If you're looking for a list of fantastic animal charities, you've come to the right place! Whether you're a donor looking for an organization to support or a nonprofit looking for inspiration, we've compiled a list of the 17 best animal charities. We'll describe their mission and impact. Plus, we've included five best practices for animal charities looking to grow. Read on!
Donors searching for organizations to support will regularly wonder how their donation is being used and whether their gifts really make a difference. When searching for nonprofits to support, donors may ask family and friends, depending on name recognition, or research how donations are used within the organization.
We have created a list of 17 animal charities that include dogs and cats to farm animals, marine mammals, and wildlife. Some of these organizations are large and have been around for decades. Others are newer and made it to the list because of their unique programs or missions.
The Top 17 Best Animal Charities
The charities listed in this blog are listed based on their impact, programs, and reach across the world. However, we know and understand that there are many more charities deserving of recognition for their dedication to helping our animal friends. This list is not meant to be complete, but rather to provide some examples of excellent charities doing real good in the animal world.
At the end of this list, we’ll dive into five best practices for animal charities (with takeaways from the charities listed here) to help animal nonprofits grow and make even more of a difference.
Podcast: Listen to Austin Meadows, Executive Director of “For the Love of Alex”, that provides emergency funding for life-saving veterinary care of pets of low-income families. Subscribe to the YouTube Channel to get practical tips and advice from nonprofit experts.
1. Best Friends Animal Society
Mission:To bring about a time when there are no more homeless pets.
Historically, Best Friends Animal Society has had higher scores. Charity Navigator scores are primarily based on the amount used for programs versus administrative and financial projects. While this is important, these numbers can be skewed in cases of large capital projects and fundraising needs.
Since its founding in 1984, it has made a big impact and gained respect for its significant goals and successes.
Best Friends Animal Society is a leader in the no-kill movement, and its primary goal is to make all U.S. shelters no-kill by 2025. They plan to do this through advocacy and education along with hands-on help at their sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.
Their sanctuary for dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits, potbellied pigs, farm animals, and wildlife is also home to over 1,600 animals at a time. Supporters can visit this shelter or sponsor an animal.
Thanks to regional programs in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, New York City, Atlanta, Houston, and Northwest Arkansas, this organization has increased foster, pet transport, and advocacy for their no-kill movement.
2. Lady Freethinker (LFT)
Mission: Giving a voice to those who cannot speak out for themselves, and effecting meaningful, lasting change through investigative reporting, citizen petitions, and partnerships with rescuers and activists on the ground worldwide.
Lady Freethinker (LFT) came into being in 2015 and its sole aim has been to change the way the world sees and treats animals. Guidestar defines it as a 501c3 nonprofit media organization. The reason being that LFT strives to achieve its mission by creating petitions and news articles, and conducting investigations on animal cruelty.
LFT’s latest petition has been on Cambodian baby monkeys being forced to perform in cute monkey videos. They also sponsored a rescue program from China to Canada where 21 dogs got to travel on flights to meet their new families.
LFT helped stop S. Korea’s largest dog meat auction after their thorough investigation into the matter in March 2021. Additionally, they have other investigations going on across the world. Some of their noteworthy petitions include banning the cruel captivity of exotic pets in Michigan, the mistreatment of pets by trusted veterinarians, justice for dolphins and service dogs, and many more.
In addition, this nonprofit also lists an array of heartwarming animal stories and animal cruelty news on its website to spread awareness and educate people on the lives of the voiceless.
Mission: To end the exploitation of fur-bearing animals.
Friends of Animals (FoA) was established in 1957 with the aim to put an end to animal cruelty and exploitation. Their programs range from spaying/neutering animals to running campaigns to encouraging people to turn into a vegan life, and many more.
The nonprofit also works toward educating people who want to learn about the condition of animals, the cruelty being imposed on animal lives, and the declining population of some endangered animal species. Their guides and brochures are affordable and available on the website.
FoA has a wildlife law program that strives to defend wildlife and their habitats across the world. Their attorneys also promote the rights of wildlife through various federal statutes.
In 2008, FoA began to fund the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project. Their website includes some heartwarming stories of Chimpanzees.
