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How to Start a Nonprofit Animal Rescue

Madhushree Kelkar
Starting a nonprofit animal rescue is indeed a very noble cause, as it allows one to work for the betterment of animals. However, it involves a tedious and long process. Here, we give you information about the various steps involved in starting your own nonprofit animal rescue.

Did you know?

According to ASPCA, every year, about 5 to 7 million companion animals enter shelters throughout the nation, out of which, about 3 to 4 million are euthanized. It comprises 60% of dogs and 70% of cats.
Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever. ~ Karen Davison
A number of companion animals like dogs, cats, rabbits, etc., are euthanized everyday because there is no place for them to stay. Few of our furry friends are either too ill, old, or maimed, and do not get adopted. Some are even abandoned and abused by their owners, and left to die. Stray homeless animals also become a problem to communities.
In such a scenario, opening a nonprofit animal rescue would be a good cause indeed. It will not only help in catering to the medical, food, and housing needs of these animals, but will also stop them from getting euthanized.
However, initiating a nonprofit animal rescue is not a cakewalk. Hence, it is better to join an existing rescue center in your area. However, if your resolve is strong enough, here are a few steps that you need to undertake for starting a new nonprofit animal rescue.

Conduct Research

Survey the need for an animal rescue in your community.
Study the management and facilities of other similar organizations to get a fair idea about their functioning. It will be best if you can spend some time working for a nonprofit animal rescue. This experience is sure to help you in starting your own one in a better manner.
Also, see for a location and check with your city government if the property can be used for an animal rescue. It needs to be spacious, with an allotted surgical room for spaying and neutering.

Decide on the Work of Rescue

You will have to decide on the work conducted by the rescue. You will have to answer questions like 'are you going to give shelter to animals in a building?', 'are you going to send the animals to foster care?', or 'are you going to start an animal adoption center?'. This will help you to draw a framework of management for your rescue.
You will also have to decide if the shelter will be for certain types of animals or breeds only, or all evasive. You can also start a no-kill rescue, which does not euthanize animals, and provides a shelter or sanctuary rescue for severely ill, old, or disabled animals, who do not get adopted.

Form a Committee

There are a lot of technicalities and legalities involved in starting a nonprofit rescue for animals.
Hence, it is best to involve subject matter experts like an attorney, a PR person, a veterinarian who is experienced in the type of animals you chose to rescue, people who are ready to fund the operation, and several volunteers who will put in many hours of dedicated work.
Remember, starting a rescue can be difficult for a single person, therefore, taking help from various people is essential for managing its proceedings efficiently.

Name and Mission Statement

Think about an appropriate name for the rescue. Brainstorm with others in your group, and draft a mission statement explaining the goal of forming such a nonprofit organization. You will have to consult an attorney to decide if you want to incorporate your organization or not.
If you decide to incorporate it, you will have to follow and include the bylaws of the organization, articles of incorporation, and names of the board of directors. You may consult similar rescues for learning more about the legal formalities.
If you are planning to qualify for the IRS's 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt status, you will have to file a number of different documents. File the documents aptly, because making corrections or re-filing is a very long process.

Management and Raising Funds

You will have decide and develop policies related to adoption, euthanasia, foster care, etc. You will have to decide on the role of community to support your rescue, the future of your organization, the vendors, rescue facility, resources, manpower, etc.
In order to buy, rent or build a facility for the rescue, you need to have the necessary funds. You will also have to take care of the accommodation of animals by making the necessary arrangements for kennels, feeding bowls, etc.
You will have to cater to the medical needs of the animals by taking good care of them. You will also require people to help you for cleaning of the building. You can start a donations drive, arrange for a garage sale, organize a charity event, ask volunteers to raise money, etc.
You may also plan fundraisers once or twice a year. Try to get as much as publicity for the event through newspaper, local television, radio, mouth publicity, etc. It will help in making more and more people aware of the cause, and thus lead to more contribution.

Publicity Through Social Networking

Utilize social networking as a free, yet effective tool to take your idea to the masses. It will create publicity for your cause and also help you in gaining funds.
You can create a page on leading social networking websites like Facebook, and an account on Twitter, etc., and can add other organizations and animal lovers. You can post photos of rescued animals and give their details, besides also sending a request for adoption at the same time.
There are certain animal adoption websites where you can post entries for animals from your rescue. Starting a website or a blog is also a good idea too, as people will like to know what happened to the animals after you rescued them.
Keep the pages updated and interactive, as this will encourage people to give you details of animals in their area which need to be rescued. You can also print your brochure and distribute cards among the general public.

Rescuing Animals

You can rescue stray animals from your locality, adopt animals who are about to be euthanized, raid puppy mills, rescue abandoned and abused animals, treat accident victims, find homes for animals that need re-housing, etc.
You need to have a transportation vehicle with the necessary medical help inside. Sometimes, people will call you to inform about a stray or abused animal. You will have to pick up that animal and take it to your rescue. You will also require people for transporting animals, so, you can either hire services or take the help of volunteers.

Adoption and Foster Formalities

You need to have the proper documentation in place for pet adoption. You will have to screen applications to qualify people for pet adoption. Also, you can charge a nominal fee for adoption, as that can be used as funds for your organization. Fees can be based on the adopter's financial condition, animal's age and medical condition.
You will have to make a legal contract for adoption. It will include conditions like spaying/neutering, necessary pet care directives, reclaiming the pet if not properly taken care of, medical help, food, housing, etc.
If you are sending the animal to a foster care, you will have to determine the charges to be paid. In both cases, you will also have to check for factors like presence of children, other pets, fence, animal safety, area for the animals to play, and size of the house. It is better that you visit the house personally before handing over any animal.


Grab all the opportunities that will help you to find a comfortable home for an animal. You can attend conferences or organize pet adoption drives for showcasing your animals. This will result in their timely adoption.
Attend the meetings of the civic bodies which deal with the issues of animal rescue. You can also attend and join various civic and community clubs in order to network with the right people. Ask local celebrities to help you promote this cause. All this will give an impetus to the animals getting adopted in good homes.
You need to have accounting skills, management experience, and excellent networking and marketing skills for the successful handling of a nonprofit animal rescue. Do not forget to cater to the insurance needs for appropriate coverage.
One of the most important aspects of starting a nonprofit animal rescue is that the comfort and health of the animals should not be compromised. Keep their living quarters clean, hygienic, and spacious. By starting a nonprofit animal rescue, you will be doing your bit towards your community, and fighting against animal cruelty.