What Are the Most Reputable Animal Rescue or Animal Welfare Organizations?


How Can I Find Out? And Where do I Send My Money Thereafter?

Figuring out where to send an animal rescue/welfare donation, and/or deciding where to spend your valuable volunteer time may pose a difficulty for some animal-lovers… With ‘this blog’ purporting “this” about “that darn Humane Society,” and another news outlet claiming “that” about “those nut-jobs at PETA,” how in the heck are you supposed to know if a group is genuine, trust-worthy and sticking to the rules?

Well how about this…? You read this blog post. Then you do some research of your own to figure out what each group really stands for, and then you ask yourself: “Does this align with what I stand for? “

Then it’s okay to start volunteering, or, send in what I call a “starter donation.” (To be explained at end)

Please keep in mind, I am sticking to US-based organizations and not including overseas groups here.

Firstly, it’s important to point out that the majority of the chief national animal rescue/animal welfare organizations are both legal and legitimate; I can tell you this without a doubt right now. You’re just going to have to take my word for it because I’ve either heavily researched, donated to, worked for, and/or volunteered for all of these organizations over my (near) 15-year ‘career’ in animal rescue & animal welfare.

These are the main animal rescue and/or animal welfare groups you’ll want to check out, and, where applicable, the awesome, the good, the bad and the questionable parts of their organizations:

Animal Protective League (APL) – From my research, it seems that these guys have city, county, region or state chapters only; it varies by locality. I can tell you that there are at least four chapters within about 20 miles of where I live outside Cleveland, Ohio… one is rather well-known but the people are not nice, and they offered zero help to us when we rescued Tater and Maxwell from the wild. On the other hand, there is another office near us that’s quite popular – totally beloved by many folks. They have a ton of volunteers, an intelligent and hard-working Director who would do anything for his animals, and they run all kinds of volunteer and educational programs so the animals get as much attention as possible. (Their site is linked to above because I think this is how an APL should be run.) These guys basically LIVE on donations: money, food, treats, litter, toys, blankets, leashes, and other supplies… No one gets paid to work here. Also, this is not strange to me, but some are turned off by this: don’t expect to see gleaming, shiny cages, clean blankets and litter boxes and fresh scents when you walk in here– APLS are animal shelters and their goals are to save animals from bad homes, clean them up and rehab them, give them a place to stay, and adopt them out.  APL is a registered non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization.

The Awesome: Genuine, nurturing and caring animal-lovers are all you will find in the APL… However; they need funding desperately as their adoption fees are low because it’s more important to get the animals into (good, decent, long-term) homes than make money…

The Bad: In 2008, I had a horrible personal experience trying desperately to receive help for a badly abused and neglected dog who was about to die; we called an APL chapter in “rural, Ohio…” Read the story linked to… above.

The Questionable:  They have no national group (that I have ever found) to monitor the smaller chapters…weird… right?

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) – Founded in 1866 and based in NYC, but with operations all over the country, these are the folks who show those heart-wrenching commercials with the “angel song on the piano.” These guys are the real deal. They are hands-down wonderful people. The group is tremendously rescue and adoption focused, and have hundreds of programs and services. The main focuses are on Community Outreach, Animal Health Services and Anti-Cruelty Initiatives. For every dollar donated to the group, the split is pretty equal between supplies, programs, marketing and animal care. ASPCA’s newest thing? An awesome new online area where you can ASK A REAL LOBBYIST questions! Yes, ASPCA is a registered non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization.

The Awesome: The website is bursting at its virtual seams with fundamental info on things like how to recognize/report animal cruelty/abuse, fighting puppy mills (a personal fave), animal hoarding and more. If you have any question related to animal welfare, adoption, rescue, etc., you can find an educated, updated answer on this website.

The Good: Very effective advertising with Sarah McLaughlin as the spokesperson. Very honest; very factual; very sincere.  Local chapters are called “SPCA;” check them out in your area. (For example, here we have the Cleveland SPCA office…)

The Questionable: ASPCA launched pet insurance coverage a while back; it’s promoted quite incomprehensibly via a “pet insurance blog” that has no name and hardly any content! It was speculated that ASPCA errantly jumped into an already-saturated pet insurance market for the wrong reasons… Of several reviews I read, the coverage was given 1 of 5 stars by consumers who bought it.

Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) – Perhaps the newest of the bunch, Best Friends was founded in the 1980’s but has been fundamental in animal rescue and rehab since then. BFAS is a sanctuary located in desert-like Kanab, Utah, seemingly in the middle of nowhere; animals and volunteers are vetted, trained, and tested; the administrators are extremely particular about who can work here – which they should be as BFAS has THEE best success record in the country of rehabbing “un-rehab-able” animals and adopting them out. The group is, to some, best known for taking in the majority of the Michael Vick pit bulls post fighting-bust. Their main goal is to create a country where there are no more homeless animals… lofty? Maybe, but every other group & advocate wants the same thing. Anyhow, you can join the Best Friends Network first to get news and updates via email and snail-mail. Keep in mind, on any given day, there are near 1,700 dogs, cats and other animals (including horses, pigs, rabbits, birds, and wild animals including owls, eagles, lynx and more) living at the sanctuary that come for special care from all over the country… BFAS has many specially trained workers to take proper care of this population, plus a boatload of volunteers to do everything from cage-cleaning to dog-walking. BFAS is a registered non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization.

The Good: Lots of events around the country to educate and entertain… a huge outreach program to end the homeless pet problem!

The Awesome:  BFAS offers a much-needed second chance at life four and two-legged life forms of every type: birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, etc. These guys get rescued and rushed to Best Friends because they’re orphans, injured and/or unable to survive in the wild in their current condition. Also, BFAS has amazing, one-of-a-kind educational programs, including the Pit Bull Acceptance Initiative, Puppy Mill (awareness/education) Initiatives, Cat Initiatives, and “Pets Are Family” Initiative.

North Shore Animal League (NSAL) – Started in 1944 and headquartered in Port Washington, NY, NSAL is the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization, according to its website; they’ve single-handedly saved nearly 1,000,000 animals. Obviously, they’re enormously rescue-focused, but they also toil endlessly on rehabilitation and adoption efforts. These folks are about as kind-hearted as people come, true salt of the Earth. One of the best parts of the NSAL? The cooperative buying program, which helps other animal welfare groups by helping them get equipment and supplies. They have a fleet of “Mobile Adoption Units,” which are loaned to shelter and rescue groups for free to help them develop or grow their own adoption efforts. With these, NSAL also holds adoption tours around the US to raise awareness of the dilemma of shelter pets, and to promote and increase adoptions.

The Good: NSAL is lauded for their other fun adoption and awareness events; think marathons, luncheons, and the “Get Your Licks on Route 66.” Also, NSAL’s AnimalLeagueTV is a website/web TV station that lets you watch videos about adoption, animal welfare issues and the plight of specific pets in their shelters.

The Awesome: Their website, like ASPCA, is overflowing with data on purebred rescue, backyard breeders, and they coined/registered the feted term, “Mutt-i-gree!”

Yes, NSAL is a registered non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization.

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) – The national group founded in , based in Washington, D.C. is focused on lobbying for animal welfare legislation in US Congress. They have over 11 million volunteers and even more donors. They aim to actually pass laws and amend legislation (the like seemingly centuries-old Animal Welfare Act) that helps our country’s animals. HSUS is another group that was against saving the Michael Vick dogs post-rescue. HSUS is a registered non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization.

The Good: They have been absolutely instrumental in huge national and state fights like the California Factory Farming Bill, Missouri’s Prop B (in 2011 – which, due to deep state pockets and the Governor got amended later on), and other laws.

The Bad: Many folks dislike the HSUS because the say that it’s CEO, Wayne Pacelle, and his cronies pocket much of the donation money. Now I have no way to prove or dis-prove this. I do have several links you can check  http://www.charitynavigator.org http://www.bbb.org/us/charity/ http://ago.mo.gov/checkacharity/ and make an educated decision for yourself. Other anti-HSUS folks say that the group plays favorites, is “picky” about which issues it’s taking on, etc.

The Questionable: They have been accused of helping campaigns in states to do everything from collect signatures to post flyers… It’s been suggested that when one Ohio campaign manager made a move that Pacelle didn’t agree with, HSUS pulled ALL “their” ballot signatures and petitions from the cause, costing the group about 50,000 to 75,000 signatures and a month of work… Also questionable, there was recent controversy over where your money goes exactly when you send funds to HSUS or its partner HSLF (Humane Society Legislative Fund). Many wonder, if HSUS is a lobbying group, then why do they need a separate legislative fund? Lobbying and legislation go hand-in-hand… Anyhow, it’s a valid question I would suggest you look into if you want to donate to a cause that gets laws passed for animals…

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) – PETA is a registered non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, yes, and by far, they’re the most controversial of this group. PETA has extremes in my opinion – very good and very bad sides, but, I believe, far more of the latter. Here’s why:

The good: PETA is known for “getting poop done.” They have been instrumental in annoying, pestering and bothering people/decision-makers so harshly, rudely, consistently for so long that these people eventually cave and give in to their demands. PETA works on everything from cock- and dog-fighting to animal cruelty, from saving factory farm animals to saving the chimps.

