Information - What Is a 501 (C)(3) Animal Rescue or Shelter?

Information - What Is a 501 (C)(3) Animal Rescue or Shelter?

501 (C) (3) Rescues & Shelters

Many people may not realize it, but there are differences between animal rescue/shelters and local city, county or state run animal agencies.

There is one main difference between your local government run animal shelter- whether municipal, county, or state, and a 501 (C)(3) not-for-profit animal shelter or rescue: 501 (C)(3) rescues and shelters do not euthanize the stray, abandoned, or surrendered animals they take in. There are those circumstances but euthanasia is not a first choice. There is a very high probability your local government funded municipal or county animal shelter does as a result of poor funding and very limited space.

In city or county shelters, stray animals are typically picked up by the animal services department; they are then quarantined for a 10 day period. During this time, the animal is monitored for signs of rabies. This is especially true if an animal shows signs of rabies or has been reported to have bitten or scratched a human. But whether surrendered, abandoned, or stray, the animals are provided some basic veterinary care, cleaned, placed in a cage, and should they not be adopted, are euthanized after a 30 day waiting period. Hopefully, within this time period, pets can be reunited with their families and others can be adopted before the waiting period expires.

The 501 (C)(3) not-for-profit animal shelters and rescues are quite different. On the opposite end of the spectrum, these not-for-profit organizations are supported exclusively through donations, volunteering, and fundraising and exist for the sole purpose of helping animals in need. Rarely, and only under the most dire circumstances will an animal be euthanized- mainly the animal has injuries or disease beyond treatment and is suffering. Every attempt is made to support the life of the animal as well as to provide rehabilitation should it be needed.

Rescues and shelters vary in physical size and population capacity which is ultimately determined by the organization's ability to find financial support. Should there be an influx of animals as is typical, shelters will work with other area facilities to relocate dogs and cats to facilities having available space. In the event space cannot be provided, animals can be placed into foster homes provided by volunteers.

There are two primary reasons for the overpopulation of companion animals: commercial dog and cat breeding facilities along with backyard breeders, and the deficiency in spaying and neutering pets. Commercial breeding facilities keep large numbers of dogs or cats in cages allowing them to freely breed to produce puppies or kittens (should the breeder also include felines) for resell in neighborhood pet stores. With over ten thousand of these facilities throughout the United States, hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats are produced to supply a demand that may not be there. But one thing is certain: the more puppies and/or kittens produced, the more revenue these facilities generate for themselves. A second reason for domestic animal overpopulation is pet owners themselves. If pet owners do not think and act responsibly, their own pets contribute to the overpopulation problem.

Larger rescue agencies often fall victim to large commercial animal breeding facilities that have had multiple serious USDA violations regarding the treatment of animals or the conditions under which the animals live. In cases where breeding facilities are required to cease operations, rescue agencies enter the premises, take possession of the animals, transport them to their own facilities, clean and groom them, and provide each animal with food and medical treatment. Some animals will be placed under observation for a period of time to assess overall health and response to rehabilitation.

Not all animals confiscated from commercial breeding facilities can be placed in homes or can be placed in homes within a relatively short period of time. Some rescued animals can have multiple and severe medical issues. Because of inbreeding, a lack of genetic screening allowing the proliferation of congenital diseases, and a lack of quality medical care and treatment, these animals can be left with lifelong issues that are not only expensive to treat but unattractive to potential adopters.

Furthermore, some animals have sustained abuse and neglect for such a lengthy period of time that adopting out may not be in the best interest of the animal or the adopter. The animal may have difficulty trusting, be unable to interact with humans and other animals appropriately, have developed poor habits or peculiar behaviors that are not easily understood, accepted, tolerated, or corrected. These animals, through no fault of their own, will live their remaining lifetime under the care of the rescue agency or shelter.  

Animals can remain at the rescue facilities for weeks, months, or even years depending on their condition or can be placed under foster care for some time where they are rehabilitated and socialized. Depending upon the number of animals rescued, the costs of saving lives, providing veterinary care, and rehabilitation can quickly escalate into the tens of thousands of dollars- all of which is paid for by the rescuing agencies. Eventually, the majority of rescued companion animals will be placed in loving homes where they are wanted and will be care for.

It is the animal's life and quality of life that matter; however, there has been an increase in breed specific shelters. That does not imply that a shelter will forsake an animal because it is not the predominant breed they house. Shelters take all breeds but are now participating in relocating specific dogs and cats to specific shelters. It's also easier to care and train since dogs within a breed typically have common traits. Up to 25% of rescued companion animals are purebred.

Overall, 501 (C)(3) shelter and rescue agencies are not funded through tax money, and rely on the kindness and generosity of animal lovers and concerned citizens to obtain funds to meet day-to-day operational expenses. Through donations of goods, services, cash, as well as grant awards (at times), most shelters barely meet their operational needs.

501 (C)(3) animal shelters and rescues provide immediate medical attention as well as medical maintenance to all animals under their care. Because they are ‘no kill’, a good portion of their donations can be exhausted quickly through veterinary services. Larger rescues have the capability to rescue, house and care for hundreds of dogs that may be displaced as more and more commercial breeding facilities are shut down due to severe USDA violations such as cruelty, inhumane treatment, and neglect. A growing number of rescue facilities are becoming breed specific in order to provide better care and rehabilitation for animals which share similar temperaments and behavior characteristics.

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