FoA also has its presence abroad for various projects including in the Ferlo region in Senegal. It has partnered with the National Park Directorate to stop the poaching activities of its elephants. They also provide them with the necessary equipment, training, and vehicles. With FoA’s help, the nearly-extinct scimitar-horned oryxes in the Ferlo region are now thriving across a protected habitat of 12,355 acres. FoA is also working with the Directorate to re-introduce other species like Ostriches.
4. Italian Greyhound Rescue Foundation
Mission:To find homes for rescued Italian Greyhounds and to educate the public on the care and training required by this breed.
The first thing you see on the Italian Greyhound Rescue Foundation (IGRF) website is a scam warning to educate people on the trend of websites popping up to sell Italian Greyhound puppies without verifying the breed. Individuals that want to rescue Greyhound dogs are interested in saving these dogs from an unhealthy and dangerous life. This warning helps build trust between The IGRF and its followers.
IGRF began in 1997 but gained tax-exempt status with the IRS in 2004. This is a volunteer-led organization with a national network of over 500 foster homes, but they have an established organizational structure to ensure its long-term success. Dogs housed with this organization receive vet services, rehabilitation, and a new forever home. IGRF holds awareness and adoption events and teaches people how to care for the breed.
This organization regularly rehomes 900 to 1,000 dogs every year. Their popular Biggy Iggy Auction and Iggy 500 fundraising events help raise money to pay for transportation, vet costs, and specialized care.
5. Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary
Mission: To educate the world about the true nature of farmed animals and provide a safe, happy place for retired farmed animals to live.
Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary started with a pig. Esther the Wonder Pig was rescued by couple Steve Jenkins and Derek Walter. Soon, she became a social media sensation and her followers helped start Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary in 2014.
Esther and her dads rescue and rehabilitate abandoned and abused farmed animals. Their mission is two-fold – to provide a happy place for these animals to live out the rest of their days and to educate the public about the true nature of farmed animals.
Their work has brought countless animals to their sanctuary, including cows, goats, turkeys, chickens, and of course, pigs! They still have a heavy social media presence so their followers and donors can see the impact of their work every day.
Mission:To better the lives of companion animals and the people who love them.
While this organization may not seem different from other shelters, we chose it because of the vast array it offers its community. The Brother Wolf Animal Rescue started in 2007 as a foster-based organization. Since then, it has built an adoption center in Asheville, North Carolina. Even with this shelter, over half of their animals are based in foster homes. This better allows volunteers and the organization to learn more about the dog in a peaceful setting and find the best home.
The organization also has a mobile clinic that offers affordable medical services to residents of Western North Carolina. Prices are conveniently listed on their website.
In 2020, Brother Wolf Animal Rescue also worked with partners to transfer 1,149 animals to their centers and foster homes from overwhelmed clinics across the country.
7. Animal Welfare Institute
Mission:To save all living animals from any form of inhumane and violent treatment.
The Animal Welfare Institute started in 1951 to rescue animals from experimental laboratories. Today, they are still mainly involved in limiting animal research and education and advocacy nonprofits. They also provide information and ways for their supporters to make a change in their community.
Their support for a 3Rs approach with alternatives to animal research includes the belief that companies can do the following:
Replace animals in research volunteers and advocates to save thousands of lives.
Reduce the number of animals being studies
Refine the care and treatment of animals being used for testing and education.
The Animal Welfare Institute was integral in the passing of the Animal Welfare Act in 1966. They continue to fight for strict adherence to that law.
8. International Fund for Animal Welfare
Mission:To improve the welfare of wild and domestic animals throughout the world by reducing commercial exploitation of animals, protecting wildlife habitats, and assisting animals in distress.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare was founded in 1969 to stop the hunting of seals in Canada. Now, they protect endangered animals and species across the world. Their programs address several critical environmental and animal issues, but understandably they seem most successful in the area of Marine Conservation.
The programs created to address Marine Conservation depend on partnerships with governments and industry leaders. They have worked with these partners to reduce noise pollution, regulate ship speeds, limit whale collisions, and stop illegal whaling practices.