The Questionable They use unsavory tactics like in-your-face, annoying marketing, personal attacks (also waged against companies), dishonesty, nudity in marketing collateral, and more in their campaigning. They have been taken to court several times for things like unlawful infiltration of a company, unlawful recording of confidential premises/materials, altering video content and more. PETA has been accused of being “pals with” and working alongside the ALF (Animal Liberation Front – the extremely underground group akin to the ELF). PETA will generally not “accept you” (or some reps will judge you) if you are not at least a vegetarian – they prefer vegans ONLY. They will take your money no matter what, however… But be careful here guys, because once you donate one time, they will call you absolutely relentlessly until you give more money. Even if you tell them to stop or are on that “Do Not Call” list… they don’t care… I think they are greedy — but they will always have an excuse, like “this pharmaceutical company just acquired 15 chimps and they’re killing them and we need $50 from you right away to fight them.” They call my house (and I haven’t supported them since 2004) three times a month under a false number (called ID) trying to get money. I vouch for it!

The downright UGLY: PETA wanted the Michael Vick dogs killed immediately after they were discovered. It was only after BFAS successfully rehabilitated them that these wacky welfare women (mostly women…) changed their tune and decided to support the dogs… (What does that tell you?). They then had the audacity to hold a fund-raising campaign for the “Michael Vick dogs and other former fighting Pit Bull Terriers…” Here are some additional PETA “downright UGLIES:”

- PETA actually kills animals that it rescues, then makes up excuses why it does so…

- PETA actually tried to cite anti-slavery laws in court, suing SeaWorld recently for whale rights…

- Remember, this is the group that waged media war against Proctor and Gamble’s “Pet Care Division” for supposed “animal testing”– which ended up being a HUGE hoax. (I was there, trust me… I was in IAMS and I was in PETA when it all started around 2003 or early 2004.) If you’ve seen the now infamous video, which I learned that PETA recently re-released on YouTube because they are so desperate for funding, what you are seeing is several Beagles after they’ve been fixed by IAMS vets. PETA’s ILLEGAL undercover worker at IAMS, (this is what I learned in interviews as a journalist covering the story in 2008), SECRETELY and CRIMINALLY taped the dogs lying side by side after being spayed/neutered. They then amended the video of the cute Beagles by adding horrible screaming noises, blood, workers in the background laughing & more falsities to make it seem like IAMS was the offender. (IAMS is renowned for being one of the kindest, most generous, good-hearted and dedicated groups that exist in the US for animals. Every year they do IAMS Home for the Holidays.) One last thing – PETA bad-mouths other animal welfare and rescue organizations

Helen Woodward Animal Center (HWAC)Headquartered in San Diego, CA and founded roughly 30 years ago, the folks at HWAC, in my humble opinion, are some of the most knowledgeable and caring animal rescuers and lovers on Earth. HWAC is another no-kill center that focuses on education, rescue, adoption and, believe it or not, animal-assisted therapy for kids, teens and adults who have disabilities and diseases like PTSD, cancer, etc.. They are very well-regarded among other non-profits. They partner every holiday season (for over 10 years) to hold the world’s biggest event and adoption drive: IAMS Home for the Holidays. Since 1999, the two have found over 7,000,000 animals permanent loving homes – which is noteworthy to say the least and totally unbelievable! Their website is another one that has a ton of information on everything from SoCal adoptions and events to fostering; plus, the CEO, Mike Arms, has one of the most well-regarded industry blogs-he is not looking for funds, asking for support or anything like that. He simply wishes to educate Americans (and everyone) on the plight of shelter pets. Arms himself is also one of the most well-respected figures in animal rescue and rehab in the entire world at this point… At a recent BlogPaws conference, he discussed the group’s commitment, his outlook on the negative connotation associated with the term “shelter pet,” and how much his group’s ACES program can help new rescues (see Awesome).  This group also has many events, including Run/Walks, poker tourneys, and more! HWAC is a

The Good: A ton of resources online; you can ask a trainer or a vet a question; you can even find support if you’re suffering from pet loss grief….

