Improving Volunteer Programs to Help Shelter Dogs

Room: St-Laurent 7

Amélie Martel, Animal Welfare Director, SPCA de Montréal

Dog shelters face significant challenges every day, including assessing dog behaviour, ensuring their well-being, limiting their length of stay while making the best possible placement for each individual. They are also forced to handle potentially dangerous dogs and sometimes forced to make euthanasia decisions, mainly in cases where the shelter has an open intake policy.

Volunteers are an invaluable resource for shelters that generally have significant financial constraints and some cannot function without them. However, it can be very difficult for the organization to manage people who often have little or no experience and are very emotionally involved with animals.

A change in the overall approach to the dog volunteer program at the Montreal SPCA has improved the dog assessment process and animal welfare, all while enabling better placements.


  1. What are the main issues of behavioural assessments in the shelter environment and how can they be improved through the involvement of volunteers?
  2. How can improving volunteer programs significantly improve the welfare of dogs in shelter and their placements?
  3. Tips and suggestions on the management of challenging cases and addressing the question of euthanasia with volunteers.

Amélie Martel holds a law degree from the University of Montreal and is a member of the Quebec Bar. She has studied animal behaviour and worked as a dog trainer, mainly with rescue dogs. In July 2015, she joined the Investigation Division of the Montreal SPCA, where she had been volunteering for several years. Her legal training and her knowledge of animal behaviour have been of value in her work as an inspector and special constable for this department. She has also been actively involved in the management of several volunteer teams for the organization, including the Canine Enrichment and Education Program. Since April 2018, she has taken on new challenges in the same organization as the Director of Animal Welfare.