How To Start An Animal Rescue Business

By Kari Andrews

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If you have a big heart for animals, a passion for rescuing them from neglect, abuse and disaster, and a head for the business end of the operation, you just might have what it takes to open an animal rescue shelter.

You will need to clearly define your niche market in order to equip yourself with the right facilities, supplies, and staff to properly care for your rescued animals during their stay with you.

It will also be important to have good discernment when it comes to assessing the suitability of a potential adoptive family and their ability to give your animals the TLC they need.

If this sounds like a job description written with you in mind, animal rescue may be the right career move for you.

How Big Is The Animal Rescue Industry?

According to an IBIS World report, the Humane Society of the U.S. statistics shows that animal rescue shelters rescue six to eight million cats and dogs every year. Add to that rescues of other types of pets and wildlife, and you have a potential market of millions upon millions of animals in need of a little extra help to recovery from injury, disaster, neglect, and abuse. Yearly revenues from the animal rescue industry exceed $600 million and growing.

Why Starting An Animal Rescue Business Now Is A Good Idea

There is a growing awareness of the problem of pet overpopulation and an objection to pet euthanasia which is driving more families to choose to adopt rescue pets rather than simply buying a new pet. As a result, revenue from animal rescue shelters has been on the rise and is expected to continue its growth trend through 2019.


Animal Rescue Business Facts

Here are some facts and figures about the animal rescue business you should consider:

Animal rescue startup costs

Cost Worksheet (page 4) The Humane Society recommends calculating space needed at 90 to 100 square feet per dog and 45 to 50 square feet per cat. If you are planning to rescue larger animals or marine animals, you may need more space depending on how large your planned capacity is. Then multiply that times the cost per square foot for the new construction or renovation of existing facilities. This is estimated to range from $192 to $258, possibly more or less depending on your geographic area. Multiply this result times 1.67 to account for other related costs. Add in the cost of land on which to place the facility, equipment, pens, food, medical and other supplies to ensure proper care and you could easily be looking at millions to start an animal rescue. Animal welfare grants are available from various organizations to help with funding.

How much do animal rescue workers make?

 Management and office salaries range from $32,000 to $62,000. An on-staff veterinarian can command $84,000 a year. Hourly employee wages range from $9.83 to $13.27, according to

How much do animal rescue shelters charge?

Adoption fees can vary according to the shelter, animal size, age, and breed. For example, the Animal Foundation lists the following guidelines:

Dogs: $105 to $250

Cats: $25 to $50

Ferrets: $75

Rabbits: $25

Hamsters, Rats, Gerbils and Mice: $5

Birds: $5 to $200

Reptiles: $5 to $100

Fish: $.50 to $10

How does animal rescue shelter find customers? 

Press releases, newspaper articles, active social media presence and networking, professional website, email lists, snail mailing lists, brochures, fliers, phone, calls, participation in local community events such as farmers’ markets, parades and fairs, online directory listings and the Yellow Pages.

What skills are required?

Fundraising and community networking, people skills, animal skills, good judgment and discernment, a love for animals, animal safety and health; a head for business administration, accounting/bookkeeping/payroll, human resources, legal, taxes, and insurance.

What do I need to operate an animal rescue shelter?

Adequate facilities to safely house, feed and provide training and medical care for the number and type of animal you plan to rescue; board of directors, on-staff veterinarian(s), animal care workers/trainers, office staff, business license, non-profit certification, a lawyer, policies and standards, a budget and accounting/payroll system, volunteers, donors, phone, email, professional website, social media accounts, computer and shelter management software, insurance.

Animal Rescue Business Ideas

Will you rescue domesticated pets? 

Struggling with what to name your animal rescue business? Here are a few ideas:

(place) Animal Shelter Critters and Creatures
Wildlife Rescue Shelter Pawsitive Match Pet Adoption
Pets R Us Furkids in Need
Furry Friends Haven Second Chances Animal Society
Little Paws Big Hearts (name)’s Animal Rescue
Creature Haven Homeward Bound Animal Care
Animal Sanctuary Pet Adoption Alliance
TLC Animal Hospital Hotel for Pets


YouTube Videos

Related Content

How to Start and Run a Rescue by Jennifer Williams

Breed Rescue: How to Start and Run a Successful Program by Sheila Webster Boneham

How to Start an Animal Rescue by Rose Kivi

Petfinder: Starting a Non-Profit to Help Animals

Animal Sheltering Magazine

Modern Dog Magazine: Rescue Me

Animal Shelter Tips Blog

Pets Alive Blog

The Animal Rescue Site Blog

Lucky Dog Rescue Blog

Hope for Paws

Best Friends: How to Start an Animal Sanctuary

Basic Animal Rescue Training

Humane Society: Train to become an animal rescue volunteer

PetFinder: Train to Be a Disaster Animal Response Team Volunteer

Animal Rescue Corps: Basic Animal Rescue Course

Animal Shelter Tips: Where to Find Grants for Animals



CNET: Animal Shelter Manager

PetFinder: Shelter Software Guide

References Average Salary for Industry: Animal Shelter

Step by Step: How to Start an Animal Rescue Center

PetFinder: Want to Start an Animal Shelter?

Wikihow: How to Start a Non-Profit Animal Rescue

Atlanta Animal Rescue Friends, Inc.: How Much Does It Cost to Run a Rescue Group?

PR Web: The Animal Rescue Shelters in the US Industry Market Research Report

The Humane Society of the United States: Adopting from an Animal Shelter or Rescue Group

The Animal Foundation: Adoption Fees

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