The Awesome:  Certain therapy programs – like Pet Encounter Therapy, are free. They have one of the most well-respected Equine Vet Hospitals in the country and offer horse-back rising for disabled children. HWAC also has one of the most amazing multi-day educational sessions for new rescue centers to attend so they can learn the basics, the ins and outs of running a rescue, called Animal Center Education Services (ACES Workshop).  I got a taste of this at BlogPaws and it was… well, I have no words! Rescue-runners learn everything from how to get desperately-needed funding and market themselves to how to get more adoptions and function better overall; hands-down one of the best animal education seminars I’ve attended (and I’ve been to a lot) and this was a mini-version of the real one…

So that wraps up the coverage of main national groups that are animal rescue and animal welfare focused that you might want to consider. Other groups you might want to research include the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the Doris Day Animal League (DDAL) and your state’s Division of Wildlife (Google it). All are extremely reputable, philanthropic and well-respected charities/registered non-profits.

After you’ve decided on the acceptability of the group, then I suggest you surf around their websites, maybe sign up for their newsletters so you can read what they do on the ‘front lines’ every week/month.  It’s a great way to stay in the know and see where your dollars are actually going. (That kind of info is really hard to track down RELIABLY.)

So what’s my bottom line here? Most of these groups are worth both your dollar and your volunteer time… depending, of course, on what type of animal advocate you are. You should know that those groups focused on local/county adoption need the money the most – the local SPCA, APL and Humane Society chapters, as well as any smaller independent rescues definitely need funding way more than the “big dogs” do. They all need it, but the smaller groups need it more.

Furthermore on this point, of the major pet bloggers I talked to, all of whom are considered “Influencers” in the online Pet Care community, they ALL said to donate small and local first, and then start going up or to the national or regional groups…

For example, here outside Cleveland, Ohio, I donate to smaller rescues like Love-A-Stray, Multiple Breed Rescue and The Friendship APL; however, I also give money throughout the year to the big guns – to the ASPCA, HSLF, DDAL, HWAC, NSAL and the World Wildlife Fund.(This is not even including my environmental organizations!!)

You can also think of donating or volunteering like this: if you’re one who is exceedingly anti-BSL, against breed profiling and/or wishing to stomp out dog-fighting, go with Best Friends. If you’re significantly against factory farming or people consuming anything that comes from an animal or fish ever again, then, (even though I think they are psycho-zealots,) you might want to consider looking into PETA. If you want to see kids learn how to treat animals well, and if you want to see animals get into homes every holiday season instead of seeing brand new puppies being bought from mall pet stores, support HWAC… Finally, if you want to see animal protection laws changed in your state and throughout the US, send money to the HSUS or HSLF.

You are smart and resourceful enough to figure it out! All animal rescues need help so don’t hold back!

Also, if you have a group that I left out, or if you have something to say about the groups I did cover, by all means, let us hear it! Please comment honestly and appropriately and leave references to data where possible!


Our Star Blogger

Jaime Lynn Smith, Administrator/Owner/Author of http://thoughtsfurpaws.com
Some people call me a fanatic – and I believe there are lots of me out there. I call myself an “Animaniac,” but pet fanatic is okay, too. Since I was six, I have had an adoration, love & respect for all creatures that most parents can only hope to instill in their children. I write my blog & contribute to various sites, including IAMS’ sponsored The Dog Daily/The Daily Cat, the Bissell Pack of Pet Lovers and (NBC Universal’s) Petside.com, which has Annual Pet Net Events. I share personal stories, educate others, advocate for animals & learn all at once! I write most frequently about animal welfare causes/legislation, the “politics of pets,” i.e., recent pet issues, puppy mill industry, & how people can get involved locally/nationally. I love being a pet blog consultant for two large national (anonymous) organizations – it’s just one more way I can contribute. I also volunteer here in Ohio for state/national causes including banning dog auctions, passing animal cruelty legislation, puppy mill bills, et al. I have close relationships with many legislators b/c of my level of volunteer activity & intimate knowledge of the political process, which aids many animal welfare groups who are small and/ or unfamiliar with this tricky process. Find Jaime Lynn on Twitter: ThoughtsFurPaws

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