Animal Care and Rehabilitation Volunteer

AHPPA - San Rafael, Costa Rica
Quick Facts: Placement ID: IND-363 Location: San Rafael, Costa Rica Sector: Wildlife and the Environment Category: Animals and Wildlife Min Duration: 2 weeks Lodging: BaseCamp or Host Family Language: Intermediate
Download the Complete Profile Apply for this Placement

Volunteer Job Description

AHPPA (Humanitarian Association for the Protection of Animals -- in Spanish) works very hard to educate the public in all aspects of animal care. It provides low-cost or often no-cost services, to reduce the over-population of street dogs around the country. Furthermore, no animal is refused treatment if it can be operated on or treated with a good chance of recovery.

The shelter includes a clinic staffed by trained veterinarians, as well as a handful of local employees that work to maintain the facility and manage the office. However, this is a non profit organization and they are in need of animal care and rehabilitation volunteers to help them in the many duties involved in the care and protection of animals in Costa Rica.

Animal shelter assistant volunteers would be expected to assist the clinical team in the necessary care of animals before and after surgery. As well, one of the daily jobs at any animal shelter is the cleaning of the kennels and litter boxes and of-course volunteers would be expected to assist in this daily chore. However, on the bright side of volunteer duties is the walking, grooming and socializing with the animals which is also important to the well-being of all creatures in captivity.

An animal care and rehabilitation volunteer does not need any previous education or experience regarding animals. However, volunteers should have a great love for animals and be prepared to participate in all aspects of their care. Someone who is self-motivated but can also follow directions should enjoy and learn from this placement experience.

Volunteer Tasks Required

Animal Care

An animal care and rehabilitation volunteer will help with the daily duties involved in the rehabilitation of dogs and/or cats by: feeding them in the morning and afternoons, playing with them in the green areas and making sure their kennels, as well as the cat litter boxes are clean everyday.

Outreach Program

The association has monthly campaigns to go to rural and poor areas. Animal care and rehabilitation volunteers will go around the villages by foot or bicycle to announce the neuter date prior to the A.H.P.P.A. veterinarian’s arrival and make appointments with those who are interested.

Grooming and Walking

It is important for dogs and cats to have daily exercise while they are recovering from any surgery or injury. Animal care and rehabilitation volunteers will walk the animals daily around the green areas at the facilities and depending on the volunteers experience, may be asked to help with the grooming of the animals.

Community Education

Animal care and rehabilitation volunteers will help with national campaigns to promote the " Adopt a Pet Program". Volunteers will also be involved in motivating and educating communities through seminars and/or pamphlets in the care of their pets and all animals in general.

Clinic Maintenance

Animal care and rehabilitation volunteers will help with the sterilization of surgical equipment and the cleanliness of all areas. They will also assist with the ordering, restocking and/or record keeping of supplies and equipment.

Administration Support

Volunteers, (depending on their level of understanding of the Spanish language), may be asked to register new animals into the clinic and complete all paper work this involves. Volunteers may also be asked to help with preparing the documents in the adoption process of animals.

Host Organization Details


The Asociacion Humanitaria Para la Proteccion Animal de Costa Rica (AHPPA) is an association committed to providing protection and care to animals in Costa Rica. This organization is dedicated to improving the welfare of animals in various regions and providing educational workshops about why it is important to treat animals humanely.

AHPPA operates an animal shelter in San Rafael de Heredia where stray animals are brought to be cared for and eventually adopted to a loving family. The animal shelter has covered pens for dogs, housing facilities for cats and kittens, and an on-site veterinary clinic. Animals who come to AHPPA, are put up for adoption and staff at the center are responsible for finding good homes for these animals.

Families who are going to adopt an animal must learn from a staff or volunteer, at the center, the various ways to care for the animal and the importance of doing so. The reason AHPPA started this program was to ensure that families who are adopting an animal understand the importance of neutering, basic care for each animal and what to do if an animal seems to be acting strange or is sick.

AHPPA cares for injured and abandoned animals throughout the capital of San Jose and neighboring cities of San Rafael. The veterinary clinic provides low and no cost veterinary care and important services like sterilization, dental and basic surgeries. In addition, the AHPPA is dedicated to teaching individuals how to care for an animal and the importance of sterilization.

