Become an Animal Shelter Volunteer with Marissa de la Torre

Marissa de la Torre talks to us about becoming an animal shelter volunteer in episode 7 of the For Animals For Earth Podcast | For Animals For Earth

Marissa from De La Doggies talks to us in episode 7 about using photography to become an animal shelter volunteer, and help rescued animals find homes.  Marissa lives in Los Angeles and is a pet and human photographer.  For over 10 years, she’s been helping rescues around LA take photos of the animals that they save.  These photos are then shared all over social media to speed up the adoption process.

I interviewed Marissa on episode 7 of the For Animals For Earth Podcast.  Click play if you would like to listen to our conversation.

Listen to the episode:

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5 Simple Ideas to Try:

Top 5 simple actions that we can take to become an animal shelter volunteer:

  1. Share photos of animals that need homes when we see them on social media
  2. Approach a local rescue group at Petco or Petsmart and ask if we can help by using a talent we have
  3. If we sign up to volunteer, consistently show up and communicate
  4. Put together a small group of friends to offer photography and social media posts to our local shelter
  5. Join an educational outreach program such as spay/neuter or read to pets
Marissa de la Torre talks to us about becoming an animal shelter volunteer in episode 7 of the For Animals For Earth Podcast | For Animals For Earth

About Our Guest:

Marissa de la Torre is a Los Angeles based freelance photographer- originally from the Bay Area.  She moved to LA ten years ago and began photographing dogs that needed forever homes.  Marissa also photographs human portraits, lifestyle campaigns and loves doing docu style/bts and editorial vibe projects as well.  She studied film, tv & music at San Francisco State and photography at Tri-Community in West Covina.

Marissa loves ratting around in different places, watching humans doing weird things, watching music videos and the show Cops.  She also loves collecting dolls and listening to Prince & Ella Fitzgerald while staring at the sky!

You can find Marissa at @marissadela on Instagram.

My Favorite Episode Quote:

“I mean, so many things.  But at the end of the day I feel like I’m an advocate for pets.  Mostly dogs, but pets!  Dogs, just because there’s a huge problem and I feel like the big dog, the underdog, I want to help them.” – Marissa de la Torre

Growing up with Rescue Dogs

Marissa grew up as an only child in the Bay Area.  She said that her parents and grandparents always had pets around (dogs, cats, hamsters).  She says she grew up in a cliche hippy culture.  ;-)

She has vivid memories of hanging out with Rachel and Mica, her rescue dogs from the Martinez shelter.  Because she was an only child, she spent a lot of time with the animals around her.  Her parents always had a rescue mentality, and she feels fortunate for having grown up with that mindset.

As a young adult, Marissa lived in Oakland.  This is where she first became an animal shelter volunteer, at events at the East Bay SPCA.  When she moved to LA, she happened to be in the Petco next to her condo and met the woman who ran Save a Life Rescue.  She was there with pets available for adoption and Marissa asked her how the pets get seen outside of the Petco events.  The lady told her that she could really use help with that, and a pet photographer was born!

After this Marissa helped United Hope for Animals, which is an all volunteer based organization that goes into high kill shelters.  In addition to photography, Marissa considers herself an advocate who helps in other ways, such as where I met her, when we put together a program to bring children into the shelter to read to pets.  She also helps Downtown Dog Rescue with the Pet Resource Center in Skid Row.  She says that she’s been blessed with seeing pet ownership differently after getting involved with this program.  Marissa tells us that she will take photos to help pets forever. ;-)

Help by Sharing on Social Media

Marissa goes into the shelter and photographs animals that are looking for homes.  These photos will then be shared by the rescue group, or if it’s a government shelter, it’s often done by a “Friends of” group on Facebook.  If you search your local government shelter, you may find a “Friends of” Facebook group in your area that you can join to help share photos.

Marissa asks everyone who is willing, to share a photo of an animal needing a home every now and then.  She’s personally seen so many dogs at the shelter find a home at the last minute through these photos shared on social media.

A lot of times it will actually be a rescue that is able to pull the animal in those emergency situations.  Rescues can often help with a medical case with their own funds and turn the animal’s life around.  Or, even with healthy dogs, the rescue environment will help them to calm and to be adopted.

Help with Spay & Neuter

Become an animal shelter volunteer by helping with spay and neuter programs. More on the For Animals For Earth Podcast, episode 7, with Marissa de la Torre | For Animals For Earth
Photo from:

I love this infographic that explains why spay and neuter is so important.  Marissa volunteers with Downtown Dog Rescue, who does a tremendous amount of work to help with outreach and spay and neuter clinics.  They even do mobile spay and neuter, which helps them get into areas where these surgeries may not be as readily available.  Spay and neuter not only helps with pet overpopulation, but it also improves the health of individual pets, such as lowering the chance of cancer.

I think that a lot of bigger cities have groups that do this mobile spay and neuter clinic too.  It’s worth searching your local area if you’d like to be an animal shelter volunteer in the spay and neuter arena.

Help with Educational Outreach

Another way to help animals is to volunteer with (or attend) educational outreach programs with a local shelter or rescue group.  There is a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to pets, especially big dogs.  Most big dogs, if in the right environment, make amazing pets.  Did you know that pit bulls used to be nannies?

Many people don’t know that spay and neuter is an option.  Many people adopt or buy cute puppies and don’t realize what life will actually be like when they grow large.  We can make a big difference in pet welfare by sharing what we know, or volunteering with shelters, to help them share what they know.

Create a Small Group to Photograph & Promote Animals

At South LA Animal Services, there’s a program set up for photographers, dog/cat handlers, and bio writers to work together every Sunday to prep social media posts for the animals.  Marissa talks about how it’s important to go through the shelter’s formal volunteer training program and to show up consistently to be a good volunteer, and to earn the chance to help like this.

If there is no formal program in your area, you may be successful at putting together a small group of friends to do this, and then approaching your local shelter.  Marissa also recommends starting with a rescue group, because they’re often easier to get involved with and to learn the ropes from.

Help by Intervening on Craig's List

Not everyone knows that when they put their dog on Craig’s List it could end up as a bait dog in dog fighting.  That’s sadly a big thing in LA, but it’s not only in LA.  It’s a problem everywhere.

Marissa helps by influencing people who post to take their animal to the shelter instead.  She also helps them to understand why.

How do we get over the hump of going into the sad shelter?

It is sad.  Everyone understands that it’s sad to go into the shelter.  And it’s tough on all of us.  But, it’s sad for the animals too.  And Marissa shares that sometimes the only chance they have is us.  So we can ease ourselves in, a little bit at a time.  She suggests going in for a little bit and passing out treats.  And then going in for a little bit more.  Not necessarily to desensitize ourselves, but to build up that muscle.  And she shares how volunteering can be incredibly rewarding.  When we see a success, the joy is just overwhelming.  It can really give us a purpose in our lives.

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Marissa de la Torre talks to us about becoming an animal shelter volunteer in episode 7 of the For Animals For Earth Podcast | For Animals For Earth

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