How to Start an Animal Sanctuary

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For animal lovers, starting your own sanctuary can seem like a dream job. However, it takes a lot of planning and work to have a successful sanctuary. If you're skilled in organization and enjoy working with both people and animals, starting an animal sanctuary may be a dream come true.

Consider how you will fund your sanctuary, as well as the initial investment required. Before you start the sanctuary, you should have the economics worked out to make sure your sanctuary is viable. It can be helpful to talk to other animal sanctuaries about their funding and initial investment as you plan.

Determine the type of animal that you want to help. Though dog, cat and horse sanctuaries are the most common follow your heart. Farm animals, large cats and other exotics, reptiles and wildlife that can't be rehabilitated are other animals you might consider devoting yourself to. There's even a place for sanctuaries dedicated to rat or guinea pig rescue.

Purchase land appropriate for the type of animal you want to provide sanctuary for, making sure that it's zoned to allow an animal sanctuary, if you don't yet have land you can use. Make sure you have appropriate shelter for your animals on your property.

Locate food sources. Local feed and farm stores can be a good source for domestic animal foods, while you may need to special order food for exotics. If your animals can use produce, talk to local grocery store produce managers. Often, they will donate produce no longer fit for human consumption to animal sanctuaries.

Find a veterinarian who can treat your animals. First talk to local vets you know, explaining the type of sanctuary you're starting. If you're not working with typical animals for your region, find out if the vet has treated this type of animal before. If not, find out if she would be willing to learn or if you should find a different vet.

Accept animals into your sanctuary once you have the land, shelter, food, and medical care organized. You won't have to go far to find animals. Let local city and county shelters and veterinary offices know about your sanctuary so they can contact you if they hear about an animal in need of help. Get each animal a full medical check-up by a vet before accepting them.

Get a volunteer base to help with animal care and to help spread the word about your sanctuary. Place ads in local newspapers and magazines, and see if local public radio stations have free community organization announcements. You can also go to local animal-related events and meetings to let people know that you need volunteers.

Create an education program, which can be as simple as offering tours of your sanctuary, during which you share information about animals. Just think about what information people need to improve the lives of the animals you help. You may also want to create publications or give lectures locally as part of your program.

Adopt your animals out, if it makes sense for the type of animals you're working with. Create a stringent screening process to make sure you only adopt out to the best possible homes. Some animals, like big cats or wild animals that can't be rehabilitated, should be seen as permanent shelter residents because it's too difficult to find good homes for them.

Pursue 501(c) 3 status to become a nonprofit organization. As a nonprofit, any donations people make will be tax-deductible. It will be easier to raise funds as a nonprofit, and your supporters are likely to have more trust in you as an officially recognized nonprofit organization.

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