There are many stray animals throughout San Jose, Heredia and the surrounding areas. These animals roam the streets where they are susceptible to disease, abuse and are usually starving. Organizations like AHPPA are important because of their service to help reduce the number of stray animals in urban centers and to help decrease the spread of infectious diseases like rabies that can rapidly spread to humans.

This organization believes that education is a key component to solving the increasing numbers of stray animals, particularly in urban centers of Costa Rica. They believe it is important to teach people why neutering an animal is important and how to ensure that they are providing the proper care to their pets.

AHPPA is the only recognized animal shelter in Costa Rica, and as such experiences a very high volume of animals requiring assistance.

When They Were Founded

The association was founded by Lilian Schnog who came to Costa Rica in 1986 with her attorney husband and son and purchased a property close to the animal shelter in San Rafael de Heredia, not knowing of its existence at that time.

The move to a foreign country presented challenges and for some time Lilian thought Costa Rica was a terrible place. It was difficult for her to adapt because she did not have the skill of speaking Spanish and her home country was an island (Dutch Antilles).

When Lilian learned about the nearby animal shelter she began helping out as a volunteer. An avid, life-long animal lover, as a child she was always bringing home strays. After five years into her new life in Costa Rica and her continuing work at the shelter, things began to change.

With the support of her family, Lilian paid off an existing debt of the ram-shackled shelter, formed an association and took charge to raise funds to renovate the facility. Her vision was to implement and spear head new programs that would improve the fate of Costa Rica’s animals.

She founded AHPPA in 1991.

How Are They Funded

AHHPA receives their funding through private donations and a small fee that they charge for basic services. AHHPA is currently looking into ways that they can receive grants from various animal support groups in Costa Rica.

Donation Requests

The members of AHPPA would appreciate any form of donation. They are especially in need of the following items:

Cleaning supplies such as paper towels, dish soap, bleach, laundry soap, window cleaner, plastic garbage bags, surface cleaners, hand sanitizers and liquid hand soap.

They would also appreciate animal food, animal bowls, gloves, animal toys for training, surgical masks and any books about animal care (can be in English but better if in Spanish).

Additional items: flea combs, new cat collars (to give with adoptions),latex gloves, adult cat food (dry), kitten (dry), rubber-maid storage tubs, cardboard boxes (11 x 8 x 2, to use as disposable litter boxes), a digital camera (to take photos for online adoption lists).

Toys for the animals and litter bags are also required.

Clean towels and blankets are a necessity at the moment.

Placement Location Information

San Rafael, Costa Rica

San Rafael is located on a hillside, and is a very beautiful town. Situated in an affluent area of town, the animal hospital is close to a country club and an equestrian estate. Because of the higher altitude, many of the trees and vegetation appear more mountainous in nature compared to the rainforests of the central valley.

San Rafael Animal Shelter is now a No-Kill shelter which means no animal will be euthanized unless it is suffering and there is absolutely no hope for survival. The clinic has ten cages for dogs and a room for cats. The veterinary room is in front of the main street. There is a back yard where volunteers will have the opportunity to help with the dogs' exercise.

Transfer From BaseCamp

To get to this placement, you will need to take the train to Heredia first at 8 am. The station is only 15 minutes walking distance and 25 minutes later, get off the train at Mira Flores station.

In Heredia, you will need to take a bus to San Rafael. This can be found 2two blocks west from the train station. This bus will take 15 minutes, depending on the traffic. The bus will stop in front of the shelter but for the first time, ask the driver to let you off at the Animal Hospital.

Distance & Time

Distance from BaseCamp: 30km
Travel Time from BaseCamp: 1:0

Weather in the Area

San Rafael de Heredia is 1264m above the sea level. The weather here is typical of a rainforest. The average daily temperature in San Rafael is between 17 and 23 degrees Celsius, but it becomes much cooler in the evenings. The yearly rainfall is 2500mm with most, however, coming in the rainy season from May to December.

City/Village Description

San Rafael is located in Heredia, the smallest province in Costa Rica. It is situated in the Central Valley but high up in the mountains where the air is fresh and a little cooler.

The town is only minutes away from Heredia's capital city by the same name, which is bustling with the activity of the Universidad Nacional, multinational corporation headquarters, and coffee brewing companies.

