Re: Animal shelter volunteering
It can be difficult finding animal-related volunteer opportunities in Switzerland because much of the work that would be done by volunteers in other countries has been professionalized here. Additionally, animal care diploma programs require an internship in an animal shelter, so some of the volunteer programs are reserved for students.
While volunteer hands-on work with the animals can be harder to find, if you could offer fundraising skills you might find more doors open there.
That said, it isn't impossible to volunteer, you just have to work a bit harder to find an opportunity. Simply inquire with all the rescue groups in your commutable area.
Some shelters who use voluntary help have an application form on their website - fill out the form, as inquiries via other means are likely disregarded.
For those who do not have a formal application process set up, write a letter detailing your experience and discussing your motivation to volunteer, include your availability and length of time you can commit. Then follow up with a phone call a short time later.
Volunteer dog walking - Gassigehen, Spaziergang, etc - is the way most people start volunteering. There are more opportunities here, especially if you can give of your time during the week.
A word of warning - some facility with local language is generally needed. You don't need to be fluent, but you should have basic functionality.
Would you consider volunteering outside Switzerland?
That's what I did. When I first looked into volunteer work I ran up against the usual barriers here, so I looked in Germany, where the need is great and more of a 'volunteer spirit' can be found. Simply start researching groups in other countries - when you find one whose ethos and mission matches your own, inquire as to how you might help.
Another possibility is 'unofficial' volunteering - again, something I do. I help out seniors in the neighborhood as-and-when, driving an elderly owner and her cat to the vet or pet store, walking a dog while the owner is sick, etc. While you don't get the social interaction that drives many of us to volunteer with official programs, there is still a great deal of satisfaction in helping out. Often this kind of thing is all that is needed to help an elderly person keep their loyal friend with them - thus preventing another pet from landing in a shelter.
I got started doing this from a random chat with someone involved in a senior services group, and simply let it be known that I would be willing to help occasionally.
You might approach the local senior services center in your town, see if there is any need.
Good for you for wanting to get involved - and best of luck.