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Are Dog Rescues Non-Profit?

Written by Laura
Laura is passionate about all sorts of domesticated pets. They have written dozens of articles across the web.
Published on
Sunday 31 January 2021
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
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As dog lovers, we appreciate the hard work that goes into non-profit dog rescues. All dogs are special, but rescue dogs often need extra patience, love, and care. In order to provide this, dog rescues are often reliant on donations.

But how does it work, are dog rescues non-profit, and how do we know which ones are worth donating to? Furthermore, how do we know when online ads for rescue dogs are real, and why are they worth adopting? This article will explore all of these topics and discuss how to go about setting up your own shelter.

Are Dog Rescues Non-Profit?

Most of the time, dog rescues are not-for-profit organizations. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t make money. Shelters, like everything else, need money to function. They need to pay rent, bills, staff, vets, and of course, they have to buy essential supplies for the dogs. But unlike a business, they don’t exist to make a profit and they don’t make their money from sales. Their motives are charitable, not financial. All of the money they make comes from donations, small adoption fees, and goes back into keeping the shelter running.

We all know of the big organizations, such as ASPCA adoption centers, but if you want to support a smaller, local pet adoption service, either by donation or volunteer work, you can find your closest ones by typing ‘animal shelters near me’ into your search engine.

If you’re unsure whether a non-profit animal organization is legitimate, you can check a charity registry for your country to ensure good standing. It may also be worth looking up their publicly-available financial reports and annual filings too.

How Can You Tell if A Dog Rescue is Legit?

Unfortunately, some breeders don’t understand that dogs are living, feeling animals, and treat them disposably for a quick profit. They will rescue a few dogs from shelters, only to sell them on for profit. In their advertisements, they will use words like ‘rescue’ and ‘shelter’ to fool prospective adopters and pull on their heartstrings.

On the flip side, some shelters buy dogs from abusive puppy mills in order to rescue them. Whilst this is done with good intentions and of course, these dogs do need rescuing, it can’t be done without giving money to the mills, which further financially funds their abusive businesses.

It is best to stick with reputable shelters, and always do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask about a dog’s background or ask for their rehoming policies, and physically visit the rescue center if you can.

Should You Adopt a Rescue Dog?

You should absolutely adopt rescue dogs! Rescue dogs are extra special because it takes more effort to build love and trust with them. Around 3.3 million of the 70 million homeless animals in America are dogs in shelters. About 670,000 of these dogs are euthanized every year due to nobody rehoming them. So, by adopting a rescue dog you are doing your bit to combat this.

However, when you find a dog you like, make sure you enquire about their needs (and yours!) to determine if you’re a good fit for each other. For example, if you have small children, you do not want to adopt a dog that is frightened of loud noises, as this isn’t compatible with child behavior. Additionally, always ask if the dog has any emotional trauma, phobias, anxiety, or behavioral issues. This will reflect the way you have to interact with them in order to build a bond.

Just like if your dog had a physical issue that needed healing, you would do everything you could to help them. So, ask if there is anything you can do to help them heal their emotional issues, or, if that’s not possible, how to best limit their exposure to whatever distresses them.

How Can I Start My Own Non-Profit Dog Rescue?

Wanting to help animals in need is amazing, selfless, and will surely be rewarding. However, there are various logistical steps that you will need to take in order to start an animal rescue shelter.

First things first, do your research. Read books, go to workshops, seminars, visit other shelters, and speak with people who have relevant experience. Make sure it’s what you really want to do.

If it is, you will need a license. Requirements vary state by state and sometimes by city, but you will likely need a business license and maybe a kennel license too. Next, decide whether you want to be an association, corporation, or trust. You will then need to come up with a name for your shelter and register it through NASCO. Once you’ve done this, you can apply for tax exemption through the IRS.

your own non profit dog rescue
There are several steps to take to start your own non-profit dog rescue.


It probably goes without saying, but make sure you have the means to buy or rent premises for your shelter, and that this premises can provide a safe environment for animals that is in line with the law. Next, you must appoint a board of directors, general advice is that up to 7 people is best. These people must be able to provide constant, up to date legal, financial, veterinary, and ethical guidance on what is best for the shelter, fundraising, the animals’ welfare & the adoption process.

Determine a budget and set up a website that people can explore your shelter and donate through. Write a mission statement and create standards & policies for your shelter. This will establish what your organization stands for with prospective donators/adoptors.

What You Need

Fill your premises with the right products & the right people. You are going to need beds, food, grooming supplies, toys, collars, and leads. You will also have to hire, train, and pay staff to look after the animals and the premises.

Finally, campaign, campaign, campaign! Print posters, contact the local press, and do anything you can to raise donations, seek volunteers, and reach out to local vets for discounted services.

Common Questions

How do non-profit animal shelters work?

Non-profit animal shelters work similarly to a business. However, instead of working to turn over a profit, the money that the shelter receives goes back into the shelter and its animals. 

How does an animal rescue make money?

Animal rescues primarily make money from the kindhearted donations of animal-loving citizens. They incite donations through campaigning and also charge small adoption fees for their pets.

What is the best dog charity to donate to?

There are hundreds of animal & pet charities out there, and what you do with your money is up to you. However, two dog charities we cannot recommend highly enough are Best Friends Animal Society and Hope For Paws.

Best Friends Animal Society aims to end all euthanization of un-homed animals in shelters, and have already worked to drastically decreased the numbers from over 17 million per year to around one million. They aim to further decrease that number to 0 by 2025. 

Hope For Paws is a non-profit animal rescue organization that rescues homeless and abandoned dogs, cats, rabbits, and other animals, suffering from living on the streets & in the wild. They ensure that every animal receives their necessary veterinary treatment, and partner with the best rescue shelters in California to facilitate adoptions with loving families.

Are you thinking of adopting a rescue dog or supporting a non-profit dog rescue? Let us know in the comments!

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