Are Dog Shelters Non-Profit? 4 Ways Shelters Are Funded

Shelters provide the needed care and love that dogs deserve but were not given, but are dog shelters non-profit?

Money is required to run a shelter, and how they get that money varies.

In this post, we’re going to discuss if dog shelters are non-profit as well as how a typical dog shelter is funded.

Are Dog Shelters Non-Profit?

Dog shelters are non profit.
Dog shelters are non-profit since they are organizations and not businesses.

Most animal shelters for dogs are run by volunteers and do not seek to make a profit.

This doesn’t, however, imply that they are cash-strapped.

Shelters, like any other organization, require funding to operate and cover numerous expenses such as rent, utilities, salaries, veterinary care, and food and water for the dogs.

The motivations of animal shelters are altruistic rather than monetary.

To be a non-profit, an organization must be registered as a 501(c)(3) and must not distribute any profit to members, directors, or officers.

Because donations and modest adoption fees are usually the only sources of income, and all of it is reinvested in the shelter’s operations, shelters can be considered non-profit.

How Does a Dog Shelter Make Money?

Most dog shelters rely on donations.
Most dog shelters rely on government funding and public donations to keep things running.

How do animal shelters make money? We’ll go over the most common ways below.

Donations and Government Funding

Shelters rely on donations from the public to support their operations.

Some shelters also receive funding from government grants, but this is typically only a small percentage of their overall budget.

Additional Sources of Income

Additionally, some dog shelters operate thrift stores or other types of businesses that generate revenue to help support their operations.

For example, some shelters may operate a pet supply store or a grooming business.

All of the profits from these businesses go back into supporting the shelter and its work.

Adoption Fees

Dog shelters also sometimes charge adoption fees for the animals that they place into homes.

However, this fee is typically only a fraction of the animal’s actual cost, and it is not meant to generate a profit.

The adoption fee covers the cost of spaying or neutering the animal, as well as any other medical care that was necessary before adoption.

Overall, dog shelters rely heavily on donations from the public to continue their work.

To donate to a dog shelter, you can typically do so online or by mail. Some shelters also have donation boxes set up in local businesses.

Sometimes you need to think outside of the box. Watch this video for one such way to help your local animal shelter:

Read our related article, Are All Shelter Dogs Neutered? Learn why it’s important for dogs to be spayed and neutered.

Different Kinds of Shelters

There are kill and no-kill animal shelters.
Shelters are generally characterized as “kill” and “no-kill” shelters.

All shelters are not created equal.

The differences impact everything from where they get their money to what kinds of animals they work with to who gets the final say on policy shifts.

Groups that provide safe havens often belong to one of the following categories.

Municipally Operated

The term “animal control” refers to the government department in most places that is in charge of implementing rules related to domesticated animals.

Consequently, these organizations have a dual, and sometimes conflicting, purpose:

To save animals from mistreatment while also safeguarding the public from potential dangers provided by animals.

The majority of these establishments rely only on public funding and may be forbidden from holding any kind of fundraising event.

Because rabies is widely regarded as the most serious public health concern involving companion animals, most shelters are required by law to accept any stray dog.

Regardless of age, health, or temperament, many shelters voluntarily expand their operations to accept surrendered pets and other types of animals in need.

In the end, elected officials and the citizens of the municipality to which the shelter belongs bear responsibility for the shelter’s operation.

Read More: How Do Animal Shelters Euthanize Dogs? We cover the euthanization process in this guide.

Privately Owned

Privately owned shelters are free to define their mission, policies, and directives and are not obligated to act in the interests and want of the public at large.

In contrast, private organizations have a vested interest in preserving their supporters’ goodwill.

This is because they rely largely on charitable contributions to sustain their activities and initiatives.

Private With Municipal Contract

By contracting with a municipality, private organizations sometimes perform animal control duties or manage animal shelters on behalf of government agencies.

While these shelters enjoy many of the benefits associated with private operations, they are also held publicly accountable by their contracts.

It follows that the elected officials with whom these institutions contract may have some influence over their management.

Sanctuaries & Rescues

From one-person operations to those with hundreds of volunteers, sanctuary and rescue organizations exist in a wide range of forms.

From those with physical shelter structures to those that rely on the kindness of the public to take in strays.

These organizations can develop any operating model they like, as long as it complies with laws governing other non-profit corporations despite having 501(c)(3) IRS status.

The Takeaway

Are dog shelters non-profit? In most cases, yes, but that depends on who it is owned and run by.

Most dog shelters are typically run by charitable organizations, and their primary purpose is to care for homeless dogs.

However, some for-profit dog shelters exist, so it’s important to do your research before donating or adopting from a shelter.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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