Help care for abandoned &
stray animals in

Play an important role looking after the 60+ animals

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  • Duration
    2-4 Weeks
  • Accompanied age
  • Minimum age
  • Selected Wednesdays Throughout The Year
  • From
  • Duration
    2-4 Weeks
  • Accompanied age
  • Minimum age
  • Selected Wednesdays Throughout The Year
  • From

Portugal Animal Sanctuary

If you're an animal lover, then the Portugal Animal Sanctuary is the dream programme for you! You will spend your days caring for the 60+ animals of all shapes and sizes, including dogs, cats, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, chinchillas, rabbits, turkeys, birds and more! On top of this, you will play a vital role in helping to raise awareness about animal welfare in Portugal.

The sanctuary accepts all animals to ensure everyone can be provided with a safe haven and a peaceful place to live, whether they have been injured or abandoned as pets or if they have simply been found roaming the streets. You will be responsible for feeding, cleaning and socialising  with all of the animals that call the sanctuary home, providing them all with the much needed love and care to be happy and thrive within their new surroundings. 

Set within 27 hectares, you will also be involved with maintaining the grounds and forest areas in order to restore the ecosystem with species of native trees and shrubs to promote the biodiversity of local flora and fauna - be prepared to get your hands dirty!

The sanctuary is located within the picturesque district of Santarém, offering you the perfect opportunity to make a real difference to the welfare of animals whilst enjoying the scenic Portuguese countryside.

Volunteering in Portugal at the animal…

Volunteering in Portugal at the animal sanctuary was a really fun experience, the staff are great and really welcoming. It’s a good way to learn new skills and you have time off to explore Portugal too.

Mia WeissAugust 2023

Portugal Animal Sanctuary

The sanctuary is a magical place where animals and humans live in community.Here animals can find a safe place from the animal abuse they have suffered in livestock farms and other types of exploitation. Animals are treated with respect, love and care and everyt... Read More

Sara SmithMarch 2023

Background to the animal sanctuary

Portugal has one of the most humane and ground-breaking legislative frameworks for animal welfare within Europe. Just within the last few years there has been major advances with regards to the criminalisation of animal abuse and abandonment. 

Despite this, it is widely reported that the amount of animals being abandoned is steadily increasing due to the economic crisis and the cost of living - with an average of 119 animals being abandoned each and every day. Although there are many shelters located around the country, they simply do not have the resources or space to cope with this many animals being taken in each day - up 39% in just the last year.

On top of this, there are many animals confiscated due to being mistreated and many wild animals suffering due to their natural habitats being taken over or destroyed by humans as population numbers grown.

To try and combat this, the animal sanctuary is there to welcome any animal in need and to provide them with a safe place to live. Although these problems are well publicised and known, non-government sanctuaries / organisations receive no state support. This is where you and other volunteers come in! Not only will your time and dedication help the sanctuary and the animals, but the monies you pay will help fund food, treatment and the every day bills associated with the sanctuary. 

Where will I be volunteering?

The 27 hectare sanctuary is located within the picturesque district of Santarém, around an hour's drive North of the capital Lisbon. The sanctuary is a non-profit and non-governmental organisation that was established back in 2007 with a mission to protect and defend all animals and their habitat. 

The sanctuary welcomes animals of all shapes and sizes and currently look after 60+ animals (and growing) including dogs, cats, horses, sheep, goats, chickens, chinchillas, rabbits, turkeys, birds and more!

In addition to the sanctuary that look after many hundreds of animals, the local team run a successful veterinary clinic in Lisbon. Over the years the clinic has been able to give 637 animals for adoption, sterilise 3212 animals and provide 9776 free consultations. The clinic and sanctuary support hundreds of low income families who are unable to care for their pets, as well as recover and sterilise many abandoned, stray or abused animals in the wild.

The aim of the programme and team is to also promote the protection and enhancement of the animal's natural habitat, aiming to reforest the local area and restore the ecosystem with species of native trees and shrubs. The local team also work hard to educate and encourage the public and private companies to improve and promote the safety of animals, through various campaigns and incentives. 

What is my role?

As a volunteer you will play a vital part within the sanctuary and everything you do will contribute towards their mission to protect the animals and their habitats. Your varied role will be supervised by the local team and you will have the opportunity to work with other animal loving volunteers from all around the world. 

Your hands on role will see you spending each and every day with the animals, ensuring they are fed, their enclosures / habitats are clean and that every animal is looked after and happy. You will also spend time maintaining and improving the sanctuary, ensuring it is a safe place for the current and new animals to enjoy freely. 

Tasks may vary according to the needs of the sanctuary, the number of volunteers available, the time of year and the weather conditions, however some common tasks will include:

  • Cleaning the animal’s areas
  • Preparing and feeding the animals
  • Checking their water bowls are full
  • Creating environmental enrichment for the animals (this may include new toys, feeders or games to stimulate the animals and keep their day interesting)
  • Socialising with the animals
  • Tree planting and forest maintenance
  • Removing invasive species from the water lines of property
  • General maintenance of the sanctuary
  • Gardening and treatment of flower beds

Your first day or two will form part of your orientation and induction. After you’ve got to know your team, the essential safety rules and managed to find your way round the sanctuary the actual project work begins.

It’s important to note that some of the work can be physically demanding, particularly in the heat of the summer. The work will also be hands-on and you must be up for getting your hands dirty.

What will a typical day look like?

You will work between 7 and 8 hours a day, usually between the hours of 9AM to 5PM with 2 days off per week. During the warmer months, work may start earlier and finish later with a long siesta during the hottest hours of the day. 

After breakfast each morning, your supervisor will clarify all of the tasks that need to be completed that day. You will typically be assigned a morning or afternoon shift with a long lunch break in between.

After you have finished all of your tasks for the day, evenings are free for you to do as you please. Most volunteers congregate to share stories, play games, read a book or simply sit back and enjoy the surroundings.

As a volunteer you will typically get two days off each week, giving you a great opportunity to explore Portugal with your new found friends. Some people like to spend time at the beach, visit the capital city of Lisbon or see what the quaint local villages have to offer.

It is important to note that the project schedule does vary depending on the weather conditions, the current demands of the project and the total number of volunteers present.

Where will I be staying?

Situated in the heart of the stunning Santarém countryside, you will be surrounded by nature, making the sanctuary a peaceful location for both animals and volunteers! This rural location will allow you to relax and take a break from the real world, fully immersing yourself in the Portuguese culture.

Outside of volunteering you can easily arrange transport to soak up the history or try the local cuisine in the surrounding areas, including one of the oldest towns in Portugal - Santarém. Lisbon is also just over an hour's drive away.

Staying in the authentic volunteer house on the grounds of the sanctuary, you can enjoy your morning coffee in the courtyard with some of the animals or overlooking the views of the local farmland. The house can sleep up to 6 people at a time, offering private and dormitory rooms. The house is well presented and homely with sociable areas to relax in.

Other things to consider

Meals - All meals consumed within the sanctuary cannot contain meat or fish.

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