How to Start an Animal Rescue

Written by Dave Lavinsky

start an animal rescue

Starting an animal rescue can be very profitable. With proper planning, execution and hard work, you can enjoy great success. Below you will learn the keys to launching a successful animal rescue.

Importantly, a critical step in starting an animal rescue is to complete your business plan. To help you out, you should download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template here.

14 Steps To Start an Animal Rescue:

  1. Choose the Name for Your Animal Rescue
  2. Develop Your Animal Rescue Plan
  3. Choose the Legal Structure for Your Animal Rescue
  4. Secure Startup Funding for Your Animal Rescue (If Needed)
  5. Secure a Location for Your Business
  6. Register Your Animal Rescue with the IRS
  7. Open a Business Bank Account
  8. Get a Business Credit Card
  9. Get the Required Business Licenses and Permits
  10. Get Business Insurance for Your Animal Rescue
  11. Buy or Lease the Right Animal Rescue Equipment
  12. Develop Your Animal Rescue Marketing Materials
  13. Purchase and Setup the Software Needed to Run Your Animal Rescue
  14. Open for Business


1. Choose the Name for Your Animal Rescue

The first step to starting an animal rescue business is to choose your business’ name.  

This is a very important choice since your company name is your brand and will last for the lifetime of your business. Ideally you choose a name that is meaningful and memorable. Here are some tips for choosing a name for your animal rescue:

  1. Make sure the name is available. Check your desired name against trademark databases and your state’s list of registered business names to see if it’s available. Also check to see if a suitable domain name is available.
  2. Keep it simple. The best names are usually ones that are easy to remember, pronounce and spell.
  3. Think about marketing. Come up with a name that reflects the desired brand and/or focus of your animal rescue.


2. Develop Your Animal Rescue Plan

One of the most important steps in starting an animal rescue business is to develop your animal rescue business plan. The process of creating your plan ensures that you fully understand your market and your business strategy. The plan also provides you with a roadmap to follow and if needed, to present to funding sources to raise capital for your business.

Your business plan should include the following sections:

  1. Executive Summary – this section should summarize your entire business plan so readers can quickly understand the key details of your animal shelter.
  2. Company Overview – this section tells the reader about the history of your animal rescue and what type of animal rescue business you operate. For example, are you a cat, dog, or bird rescue?
  3. Industry Analysis – here you will document key information about the animal rescue industry. Conduct market research and document how big the industry is and what trends are affecting it.
  4. Customer Analysis – in this section, you will document who your ideal or target customers are and their demographics. For example, how old are they? Where do they live? What do they find important when looking for services like the ones you will offer?
  5. Competitive Analysis – here you will document the key direct and indirect competitors you will face and how you will build competitive advantage.
  6. Marketing Plan – your marketing plan should address the 4Ps: Product, Price, Promotions and Place.
    • Product: Determine and document what products/services you will offer 
    • Prices: Document the prices of your products/services
    • Place: Where will your business be located and how will that location help you increase sales?
    • Promotions: What promotional methods will you use to attract customers to your animal rescue? For example, you might decide to use pay-per-click advertising, public relations, search engine optimization and/or social media marketing.
  1. Operations Plan – here you will determine the key processes you will need to run your day-to-day operations. You will also determine your staffing needs. Finally, in this section of your plan, you will create a projected growth timeline showing the milestones you hope to achieve in the coming years.
  2. Management Team – this section details the background of your company’s management team.
  3. Financial Plan – finally, the financial plan answers questions including the following:
    • What startup costs will you incur?
    • How will your animal rescue make money?
    • What are your projected sales and expenses for the next five years?
    • Do you need to raise money to launch your business?

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3. Choose the Legal Structure for Your Animal Rescue

Next you need to choose a legal structure for your animal rescue business and register it and your business name with the Secretary of State in each state where you operate your business.

Below are the five most common legal structures:

1) Sole proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is a business entity in which the owner of the animal rescue and the business are the same legal person. The owner of a sole proprietorship is responsible for all debts and obligations of the business. There are no formalities required to establish a sole proprietorship, and it is easy to set up and operate. The main advantage of a sole proprietorship is that it is simple and inexpensive to establish. The main disadvantage is that the owner is liable for all debts and obligations of the business.

2) Partnerships

A partnership is a legal structure that is popular among small businesses. It is an agreement between two or more people who want to start an animal rescue together. The partners share in the profits and losses of the business. 

The advantages of a partnership are that it is easy to set up, and the partners share in the profits and losses of the business. The disadvantages of a partnership are that the partners are jointly liable for the debts of the business, and disagreements between partners can be difficult to resolve.

