. Place them on the ground.

Play gently with the puppies - they will mimic the intensity of play and playing rough should not be encouraged.

Monitor the collar for proper sizing as the puppy grows.

Bathing the dogs:

Shelter Staff will maintain the white board to identify which dogs need to be bathed.

  • The Volunteer should not attempt bathing an animal without prior training and/or experience. A new Volunteer must work with a lead Volunteer before bathing a dog by themselves.

  • Prepare all cleaning supplies before bringing the dog or puppy to the area.

  • All dogs must be restrained with a slip lead, (even puppies) to prevent accidental falls from the sink. (Proper leash restraint will be shown during orientation.)

  • Prior to bathing the dog, place two drops of mineral oil in each eye of the dog. Make sure the bottle is properly marked as mineral oil before dispensing into the dogs eyes.

  • Use Dawn Dish Detergent for the first bath of a surrendered animal, unless otherwise instructed. Subsequent bathing may require medicated shampoos. Refer to the White Board for special needs.

  • When bathing puppies, it may be easier to use two plastic crates - one crate to house the puppies that have not been bathed, the other one for the clean puppies.

  • Place all dirty, used towels in the laundry area.

Shelter laundry: It is important to the health of the animals and the Volunteer to properly launder dirty items.

  • Do not launder pee pads with loose, excessive poop. Remove as much as possible. The pee pads should be taken outside and hosed off before washing them.

  • When washing pee pads, use one cup of detergent, one-quarter cup of bleach and hot water. This is necessary to kill bacteria and fungus. Dry the pee pads on cool heat, or hang outside to dry to protect the special backing on the pads.

Shelter Housekeeping:

All Volunteers should clean up after themselves. Keep the areas neat and orderly for the next Volunteer!

In case a Volunteer comes into contact with bacteria, viruses or fungi while volunteering at the shelter, we recommend changing your clothes when you return home after volunteering so that you will not infect your pets.

Accident Reporting:

All injuries have to be reported to the Volunteer Coordinator and Shelter Management as soon as possible.

Conflict Resolution:

When a group of people work and volunteer together, problems may arise. Emotions can become high because we all are committed to the care and health of the animals under our responsibility. It is important to all of us that such problems are solved as quickly as possible. Our problem-solving procedure provides you with the opportunity to have a review of any problem, dispute or misunderstanding that arises during the course of your volunteering.

  • In situations where differences arise between Volunteers or Volunteers and staff, it is advised to first try to resolve these differences amongst the parties involved.

  • If differences are unresolved or it is an urgent issue regarding the health or safety of humans or animals, immediately bring the issue to the attention of the Shelter Director, the Kennel Manager, or the Volunteer Coordinator .

  • If the issue is not urgent (ex. housekeeping, courtesy, cleanliness) discuss this problem with the Kennel Manager. If the issue is with another Volunteer, discuss the concern with the Volunteer Coordinator.

  • If the Shelter Director and Volunteer Coordinator cannot resolve an issue, the problem will be discussed with The Lead Volunteer Coordinator. If still unresolved, the Lead Volunteer, MCFA President, and individuals involved will meet for a resolution.


As MCFA grows and changes, there will be a need to modify policies, practices and other information in this handbook. You will be advised of any changes. Also, check our Volunteer page on the MCFA website for updated information.

MCFA Programs at the Shelter:

Pets for Patriots: Working with MCFA, MCAS was the first shelter in Tennessee to participate in this national program. The program allows an active or veteran military person to adopt a dog or cat at a discount by applying online and bringing the approval form to the shelter. All qualifying animals are fully vetted.

SNAP: A local program supported by MCFA and funded with grants. SNAP issues free vouchers to residents for the spaying and neutering of their dogs and cats.

Fosters: Residents volunteer to house animals at their homes (long term or short term) while the shelter finds homes for the dogs and cats.

Food Pantry Program: MCFA helps distribute pet food to pet owners in Monroe County temporarily to assist during difficult times. Once a month, on the last Tuesday (noon to 2pm), residents may apply for help.

Barn Cats: Often cats are not suitable for adoption in a home. For cats 1 year and older who fit the program criteria, they will be spayed or neutered, vetted, and adopted for outdoors such as for a barn.

Adoption Events: MCFA & MCAS work very hard to support local adoption events (such as Petsmart) to place as many animals as possible in forever homes.

Rescue Runs: MCFA & MCAS diligently work with a variety of organizations to increase the chances of an animal being rescued. MCFA supports these runs providing funds for transport costs, vehicles and volunteer drivers.

Updated: October, 2016


Monroe County Friends of Animals | P.O. Box 106 | Vonore, TN 37885
(423) 442-1015

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