Animal ambulances struggle with volunteer shortage
Several animal ambulances in the Netherlands are struggling with a volunteer shortage, possibly because there is so much paid work to be found, according to the Federation of Animal Ambulances Netherlands (FDN). The Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals (Dierenbescherming) also says that animal ambulance drivers are being sought throughout the Netherlands, "from Groningen to Zeeland."
Volunteers on an animal ambulance usually work long, heavy shifts in the summer months. "It's all hands on deck," said a spokesperson for the Dierenbescherming.
The Dierenbescherming drives about 30 animal ambulances through the Netherlands and there are also many other animal ambulance organisations. A large part of them are affiliated with the FDN.
"You see that there are shortages in every volunteer sector," explains FDN chairman Trizin Hof. "But this is an essential profession."
According to Hof, the volunteer shortages mean that some animal ambulances get in trouble when driving out on a call. "Then a notification comes, but no one is available to pick it up. That's definitely not what we want, you don't want to think that we have to say no." This is, for example, a huge problem during the nighttime hours, because then it is "always about emergency reports."
He sees the reason for the low unemployment of today. "People who would normally volunteer on the sidelines can now get a well-paid job." The Animal Ambulance Groningen agrees that no one left last year. "Now people have flowed out to jobs and other paid pathways." The organization speaks of an "outflow of experienced people."
The Dierenbescherming also sees that recruiting volunteers is not easy, and that retaining them "is also another sport." In the spring and summer, animal ambulance workers spend a long time in the car and pick up many animals, "extra hands are always more than welcome."
People are also going on holiday again this summer after two years of restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic. This creates a shortage of volunteers, as well. One solution is to ask people to work more shifts, but the spokesperson for the Animal Protection says you "don't want to overload people either."
Hof has been arguing for some time that animal ambulances should be officially recognized by politicians as the fourth branch of aid. That could mean that more people can be hired. "We are still not taken seriously, that worries me. Acknowledge us, see us. We are already very skilled and professional."
Reporting by ANP