USD student involvement at the Heartland Humane Society in Yankton had increased in the past year. Currently, there are over 150 volunteers with a mix of community members and students. In total, there are 25 students volunteering this year.
The Heartland Humane Society is an animal shelter for unwanted animals. They take care of a variety of animals until they are fostered or adopted. These animals can include cats, dogs, bunnies, ferrets, hamsters and many more.
Kaitlyn Thomas, assistant director of the shelter, said that there has been a steady increase in student volunteers since the pandemic.
“We averaged 100 [volunteers] before COVID. When the pandemic hit, we went to split shifts and closed doors temporarily. Some volunteers were comfortable still helping, many took a break and came back later, and plenty quit volunteering and decided not to return,” Thomas said.
Thomas said the shelter is very flexible with their hours for students. She believes anyone can be a volunteer.
“I totally get what it’s like to be in college and to have finals and exams,” Thomas said. “I’d say we’re pretty flexible with our volunteers.”
A big factor in their recruiting process on campus are the different events they hold. This year, they held Pet the Stress Away and the Cat Cafe.
“A lot of (students) volunteer for many reasons. Two patterns I really notice are missing animals from back home and students who are going into the field with animals,” Thomas said.
Abbi Bailey, a senior at USD, said she enjoys volunteering because of her love for animals.
“One of my favorite things is getting to know some of the animals’ personalities… Some of these dogs will come in and they’re shy and laid back and sit quietly in their kennel, but then the next week they’re a lot more playful. I get to see a lot more of their personalities,” Bailey said.
Bailey decided to join the volunteer program due to her career choice.
“I am actually interested in working in veterinary medicine. I was looking for things that would get me more involved with animal work and experience. So I looked at Humane Societies near me and this one was the closest near me,” Bailey said.
The Heartland Humane Society has helped 162 animals this year. Thomas credits the volunteers for their success so far.
“Without our volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to help 100 animals a month,” Thomas said.
Thomas hopes volunteer rates will continue to climb in the coming years.
For more information, or any questions regarding the volunteer process, go to their website heartlandhumanesociety.net, or visit them in Yankton on Highway 50.