The town of San Rafael is known for having one of the most impressive churches in the Central Highlands. The main economic activities of San Rafael are coffee and dairy farming.

It is a very peaceful area with a varied landscape. All the public services such as internet cafes, Costa Rican typical food resturants, banks, supermarkets, a post office and various stores are available.

Nearest Medical Clinic

Clinica San Rafael de Heredia
Next to San Rafael Soccer Field
San Rafael
TEL 1: 2261-0003

Placement Address

2 Km Before El Castillo Country Club
San Rafael
Costa Rica

Accommodation and Meals

All of our volunteers begin their stay in Costa Rica at our BaseCamp Center in San Jose. Given that this placement is less than a 1 hour and 15 minute commute from BaseCamp, volunteers working here will have the option of living with us at BaseCamp or living with a host family.

The following information outlines a brief description of life at BaseCamp and also what someone can expect living with a host family in Costa Rica. Once you have completed our application, you can let our staff know if you would prefer to live with a host family. Otherwise, your application will default to having you live with us at BaseCamp.

If you have any questions about the difference between life at BaseCamp or life with a host family in Costa Rica you can always give us a call or send us an email. Our contact details are listed in the footer of every page of the site.

BaseCamp Costa Rica

BaseCamp Costa Rica
BaseCamp Costa Rica Address

Ave 16 St. 39&41
Los Yoses Sur
San Jose, Costa Rica

BaseCamp Costa Rica Contact Details

Tel: 506-8763-9595
Tel: 506-4030-1891
Mobile: 506-8763-9595

Take a Tour of BaseCamp
Accommodation in Costa Rica

All volunteers on our program in Costa Rica start out at our BaseCamp Center. The center is located in the capital city San Jose, and is a fantastic place from which to start your adventure.

Once volunteers have finished their orientation, where they live depends largely on the location of their placement. If their placement is more than a 1 hour 15 minutecommute from BaseCamp, then the only accommodation option may be host families or volunteer lodges in the national parks. However, if the placement is within a 1 hour 15 minute commute, then volunteers can choose whether or not to stay with us at BaseCamp or live with a host family.

BaseCamp Costa Rica is located in the province of San Jose at Los Yoses area. This is a fantastic area closed to the University of Costa Rica, San Pedro Mall, banks, supermarkets, restaurants, embassies and stores. Walking distance to down town and only 30 minutes away from the Juan Santamaria Airport.

BaseCamp has four bedrooms and three wash-rooms. The beds are mainly bunk beds in dormitory style rooms. Pillows, sheets and blankets are provided. There is a large common area where movies, books and games are available to our guests and there is a patio with a nice set up. This is an ideal setting for reading, studying Spanish or just some quiet relaxation.

BaseCamp is where volunteers first come when they arrive in Costa Rica and where they live for at least the duration of their orientation and training. The meal plan at the centre is based on a 14 day rotating schedule of a variety of traditional dishes from around the country. This meal plan allows volunteers to gain comfort and familiarity with both Costa Rican food and meal etiquette before making the transition to living with a host family.

Orientation and language training sessions take place in the BaseCamp Center. Each day of orientation blends some workshops and lessons with a mixture of outings to explore and become familiar with transportation and knowledge regarding the city.

Living With a Host Family in Costa Rica

Living with a host family in Costa Rica is a fantastic way to gain a deep understanding of and appreciation for the people and customs of the country. Each home-stay will provide a bed and three meals per day for our volunteers. The majority of host families offer private rooms with only one or two volunteers living with the family.

In the case of a volunteer lodge or ranger station (which is often the only option for placements within a National Park), volunteers will be living in dormitory type accommodation and meals will be provided in a mess hall or dining area.

Living with a host family can greatly enhance your performance at your placement. For one, it will have a huge influence on the speed with which you gain familiarity with the local language. This, along with your deeper understanding of cultural practices and beliefs that you are likely to gain in this environment, can go a long way to improving or strengthening your relationships with your team mates at work. Furthermore, a significant percentage of our host families are closely affiliated with the organizations with which our volunteers work. As such, even the evening meal or hanging out around the house can become valuable time during which volunteers can share their ideas and continue their support of their host organization.

