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The tragedy of pet overpopulation is evidenced by the sheer number of unwanted and homeless animals crowded into shelters across the country. This is especially true during tough economic times, when owners face foreclosure and job loss. Dogs and cats who do not get adopted from the shelter may face the sad reality of euthanasia. Fortunately, there are many animal rescue organizations that pull these animals from the shelter and provide a safe foster home until a forever home can be found. Running a nonprofit rescue from your home can be an extremely rewarding venture, but it involves planning, preparation and monetary considerations.
Align yourself with others who share your dedication to animals. Find allies and teammates with a wide range of talents and skills to help you achieve your goals. One person may have the qualities to deal with the emotional, hands-on details of animal rescue, while another may be more skilled in administrative functions. Both are important in starting a rescue organization.
Do your research. Visit your library to learn as much as you can about nonprofit management as well as animal care. Become informed about pet overpopulation and what other groups are doing to help. Attend conferences and read publications by animal welfare professionals. Visit animal shelters to get a firsthand account of the animals' needs and space requirements.
Name your rescue group and write your mission statement. This statement should be brief, clear and results-oriented. It should touch hearts and motivate others to help.
Check your local zoning ordinances to determine if you can keep animals kenneled at your home, and if so, how many. Unless you live in a very rural area or an area that is zoned for operating a kennel, you will have to lease a separate property. You can still operate from a home office at your residence.
Legalize your organization. Create your board of directors. Consider veterinarians, PR associates and other business people whose skills and talents complement your mission. File for 501(c) (3) nonprofit status with the IRS so that donations are tax-deductible. Register your organization's name and file the appropriate paperwork with your secretary of state.
Work with an accountant to create a budget. The IRS requires that you document your work through your budget. Your donors will also want to see your operating budget before they fund your organization. Once you see what kind of money you require to operate, establish fundraising efforts.
Maintain a list of foster families that can take rescued animals into their homes during the week. Establish weekend adoption events to showcase the animals that need a permanent home. Screen potential owners well and charge a fee for placement. This fee will help you rescue and place more animals.
Elle Smith has been an advertising professional for more than 25 years. Her work for ABC, CBS and Sony Pictures Television has appeared on radio, on air, in print and outdoors. In addition, Smith has more than 20 years experience in marketing, graphic arts, commercial photography and print production, and is a licensed real estate agent with property management certification in California.