How to Start and Run an Animal Shelter

by Rachel Murray; Updated September 26, 2017
Starting and running an animal shelter requires skills, dedication and motivation.

If your local community does not have an animal shelter or program dedicated to fostering animals that may have been abandoned or abused, consider following the necessary steps to start and run your own animal shelter. In order to start an animal shelter, you need to have accounting, networking and business skills in addition to being an animal lover. The process of establishing an animal shelter may seem overwhelming and time-consuming but the reward of helping animals will be worth it.

Starting an Animal Shelter

Step 1

Learn about how animal shelters operate and gain experience by volunteering. If volunteering is not an option for you, register for an online class or seminar or attend a conference about starting a business, advises the ASPCA website.

Step 2

Visit as many animal shelters as you can to get ideas about designing a facility. The ASPCA website recommends asking the director to give you a tour of his shelter. Ask questions about how he designed his shelter and what works the best. Ask if there is anything he wishes he had done differently. Be sure to take pictures and notes for future reference.

Step 3

Determine what kind of animal shelter you want to start. Decide what kind of animals you are willing to house at your shelter and state whether you will have a policy towards euthanizia or will operate a no-kill shelter.

Step 4

Incorporate your animal shelter as a non-profit. If you choose to incorporate, you will need to have a mission statement, the shelter's bylaws and a list of the board of directors. Fill out all the forms required to file for 501 (c) (3) nonprofit status on the Internal Revenue Service's website.

Step 5

Reach out to your community to raise funds for your animal shelter. Seek out sponsorships from businesses or organize special events such as dog walks or bake sales, suggests the ASPCA website.

Running an Animal Shelter

Step 1

Separate the animals according to The Humane Society's guidelines. Keep injured or sick separate from healthy animals, the young from adults, males from females, aggressive animals from non-aggressive and nursing mothers from all other animals.

Step 2

Care for animals by ensuring that they receive a well-balanced diet, The Humane Society website recommends that you avoid feeding animals generic food because it increases the likelihood of growth problems and illnesses. Store animal food in air-tight containers to prevent the food from spoiling and from attracting insects and vermin.

Step 3

Hire a veterinarian or train a staff member to examine all animals entering the shelter for signs of illness. Recognizing and separating infected animals will decrease the spread of disease in the animal shelter

Step 4

Clean all animal cages and kennels daily using a disinfectant soap and hot water. Cleaning the animal enclosures will kill viruses and bacteria common in animal shelters such as distemper and parvovirus, according to the Humane Society website. Place animals in carriers or a separate area while cleaning and do not return the animals to the kennels until they are dry.

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