9. For the Love of Alex Inc.
Mission:Provides emergency funding for life-saving veterinary care of low-income families.
This smaller nonprofit caught our eye because of its unique focus and mission. While others on this list address homelessness and animal cruelty, this animal charity addresses the financial cost of owning an animal.
For the Love of Alex started in 2013 after the founder, Elizabeth Hedges, had a scare with her cat. Alex went from being a loving pet to an animal in medical distress. He needed a life-saving surgery that, if not performed quickly, would die immediately. After that, Elizabeth got to thinking about what could have happened if she hadn’t had the money.
Too many families lose beloved pets and members of their families because of unexpected medical emergencies. For the Love of Alex addresses this need by providing emergency funding to low-income families.
Donors to this organization can give to pets in need listed on the website. Individuals who need help can also apply online. In addition to this meaningful mission, the organization provides education and resources to the community on pet health, wellness, and illness prevention.
Learn more about For the Love of Alex and how they use Donorbox to support their important work in this case study.
10. Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee
Mission:To provide captive elephants with individualized care, the companion of a herd, and the opportunity to live out their lives in a safe haven dedicated to their well-being, and to raise public awareness of the complex needs of elephants in captivity and the crisis facing elephants in the wild.
A significant story in the news and on social media for the last few years has been about the treatment of elephants in circuses and zoos. It is a tense subject; the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee has put money where its mouth is on the subject.
This organization started in 1995 when circuses were still a popular attraction. Their goal to raise public awareness of the problems with the industry has clearly gained traction. This alone is impressive, but the organization’s work on the ground is more powerful.
Today, the Elephant Sanctuary owns three separate habitats for African and Asian elephants from circuses and zoos. These include heated barns, solar water pumps, hay storage, pastures, and woodlands. The elephants are managed with positive reinforcement but this would be impossible without this charity’s work.
In addition to the habitats, the Elephant Sanctuary provides live online distance learning material for all ages and hands-on self-guided exhibits at their Elephant Discover Center in Hohenwald, Tennessee.
11. Alley Cat Allies
Mission:To transform and develop communities to protect and improve the lives of cats.
Alley Cat Allies was created in 1990 to bring the Trap-Neuter-Return method to America. Today, the organization also works with shelters across America to create programs that save cats’ lives and prevent animal cruelty.
Through their programs, Allie Cat Allies also educates communities on the Trap-Neuter-Return policy and advocates for strict adherence to existing animal cruelty laws. Their efforts have opened the eyes of many shelters and veterinarians to the importance of this method.
12. Sale Ranch Animal Sanctuary
Mission:To rescue, rehabilitate, and educate on farm animals behalf while promoting a cruelty-free lifestyle and reducing our impact on the earth.
The fact this nonprofit has not been rated should not scare you off from donating. Many smaller organizations have not gone through the effort to register with many of these rating websites, possibly because of a lack of fundraising staff or time. As a donor, you can find details on every nonprofit’s fundraising and program activities by searching the organization’s 1099 tax form. Moreover, these details are all public. They can also be found on Guidestar.
The Sale Ranch Animal Sanctuary is based in Temecula, California, and is 100% off-grid. This organization offers a home for factory-farmed animals that have been abused, neglected, or discarded. The sanctuary also includes a hospice for senior horses with medical needs.
The sanctuary’s programs to rehabilitate, educate, and advocate on behalf of these animals are why they were chosen for this list. Farm industry practices are still not well known, and education and advocacy will play an essential part in making necessary changes. Small organizations that can address all three areas will have a bigger impact on the problem.
Donors can support the ranch and its other programs by becoming a sponsor.
13. Jane Goodall Institute
Mission:To understand and protect chimpanzees, other apes, and their habitats, and to work towards creating an informed and compassionate critical mass of people who will help to create a better world for people, other animals, and our shared environment.
In 1960, Jane Goodall visited Tanzania as a young woman to see wild animals without human interference. Research from her work and the organization has changed how we see the chimpanzee population to this day. Today, Dr. Jane Goodall still travels to speak about our environmental crisis and how it’s impacting chimpanzees.
