The Top Five Pet Charities

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Our pets rely on us for everything from food and shelter to affection. You can help support companion animals by donating to a charity that’s dedicated to their unique needs. To make sure your dollars have the biggest impact, send your donation to an organization that spends the majority of its funding on programs that help animals.

There are hundreds of national and international non-profits dedicated to rights and needs of pets. Here are five of the top animal charity organizations that are highly recommended by Charity Watch, Charity Navigator and other watchdog groups. All have been in operation for decades and have already made sizable contributions to pet welfare.

American Humane
Founded in 1877, American Humane’s motto is “First to Serve.” You may also be familiar with another one of its mottos, the phrase “No Animals Were Harmed” that appears at the end of films and TV shows in which animals are part of the action. American Humane has been the monitoring organization for the use of animals in Hollywood productions since 1940. The organization also sponsors the Red Star Rescue Relief, a group that provides animal rescue services in response to national disasters and acts of terrorism and war. American Humane has served as an animal first responder in every major national disaster, including Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy. The organization supports several other programs as part of its mission to promote the safety and welfare of animals while strengthening the bond between people and animals.

PetSmart Charities
The founders of PetSmart stores, Jim and Janice Dougherty, made a commitment to never sell dogs, cats, puppies or kittens in their stores. They went one step further in their commitment to help pets by launching PetSmart Charities as a standalone non-profit in 1994. The organization combats pet homelessness by sponsoring pet adoptions as well as spaying and neutering clinics. Since its inception, the organization has granted more than $413 million to other charities that feed and shelter pets. In 2018, the charity topped more than 8 million pet adoptions made possible through its programs. If you donate to PetSmart Charities, you can feel secure knowing that more than 90 percent of its annual budget is spent on pet programs rather than on organizational overhead.

Petco Foundation
Founded in 1999 to improve the welfare of pets, this independent non-profit has found homes for more than 6 million pets through adoption events in its Petco retail stores. Spay and neuter programs to help reduce the feral animal population are also supported the foundation. It has invested $250 million in organizations that most impact the lives and welfare of companion animals, including investment in scientific research into cancer in dogs and training programs for service animals.

Best Friends Animal Society
This nonprofit has battled against kill shelters since the 1980s, when about 17 million dogs and cats were euthanized each year because they had no homes. That number is down to about 1.5 million in 2018, thanks in large part the efforts of Best Friends. Through its Best Friends Network, the organization has worked to increase the number of people who adopt shelter pets. It has also implemented spay/neuter programs and trap-neuter-return programs for feral animals. Best Friends operates an animal sanctuary in Angel Canyon, Utah, that’s a temporary home for nearly 1,600 animals waiting for a lifetime home. The organization says its work will continue until they save every shelter animal from an early death, which they hope to do by 2025.

Your Local Shelter
You can perhaps have the biggest impact on pets in your community by donating or volunteering with your local shelter. The U.S. government doesn’t track the number of animal shelters and refuges in the country, but the Humane Society estimates that there are at least 13,500 brick-and-mortar shelters, animal sanctuaries and rescue groups. You can help by adopting a pet as well as volunteering your time and donating money, food, blankets or toys. You’ll have the benefit of seeing the direct impact of your contribution, which isn’t usually possible when you donate to a large national organization.

Besides these five top pet charities, there are many others worthy of honorable mention. If you’re concerned about the treatment of animals in medical labs and slaughterhouses, the Animal Welfare Institute, based in Washington, D.C., works to reduce animal cruelty. Friends of Animals is a Connecticut-based organization that focuses on controlling animal breeding. More than 2.5 million animals have been neutered by the charity since 1957. The Performing Animal Welfare Society works to protect circus elephants and other performing animals in their workplaces and provide then with a peaceful sanctuary for retirement. ■

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