All of this being said, living with a host family is not for everyone. It is very important for volunteers to honor the house rules in their host family and to be punctual. Also, depending on how remote your placement location, host families can be very rustic. Our staff in country can give you a better idea of what exactly you can expect from a host family in any particular community. However, in general, if these things sound like they might pose a challenge for you, we strongly suggest that you look at a placement within commuting distance from BaseCamp Costa Rica.

How the Program Works

Our program structure and costing is completely flexible which lets our volunteers ensure that they only pay for exactly the degree of support that they want.

Option 1 - Free Services

Some volunteers prefer to coordinate their own accommodation, meals and other support while overseas.

Anyone is welcome to use our volunteer placement search tool to help in finding a placement that is well suited to their interests. Once someone finds a placement that they wish to work with, they are welcome to make all the rest of their arrangmeents on their own.

As well, our team of staff overseas are often able to offer a few helpful pointers for volunteers 'doing it on their own'. Just send us an email with your questions and we will put you in touch with our team abroad. We only ask that you keep your requests fairly general, as this type of advice is exactly how our team earn their living. :)

Option 2 - Placement Support - 250 USD

Other volunteers would like assistance in selecting and confirming their placement, but they plan to manage their own accommodation and other expenses on their own.

These volunteers have the option of choosing to only have our assistance with selecting and confirming their placement. This option also includes ongoing placement support while abroad, so a volunteer would be able to ask our team for help if things at their placement were not working out.

In providing Placement Support, our team works with each volunteer through email, telephone and either Skype or Google Hangouts, to ensure that each volunteer has a clear understanding of their placement options. Our in-country staff will put together a custom list of placement options for each volunteer that they believe are the most appropriate matches with the volunteer's background, skills and interests. Then each volunteer can work with our team both in Canada and abroad to go through each of the options and narrow-down their selection.

Option 3 - Full Program Support

For most volunteers who are volunteering for less than a year, they are looking for an option that includes their accommodation, meals, airport reception, country and program orientation and placement support. This is what our Program Fees are designed for.

We are proud of how over the years we have ensured that our program fees are amoungst the most reasonable of any program in the world while we continue to provide exceptional volunteer support both at home and abroad.

Our Program Fees and listings of what these do and do not include are listed below:

Program Fees

Program Fees - Costa Rica

  Registration Fee
  1 Week
  2 Weeks
  3 Weeks
  4 Weeks
  5 Weeks
  6 Weeks
  7 Weeks
  8 Weeks
  Additional Weeks

Costa Rica wildlife and conservation placements require an additional $7 USD per day fee to cover park fees and accommodation. All program fees are listed in US Dollars.

What is Included
  • Pre-Departure support
  • Placement consulation
  • Airport reception & transfer
  • 2 Day orientation
  • Accommodation (BaseCamp or host family)
  • Breakfast and dinner
  • Emergency & placement support

What is Not Included
    Before Departure
  • International flight
  • Travel medical insurance
  • Visa costs where required
  • Work permits where required
    While Overseas
  • Daily transportation to and from placement
  • Transport to airport on departure
  • Placement fees if requried

Program Dates

Our regularly scheduled program start dates are the first Friday of each month, every month of the year. We strongly recommend beginning your program on one of these dates as this will allow you to go through our orientation alongside other international volunteers.

If you would prefer, our application will also allow you to select a custom start date for your program. Keep in mind that there is an additional fee for a custom start date which ranges from 50 to 75 USD.

Feb 04, 2022 Mar 04, 2022 Apr 01, 2022
May 06, 2022 Jun 03, 2022 Jul 01, 2022
Aug 05, 2022 Sep 02, 2022 Oct 07, 2022
Nov 04, 2022 Dec 02, 2022 Jan 06, 2023
Feb 03, 2023 Mar 03, 2023 Apr 07, 2023
May 05, 2023 Jun 02, 2023 Jul 07, 2023
Aug 04, 2023 Sep 01, 2023 Oct 06, 2023
Nov 03, 2023 Dec 01, 2023 Jan 05, 2024


These dates are the day that volunteers should plan to arrive on the ground in country. We can accommodate arrivals in-country at any time day or night on these dates.

Give us a Call
Canada / USA 866-646-4693 (toll free)
UK 866-646-4693 (toll free)
Australia 866-646-4693 (toll free)
International 613-353-3000
Send us a Message