Dr. Jane Goodall still travels the world today to speak about her organization’s research on chimpanzees and other great apes. The research has also impacted the study of chimpanzees and apes around the world.
Their programs include the following:
Gender and Health Conservation,
Animal Advocacy, and
The organization has received accolades and great respect throughout its tenure. Their focus on changing the whole community to address the problem of animal endangerment has also impacted and changed the way many nonprofits work today.
14. The Marine Mammal Center
Mission:To advance global ocean conservation through marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation, scientific research, and education.
The Marine Mammal Center started in 1975 and today houses the largest marine hospital in the world. Their mission to rescue and rehabilitate has helped the organization rescue more than 24,000 marine mammals along the California coastline and island of Hawaii.
In addition to rescuing, treating, and rehabilitating marine mammals, this organization spends its time educating the public on how environmental issues affect this population. Through school and public education programs, they have built a strong community of supporters who feel responsible for marine mammals.
This organization responds to more stranded marine mammals than anyone in the world. Donors can also support their efforts by adopting a Seal.
15. Bat Conservation International
Mission:To conserve the world’s bats and their ecosystems to ensure a healthy planet.
Bats are a necessary part of our environment because of their insect consumption, plant pollination, and seed dispersal. Without them, our world will wither and die. Too many bat species around the world are in danger of extinction. Bat Conservation International was founded in 1982 to end bat extinctions worldwide. Their focus is mainly on vulnerable and rare bat populations.
Bat Conservation International has also created programs to help save endangered bat species, protect and restore landscape and bat habitats, and for solutions to this problem.
Many of Bat Conservation International’s programs are based in the U.S. Through conservation efforts and research into addressing illnesses and technology that endangers bats, this organization is making a difference.
16. Puppies Behind Bars
Mission:As the puppies mature into well-loved, well-behaved dogs, their raisers learn what it means to contribute to society rather than take from it.
The reality show, Prison Dogs, was most people’s introduction to Puppies Behind Bars. The organization actually started in 1997. It continues to train prisoners and puppies long past the show’s run.
Puppies Behind Bars has three main programs that supply trained service dogs to veterans and first responders. Puppies live with their trainers in prison from eight weeks to twenty-eight months. They are also trained and given a secure environment to thrive.
Once the dogs are fully trained, veterans and first-responders come to the prison for their own training which usually takes one or two weeks. The veterans’ and first-responders transportation, housing, and food are paid for by Puppies Behind Bars.
The puppies that do not make it through training because of higher energy or stronger prey drive are introduced to the organization’s explosive-detection Canine Programs. The successes this organization has found in all programs go to show how everyone can be a benefit to society regardless of history.
17. American Humane
Mission:Committed to ensuring the safety, welfare, and well-being of animals.
The American Humane was started in 1877 to ensure safe treatment for livestock in transit. This organization has grown to include rescue, farms, military, Hollywood, and conservation programs.
American Humane Programs impact local shelters, farms, the military, and Hollywood.
The nonprofit includes the following programs:
This organization is probably most well-known for its rescue efforts. Emergency first responders within the organization are always ready to rescue animals in distress.
This program was created to help people find humanely raised, safe, and affordable dairy, meat, and egg products.
During World War I, the American Humane rescued over 68,000 wounded war horses. Today, that same organization provides service dogs to wounded veterans suffering from PTSD. These life-saving efforts are also changing the way the military and the world treat its servicemen and women.
You have seen the statement “no animals were harmed” at the end of movie credits but it’s the American Humane that holds exclusive rights to this award. They only give it to movies that follow strict guidelines.
Grants & Awards
They also fund the work of organizations that rescue, shelter, and care for animals in need.
5 Best Practices to Help Animal Charities Work Better & Create a Bigger Impact
Running an animal charity with the aim to help animals and end cruelty requires not just empathy and manpower but a lot more. It also requires you to spread awareness, educate people, train staff and volunteers, buy equipment and vehicles, and above all, raise funds. From the 17 charities listed here and their successes, we have extracted some best practices to help you along the way. Let’s have a look –
1. Be compliant with the law
Right from the moment you decide to incorporate your organization, you need to abide by the law. This includes how many people you need on your board as well as animal acquisition, transportation, and reporting. Charities engaging in rescue and shelter activities must be aware of animal protection and welfare laws.