3) Limited Liability Company (LLC)

A limited liability company, or LLC, is a type of business entity that provides limited liability to its owners. This means that the owners of an LLC are not personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business. The advantages of an LLC for an animal rescue include flexibility in management, pass-through taxation (avoids double taxation as explained below), and limited personal liability. The disadvantages of an LLC include lack of availability in some states and self-employment taxes.

4) C Corporation

A C Corporation is a business entity that is separate from its owners. It has its own tax ID and can have shareholders. The main advantage of a C Corporation for an animal rescue is that it offers limited liability to its owners. This means that the owners are not personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the business. The disadvantage is that C Corporations are subject to double taxation. This means that the corporation pays taxes on its profits, and the shareholders also pay taxes on their dividends.

5) S Corporation

An S Corporation is a type of corporation that provides its owners with limited liability protection and allows them to pass their business income through to their personal income tax returns, thus avoiding double taxation. There are several limitations on S Corporations including the number of shareholders they can have among others.

Once you register your animal rescue, your state will send you your official “Articles of Incorporation.” You will need this among other documentation when establishing your banking account (see below). We recommend that you consult an attorney in determining which legal structure is best suited for your company.

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4. Secure Startup Funding for Your Animal Rescue (If Needed)

In developing your animal rescue business plan, you might have determined that you need to raise funding to launch your business. 

If so, the main sources of funding for an animal rescue business to consider are personal savings, family and friends, credit card financing, bank loans, crowdfunding and angel investors. Angel investors are individuals who provide capital to early-stage businesses. Angel investors typically will invest in an animal rescue group that they believe has high potential for growth.


5. Secure a Location for Your Business

When looking for a location to open your animal rescue, you’ll want to consider a few things. First, think about the needs of all the animals you’ll be rescuing. They’ll need a safe, spacious area to live in, and you’ll also need room to store food and supplies. You’ll also want to find a location that’s easy for people to access; ideally, it should be close to public transportation or in a busy area with lots of foot traffic.

Another crucial thing to consider is your security. You’ll need a place that’s fenced in and secure, so only authorized personnel can gain access. Your location will also need to be zoned for the type of business you’re running and have enough acreage available for your animals to roam around safely.

To find a good location for your animal rescue business, start by mapping out the area from where you live to places you believe would be a good fit for your organization. Think about amenities that are important to you and come up with a list of criteria that must be met before a location is considered suitable.

For instance, if it’s important to have an office space where you can meet with other animal lovers, add that to your list.


6. Register Your Animal Rescue with the IRS

Next, you need to register your business with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) which will result in the IRS issuing you an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Most banks will require you to have an EIN in order to open up an account. In addition, in order to hire employees, you will need an EIN since that is how the IRS tracks your payroll tax payments.

Note that if you are a sole proprietor without employees, you generally do not need to get an EIN. Rather, you would use your social security number (instead of your EIN) as your taxpayer identification number.


7. Open a Business Bank Account

It is important to establish a bank account in your animal rescue’s name. This process is fairly simple and involves the following steps:

  1. Identify and contact the bank you want to use
  2. Gather and present the required documents (generally include your company’s Articles of Incorporation, driver’s license or passport, and proof of address)
  3. Complete the bank’s application form and provide all relevant information
  4. Meet with a banker to discuss your business needs and establish a relationship with them
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8. Get a Business Credit Card

You should get a business credit card for your animal rescue to help you separate personal and business expenses.

You can either apply for a business credit card through your bank or apply for one through a credit card company.

When you’re applying for a business credit card, you’ll need to provide some information about your business. This includes the name of your business, the address of your business, and the type of business you’re running. You’ll also need to provide some information about yourself, including your name, Social Security number, and date of birth.

Once you’ve been approved for a business credit card, you’ll be able to use it to make purchases for your business. You can also use it to build your credit history which could be very important in securing loans and getting credit lines for your business in the future.


9. Get the Required Business Licenses and Permits

Some states require you to obtain a business license before you can start an animal rescue. They may also require permits for zoning, food handling, health codes, and other aspects of running an animal shelter. You should contact your city or county clerk’s office for more information on the requirements in your area.


10. Get Business Insurance for Your Animal Rescue

There are many types of insurance you may need for running an animal rescue, but the most important might be liability insurance. This type of policy can protect an organization if someone is injured while on the property or if an animal they care for causes harm. Other types of insurance that may be necessary include property insurance, which can help cover damages to the rescue facility in the event of a fire or other disaster, and casualty insurance, which can help reimburse the rescue for any animals that are killed or injured while in your care.

