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 15 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 mission.
The Top 15 Best Animal Charities in 2021
- Best Friends Animal Society
- Animal Welfare Institute
- Brother Wolf Animal Rescue
- International Fund for Animal Welfare
- Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee
- Alley Cat Allies
- The Marine Mammal Center
- For the Love of Alex Inc.
- Sale Ranch Animal Sanctuary
- Bat Conservation International
- American Humane Society
- Puppies Behind Bars
- Jane Goodall Institute
1. Best Friends Animal Society
Mission: To bring about a time when there are no more homeless pets
Charity Navigator Rating: 79.19 out of 100
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. Best Friends Animal Society still scores a 100% for accountability and transparency.
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.
Mission: To provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.
Charity Navigator Rating: 83.36 out of 100
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or ASPCA was the first Humane Society in North America. The ASPCA has a shelter in downtown New York City, but its most significant impact is its animal placement and animal protection programs. Through these programs, they have also built a community of volunteers and advocates to save thousands of lives.
The ASPCA adoption center, animal hospital, relocation services, and rehabilitation center ensure this organization makes a massive impact in New York City and across the nation.
3. Animal Welfare Institute
Mission: To save all living animals from any form of inhumane and violent treatment
Charity Navigator Rating: 99.99 out of 100
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 nonprofit. 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:
- 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.
4. Brother Wolf Animal Rescue
Mission: To better the lives of companion animals and the people who love them.
Charity Navigator Rating: 92.52 out of 100
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.
5. 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.
Charity Navigator Rating: 86.43 out of 100
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.
6. 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.
Charity Navigator Rating: 96.80 out of 100
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 habitats include heated barns, solar water pumps, hay storage, pastures, and woodlands. The elephants are managed with positive reinforcement, which they may not have received in their past lives.
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.
7. Alley Cat Allies
Mission: To transform and develop communities to protect and improve the lives of cats
Charity Navigator Rating: 90.61 out of 100
Alley Cat Allies was created in 1990 to bring the Trap-Neuter-Return method to America. Today, the organization 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.
8. The Marine Mammal Center
Mission: To advance global ocean conservation through marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation, scientific research, and education
Charity Navigator Rating: 94.77 out of 100
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.
9. For the Love of Alex Inc.
Mission: Provides emergency funding for life-saving veterinary care of low-income families
Charity Navigator Rating: 82 out of 100
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. This frightening experience opened Elizabeth’s eyes to the possibilities that 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.
10. 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
Charity Navigator Rating: Not Rated
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. These are all public and can 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.
Apart from making donations, donors can also support the ranch and its other programs by becoming a Super Hero Sponsor.
Mission: When the buying stops, the killing can too.
Charity Navigator Rating: 96.4 out of 100
WildAid started in 2000 to reduce the global consumption of wildlife products and to increase local support for conservation efforts. Once again, this organization is addressing the problem of animal cruelty uniquely.
They rightly believe that if you get rid of the desire for a product, there will be no need to sell it. By educating and advocating for the lives of animals over consumer wants, they can save lives. WildAid also works with governments and partners to protect wildlife on land and in water.
The following programs show the animals and geographical areas the group impacts:
China, Vietnam, and other southeast Asian countries are home to many wildlife markets and restaurants. WildAid is working to build public support and political resolve to shut down and permanently ban these markets.
- Sea Turtles
- Manta Rays
Each of these animals is in danger of poaching due to consumer desires. WildAid is working to educate the public on this issue and save these animals from extinction.
Environmental issues are affecting animals at alarming rates. Through Green Lifestyle campaigns, WildAid is teaching individuals to make smart environmentally-friendly choices.
WildAid is working to educate the African population with visits to their own national parks. Most people in Africa have never been, and WildAid is betting that seeing it in person will give people the desire to see more and stop the killing of wild animals for sport.
Many U.S. travelers are not aware that the jewelry they got from the market on their last trip is from endangered species. Coral, sea turtle shells, endangered exotic births, live reptiles, and reptile skins can all be picked up on your trips, but by buying these trinkets, Americans are feeding the industry of animal endangerment. WildAid educates American travelers, so they do not purchase these products when abroad.
12. Bat Conservation International
Mission: To conserve the world’s bats and their ecosystems to ensure a healthy planet.
Charity Navigator Rating: 86.54 out of 100
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.
13. American Humane Society
Mission: Committed to ensuring the safety, welfare, and well-being of animals
Charity Navigator Rating: 90.09 out of 100
The American Humane Society 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 Society Programs impact local shelters, farms, the military, and Hollywood. Learn more about their programs below:
This organization is probably most well-known for its rescue efforts. Emergency first responders with 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 Society 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 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. The American Humane Society holds exclusive rights to this award and gives it only to movies that follow strict guidelines.
Grants & Awards
The Humane Society also funds the work of organizations that rescue, shelter, and care for animals in need
14. 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.
Charity Navigator Rating: 100 out of 100
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 that 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.
15. 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.
Charity Navigator Rating: 87.23 out of 100
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 Jane Goodall Institute’s research has also impacted the study of chimpanzees and apes around the world. Their programs in Conservation Science, Public awareness, Gender and Health Conservation, Animal Advocacy, and Healthy Habitats cover a whole host of areas to solve the problem.
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.
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.
At Donorbox, we do our best to provide nonprofits and donors with the most information to keep you well informed. Visit our blog for more ways to donate or nonprofits to support. If you are a nonprofit looking for online donation options, visit our website for a list of features we can offer at affordable prices.