For example, accepting animals into your shelter must be done in an ethical manner. Your nonprofit must have a system to track each animal and report their status from the time they’re admitted. At the same time, you must also have a system in place to ensure the proper treatment, care, and health of animals. Be it fostering or adoption, everything must be done keeping legal protocols and procedures in mind.
Take legal help and hire consultants whenever you are confused and need expert advice.
2. Create policies and standards
In addition to abiding by the law, you need to keep policies and standards in place to run an animal charity successfully.
Policies clarify the services and programs your nonprofit provides. They can include rules you’ve set for animal care, acquisition, and transportation. Requirements for housing, infection prevention, and medical care should also be included in your policies document. You may also list down data use, privacy, advertising, and other policies. To increase transparency, you can add a policy page to your website.
On the other hand, standards help your staff and volunteer understand the expectations regarding the way these policies must be carried out.
It is advisable to share these documents with your staff and volunteers the moment they’re onboarded. You can also make them a part of the training sessions.
3. Create your animal charity’s strategic plan
How do you want your charity to grow and help more animals in the future? What are your short-term and long-term goals to turn your mission into a reality? What are your funding sources? Which campaigns, programs, and investigations do you want to focus on in the immediate future?
Creating a strategic plan will not only answer these questions (many more) but also open a path to success for your animal charity. But the process has to be streamlined. That is to say, involve your board. Break down your yearly vision into small monthly or quarterly goals. Create small groups of staff and volunteers and depending on their skills, delegate tasks. You may also want to hire consultants to help you with making strategies.
Additionally, share your short-term goals and your desired impact with your supporters. Ask for their feedback and support in making them come true.
Regardless of type of program or mission, every animal charity has one thing in common: a donate button on their website. That’s because they know none of that would be possible without funds.
Your animal charity requires the following funds to operate successfully –
A general fund that includes basic animal care, transportation, vaccination, veterinarian bills, food, utility costs, etc.
A fund dedicated to special medical cases like critical diseases in animals, emergency surgeries, etc.
One that is needed for regular spaying/neutering activities of local animals.
Funds you need for carrying out investigations, creating and promoting petitions, and funding rehabilitation programs.
To raise funds successfully, your offline programs and campaigns may not be sufficient. Therefore, you need to reach more people online. There are many who are empathetic toward animals. You can easily reach them through online donation pages, online event pages, donation forms, crowdfunding, and peer-to-peer fundraising.
Donorbox is your one-stop-shop for fundraising for your animal nonprofit. With customizable donation forms, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer, text-to-give, event ticketing, in-person donations with the Donorbox Live™ Kiosk app, and more, we have the tools and features you need to scale your mission and raise more money.
If you don’t promote your needs for running the animal charity and the ways to donate, chances are people would never know that you need support. Or even worse, that you exist to help animals. To start with, your nonprofit should leverage social media. It’s free and can help you reach hundreds and thousands of people. You should also ask volunteers and staff members to share your posts to help you reach their networks.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a great way to raise more for your animal charity while also spreading the word about your important mission. Donorbox Peer-to-Peer makes it easy. Simply enable Peer-to-Peer on your campaign and invite your supporters. They’ll set up their own fundraising page explaining why your mission matters to them and then share it with their network. Any donations they collect flow back to your Donorbox account.
Get creative with your outreach. Ask local media to help spread the word and use social media as a powerful tool to connect with more supporters.
In conclusion, donating to a nonprofit is a personal decision. And no list can tell you the best place to give for you. We have created this list to supply readers with varied options on where you can give. Whether your passion is dogs and cats, farm animals, or wildlife, there are organizations out there.
Your community also likely has a shelter or foster-based organization you can support financially or with your time. Please take this list as a starting point and do your own research.
Finally, these examples and best practices will help animal charities take better decisions toward their growth and seek expert help when necessary.
At Donorbox, we have tons of resources to help nonprofits grow. Check out the rest of our Nonprofit Blog for fundraising tips and tricks. If you’re looking for online donation options, learn more about our features here.
Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.