Priceless volunteering with Priceless Pets


Cathy Li, Feature editor

When humane societies aren’t so humane, it’s volunteers like sophomore Katelyn Chen that make up the difference. 

A weekly volunteer at Priceless Pet Rescue, a no-kill shelter in Claremont, since seventh grade, Chen and her coworkers take in animals surrendered by their owners, abused or about to be euthanized. In her specific role, Chen works mostly with dogs, taking them on walks and cleaning out their kennels.

“I work mainly with dogs because dogs are just my thing. They don’t judge you; they love you regardless,” Chen said. “If you show [dogs] love, they’ll reciprocate it towards you. They’re calming, so it’s a nice environment where I can be with animals.”

Because Priceless Pet Rescue has a policy against euthanizing all treatable animals, many of its new wards need to be rehabilitated from abusive situations. One type of these situations is hoarding, or when owners take in animals they are not able to care for properly.

“It’s sad when [the animals] come in really bad conditions because they weren’t taken care of,” Chen said. “But at the same time, you also feel relieved that they’re here now, getting the help they need and potentially getting taken in by a nice family who really does care for them, so it’s like a mix of both happiness and sadness.”

Professional breeders who produce animals for profit are an extreme but common version of hoarding that Priceless Pet Rescue encounters. Chen’s mission is to combat these institutions that breed and euthanize dogs on a large scale. 

“There are a lot of breeders out there that just don’t care about the animals. They just want to mass produce animals so they can sell them,” Chen said. “Since they don’t care about the environment of their animals, a lot of the puppies that are born there don’t develop correctly or have some kind of disorder because the mother was [unhealthy]. I don’t like it because the animals did nothing wrong.”

Caring for mistreated animals requires patience and understanding from volunteers like Chen, since many animals have behavioral issues or are afraid of people. Some animals Chen has encountered would attack other animals or refuse to eat.

“Some of [the dogs] come in from abusive situations so it takes a while for them to get used to other people, but then others come in and they’re really happy and energetic. Those [dogs] are the easier ones because you just hit it off,” Chen said. “But really, you just have to get to know the dog. It makes me feel a lot better knowing that I have been able to help a couple of dogs that would’ve been euthanized and give them a second chance.”

Despite sometimes having to see dogs in difficult conditions, Chen has had many favorite memories working with animals at Priceless Pet Rescue. One of her favorite animals she’s worked with so far is a dog named Cookie, who needed to have both of its eyes surgically removed.

“She’s blind in both eyes, but she’s so sweet and cuddly,” Chen said. “That’s the thing I like about her. I know sometimes dogs who are blind or deaf are very timid, but Cookie’s outgoing and adapts well to new environments. I love her so much.”

Currently, Chen’s looking forward to more animals being adopted at the shelter.

“I recently watched a lady adopt a husky that’s been [at the shelter] for about a month, and it really just makes you feel happy to watch the dogs get a home,” Chen said. “You know they found a home they’re going to be happy in with a nice environment and nice people.”

Not only has volunteering at the shelter fostered a love for animals in Chen, but it has also made her want to study veterinary medicine. 

“[Priceless Pet Rescue] is like a sanctuary; it’s my happy place. I go there every week to blow off steam or relax,” Chen said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re working with there because everyone has the same common goal: they’re there because they love the animals.”