Do you want to start a pet sanctuary and want to know the cost? If YES, here is a cost breakdown for building a pet sanctuary and the profit margin / ROI. A pet shelter, also called an animal sanctuary is a place where ownerless cats and dogs are brought in off the street. Every year, millions of dogs and cats are abandoned by their owners and left to survive on the streets.

Many times private citizens or animal control officers pick them up and bring them to these sanctuaries where they are housed, fed and cared for. If they are lucky, the animals may be adopted. While most people recognize the existence of pet shelters and their amazing work, most people tend to neglect the difficulty of actually trying to run one.

The primary issue animal shelters always face is that the amount of money brought into the shelter through funding and donations, is nothing compared to the cost of maintaining the shelter. Pet shelters and rescues are in a constant struggle to obtain funding to continue their operations. Like with anything in life, there is a cost associated with everything no matter how good or bad.

Simple expenses like food, water, bowls, toys, and bedding can add up quickly. It is also important to feed good quality food to the animals in your care. Since food will be a constant expense, getting food donated on a regular basis will help reduce overhead costs. Note that big pet supply stores and grocery stores often have broken bags to donate.

They usually require that you have a tax – exempt number and non – profit status, so that their donation is tax – deductible. If there are any pet food distributors in your area, you can ask to be put on their list of groups to receive donations of dog or cat food. The only pitfall with donated food is that you might get a mixture of brands and types of food.

Cost Breakdown for Starting and Building a Pet Sanctuary

Most people don’t believe that building pet housing facilities are expensive. The cost per square foot can vary widely and is influenced by the quality of materials and systems selected. Generally, the most expensive systems (in order from most to least expensive) in these building types are the HVAC, plumbing, kennelling and caging, interior floor and wall finishes, roof structure and finishes, and exterior wall finishes.

Properly designed engineering systems (HVAC, plumbing, electrical) for a pet shelter may be 30% – 35% of the building’s total construction cost.

There are many variables involved when calculating the exact cost of building a pet sanctuary, and there is no standard across the design and construction industry for stating a construction cost.

Typically, a building’s construction cost does not include land purchase, design fees, permitting fees, Furniture Fixtures & Equipment, or non – installed equipment; among other things. Howbeit, the amount analyzed here is for a site that already has roads and utilities available and does not have any unusual easements, legal entanglements, site topography, or environmental or water management requirements.

It is recommended that you use between $350 and $400 per square foot (/SF) (the national average is about $475/SF) as the amount for construction of a new pet shelter building and $25/SF for site construction when developing a very preliminary budget.

The costs can vary widely due to local labour conditions, unusual site design needs, environmental concerns, type of mechanical and plumbing systems, kennel systems, and the quality of floor and wall finishes. It is common for us to see shelter construction cost planning based on as little as $100 to $150/SF.

These projects are seriously underfunded. Meanwhile, for a boarding, day care, and grooming facility, it is recommend you use approximately $225/SF to construct a free – standing boarding facility and an additional $25 /SF for the site construction.

The type and configuration of animal housing (kennels vs. suites, for example), the amount of plumbing, and finishes are two areas that affect costs. Many boarding businesses are build – outs in existing buildings or store – fronts which tend to reduce the /SF cost further.

Everything needs to be fenced securely and separately for the different animals. You also need a building for feeding and preparation of meals. You will also need beds for the dogs and cats, collars, leashes, toys as well as basic medicines for all. You need a vet to treat and vaccinate all the animals. Although it might sound overwhelming but you will need over $100,000 to start a good pet sanctuary.


Many of the animals coming to your sanctuary will have problems. You will be expected to take biters, chewers, diggers, barkers, and all-around badly behaved dogs. Some of these cats may bite, have litter box problems or other quirky behaviours.

It is pertinent that you work with a trainer to prepare the animals to be successfully re-homed. A lot of behaviours are very responsive to training, and we usually suggest that the adopter find a trainer to continue the training program once the animal is re-homed.

Solomon. O'Chucks
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