How To Start A Dog Shelter?

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If you have a love for dogs and a little extra room, you might think that you have what you need to start a dog shelter. The process of starting a successful shelter or rescue is a bit more complicated than that. Many rescues and no-kill shelters fail due to lack of funding and planning.

Lost dogs in New York need more shelter options, so do your research to establish what the most successful shelters are doing.

The initial considerations are understanding the type of rescue organization you want to establish. Do you plan to house the rescued dogs on-site, or oversee foster homes? Will you work with only dogs, or will your shelter take cats and other domesticated animals? Once you have a good idea of the model you want to follow, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Animals need care 24/7, so will you have volunteers, paid staff, or a combination? How will you fund the initial start-up and then the ongoing expenses of your shelter? Food, shelter, medical expenses, spay and neuter, upkeep and home placements can quickly become costly even for small shelters and rescues.

You will need to qualify for nonprofit status so that donors can write off any contributions. You will need to fill out the appropriate paperwork for the IRS and pay the fees. It can then take three to six months to obtain nonprofit status. You will need to obtain nonprofit status before starting your fundraising campaigns.

Licensing requirements vary by geographical region, so you need to understand what will be required for you to operate a legal shelter or rescue. You will also have to deal with zoning ordinances. Having an attorney willing to help you through establishing your business, gaining nonprofit status, and becoming licensed will be a huge help. Try connecting with fellow animal lovers to find an attorney that would be willing to help for a free or reduced rate.


Once you have the foundation established, it is time to move on to raising funds to see the shelter you have dreamed of becoming a reality. Set up a business Facebook page that highlights the goals of your business. Creating a website that focuses on all you hope to accomplish for animals will also help attract regular donors.

To get started, apply for a grant. The process can be tedious but well worth it to get much-needed funding for your shelter. Hosting benefits where the proceeds go toward the shelter is also a good idea. Make sure that you send thoughtful acknowledgments for any donation, regardless of size.

You need the ability to make others see your vision for your shelter. Invest in professional photos of the facility and the dogs you are helping. If you have successfully matched dogs with their forever families, ask the new owners to write testimonials.

Remember that donations of goods and services can be as valuable as financial contributions. Contact veterinarian’s offices with a well-presented pitch to see if anyone would be willing to provide care at a free or reduced rate. Many donors would be more comfortable buying goods such as bedding or food than handing over cash. Make sure you let potential donors know your needs.

Accurate recordkeeping is critical to keep your stellar business reputation and to keep your nonprofit status. All donations should be carefully logged, and receipts offered, for tax purposes. Each animal in your care should have a file complete with all shots, vaccines and proof of spay or neuter. You will also need to obtain liability insurance to protect your shelter from lawsuits if someone is bitten or injured by a dog in your care.

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