Other business insurance policies that you should consider for your animal rescue include:

  • General liability insurance: This covers accidents and injuries that occur on your property. It also covers damages caused by your employees or products.
  • Auto insurance: If a vehicle is used in your business for animal transport, this type of insurance will cover if a vehicle is damaged or stolen.
  • Workers’ compensation insurance: If you have employees, this type of policy works with your general liability policy to protect against workplace injuries and accidents. It also covers medical expenses and lost wages.

Find an insurance agent, tell them about your business and its needs, and they will recommend policies that fit those needs. 


11. Buy or Lease the Right Animal Rescue Equipment

To start an animal rescue, you will need some basic equipment. This includes a carrier or crate for transporting animals, food and water bowls, leashes, collars, and ID tags. Additionally, you’ll need proper housing or kennels for the animals. Housing requirements vary by state and type of animal, so check with your local area for more details. You may also want to consider toys and blankets to keep them comfortable.


12. Develop Your Animal Rescue Marketing Materials

Marketing materials will be required to attract and retain customers to your animal rescue.

The key marketing materials you will need are as follows:

  1. Logo: Spend some time developing a good logo for your animal rescue. Your logo will be printed on company stationery, business cards, marketing materials and so forth. The right logo can increase customer trust and awareness of your brand.
  2. Website: Likewise, a professional animal rescue website provides potential customers with information about the services you offer, your company’s history, and contact information. Importantly, remember that the look and feel of your website will affect how customers perceive you.
  3. Social Media Accounts: establish social media accounts in your company’s name. Accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and/or other social media networks will help customers and others find and interact with your animal rescue.


13. Purchase and Setup the Software Needed to Run Your Animal Rescue

There are a few software programs that are necessary for animal rescue work. One is a database program to keep track of animals, adopters, and donors. Another is a mapping program to help locate animal rescue groups near potential adopters. Finally, a communications program is essential to coordinate between all the people involved in the rescue operation. To send email updates to your foster volunteers and donors, you can use a free email service such as Google Mail or Yahoo.


14. Open for Business

You are now ready to open your animal rescue. If you followed the steps above, you should be in a great position to build a successful business. Below are answers to frequently asked questions that might further help you.


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How to Start an Animal Rescue FAQs

You can download our Animal Shelter business plan PDF here. This is a business plan template you can use in PDF format.

It's not hard to start an animal rescue, but it is hard to keep one going. Rescuing animals is a  costly and time-consuming endeavor, and it can be difficult to find volunteers and donations. However, there are many people who are passionate about animal safety who work tirelessly to save as many animals as possible. It can be rewarding to rescue animals in need and there are many resources available to help you get started.

The best way to start an animal rescue with no experience is to start small. You can offer your services to friends and family members, or to local businesses. Once you have a few clients, you can then start marketing your business more aggressively.

There is no definitive answer to this question as most animal rescues are set up as non-profit entities. Profitability depends on a variety of factors, such as the location of the rescue, the size of the rescue, and the type of rescued animals. However, some animal welfare groups may be more profitable than others due to the services they offer or the type of animals they rescue.

The cost to start an animal rescue will vary widely depending on the size and scope of your operation. However, in general, you will need to budget for:

  • administrative supplies ( e.g., computers, office furniture, photocopiers, etc.)
  • a domain name and website
  • advertising and marketing materials
  • supplies (including pet food, water, animal shelter, and bedding)
  • veterinary care and medications
  • employee salaries
  • your own salary
  • Legal fees 

Generally, it will cost $20,000 to $50,000 to start a basic animal rescue. If a facility will be purchased and/or constructed, the costs will be much higher. 

The ongoing expenses for an animal rescue can vary depending on the size and scope of your business. However, some of the most common expenses include:

  • rent or mortgage payments for the facility
  • utilities (e.g. electricity, water, gas)
  • phone and internet bills
  • insurance premiums
  • advertising and marketing costs
  • staff salaries and benefits
  • animal care and supplies
  • office maintenance and repairs
  • professional fee for local veterinarian

Animal rescues typically make money by charging for their services. This could include fees for animal adoption, animal control, boarding, or training. Some animal rescues also operate as retail stores, which allows them to sell pet supplies and other items. Additionally, many animal rescues fundraise in order to support their operations and animal shelters.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the profitability of owning an animal rescue and fostering animals will vary depending on your skills, experience, and resources. There are many reasons why it is profitable. Shelters across the United States range from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, depending on how much support they offer, what types of animals they house, and so forth.

Animal rescues often fail because the directors of the organization are inexperienced in running a business. They may be unable to manage staff, funds, or clients to their best advantage. Inexperience in working with board members and donors can lead to a lack of organizational support.

Poor communication among staff and volunteers will result in an inefficient workplace where employees feel that they aren't valued or appreciated for their time and effort. This can create a toxic workplace that fails quickly as people leave.


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