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How to Start a No-kill Animal Shelter Business

Do you want to start a no-kill animal shelter? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a no-kill animal shelter business with NO money and no experience.

Starting a no-kill animal shelter company might be a good and emotionally rewarding business especially if you love animals, but it can be very complicated to start up.

Before you can start this shelter, it is expected that you are passionate and committed to the project because the business might not start off immediately as it might take years before the organization starts to make a meaningful impact.

Just like any profit oriented business, it is important that you take time to be thoroughly informed about current issues regarding a no-kill animal shelter. There are several newsletters that you can read such as Greenpeace, PETA and the ASPCA.

Asides from reading newsletters and researching online for trends and issues affecting the industry, you could also visit a no-kill animal shelter in the area where you intend to run yours to ask them relevant questions about running a shelter and also to tap from their experience.

It is what you have learnt from your research that you can improve on when starting your own shelter. Also, starting a non-profit organization is not so easy and even certain states require that you take certification examinations before running a nonprofit organization.

Asides from these certification courses you might need to take some few courses online or from a local college regarding managing nonprofit organizations. If you however do not have the time to get these certifications or experience, then you might need to partner with someone who has.

Steps to Starting a No-kill Animal Shelter Business

1. Understand the Industry

There are more than 5,000 animal shelters in the united states of America and about 5 million companion animals every year are taken to animal shelters.

Out of this number, more than 3.5 million are euthanized in these shelters with cats taking the higher share of 70 percent, followed closely by dogs at 60 percent. Only 2 percent of cats are returned to their owners compared to 15 percent of returned dogs.

88 percent of cats are spayed in shelters while 78 percent of dogs are spayed. About 20 percent of dogs that were brought to shelters ended up being adopted by the shelters, while 25 percent of both dogs and cats have been adopted from shelters.

The number of households in the United States of America where there are dogs and cats have increased by twice in more than 40 years. As a result, more Americans have been made aware of welfare issues regarding these animals in the past 40 years.

According to statistics from national shelter, more American homes welcome new animals every year especially dogs and cats.

Between 1973 and 2007, the numbers of cats and dogs in the United States have increased tremendously resulting from a drop in euthanasia rates by animal shelters. Taking care of animals have also increased in the past decades as shelters in America in 1972 spent $800 million as compared to 2007, where close to $2.4 billion was spent.

Nearly 2.6 million cats are dogs are being euthanized by the shelters in the United States annually and this is largely due to the fact that there is no space for them, even though more than 30 million Americans keep getting a new pet into their households each year.

This does not however mean that there is an overpopulation of pets; the issue is that the market share is tilted in way that is not favourable to shelters.

There are several challenges faced by several shelters and one of these challenges have to do with staff. Due to the fact that these nonprofit animal organizations usually have to deal with insufficient funds, most of the staff which are usually volunteers aren’t usually able to deal with complex matters such as medical therapy and treatments, animal temperament evaluation, animal socialization or provision of the proper exercises.

Ensuring that the above listed actors are done properly is one way of enhancing the quality of life for the animal and so not having these in place may serve to make the animals get these treatments as a luxury instead of a necessity. As regards insufficient funding, these usually bring about animal welfare problems as these may lead to a compromise in the food and basic supplies the animals get and how their facilities are maintained.

It should be noted that since no-kill animal shelters cannot get funding for the shelters in a regular way but have to rely on private operations every year in order to be able to operate or survive, it usually proves to be a problem as donations usually vary depending on certain circumstances like how much donors have to spare in order to be able to donate.

This therefore means that this industry is one that is hugely dependent on the growth of the economy as a downturn will have people spending less than they should.

Another challenge that is being faced by shelters from insufficient funding is its reliance on certain donations such as expired pharmaceutical substances, pet food, or biologics from veterinary clinics.

Even though most of these expired items do not become immediately bad at expiration, there are other problems that could be gotten from continuing to use such drugs and they are a reduction in the potency of the drugs or the nutrients that were in the drug.

Shelters have to face getting these dubious contributions most of the time because they have no choice due to insufficient funding.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

The demographic and psychographic composition of those who require the services of a no-kill animal shelter are not limited to other animal shelters alone but also to owners of unwanted pets, pet stores, veterinary clinics, research organizations and government agencies.

Therefore, if you are looking to define the demographics for your no-kill animal shelter, you should try to make it all encompassing. It should include all people that have to deal with animals in one way or another.

3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On

The no-kill animal shelter is one that involves saving animals from poor welfare conditions and also from being euthanized unfairly. This kind of organization also helps in ensuring that animals are either spayed or adopted by those who love pets and wouldn’t mind adopting one from a shelter instead of a pet store.

Some of the challenges that have faced this industry have been insufficient funding as many no-kill animal shelters are finding it hard to care for their animals. In order to generate funds, many no-kill animal shelters have gone into certain niches in order to stand out even as there are few niches in this industry.

Some of the niches that a no-kill animal shelter may be able to major in are;

  • Training of animals
  • Grooming of animals
  • Boarding facilities
  • Pet sitting and walking
  • Sale of animal merchandise
The Level of Competition in the Industry

This is a nonprofit oriented business and as such there is no competition in this industry with other no-kill animal shelters as the goal is to ensure that all animals are taken care of and aren’t killed off when they aren’t supposed to.

In this nonprofit organization, you would need to be physically present as you cannot rescue animals that are far away from you except you are large enough to establish facilities in different parts of the country. The goal of most animals is that they aren’t euthanized but that they are properly cared for and trained.

Therefore, if you are looking to start your no-kill animal shelter organization in the United States of America, you will find that there are other no-kill animal shelters but that these organizations are not enough to achieve the united goal of ensuring that animals get better welfare, are adopted into good homes and also saved from being euthanized.

4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry

No-kill animal shelters are a bit different from your regular shelter and this is due to the fact that they seek to decrease how many healthy animals are euthanized by ensuring that more animals are adopted and that there are better shelters.

There are however some that have become very popular due to how active they are in helping healthy animals stay alive and get adopted. Below therefore are some of the most popular no-kill animal shelters in the United States of America;

  • City of San Jose Animal Care and Services
  • Austin Pets Alive
  • Multnomah County Animal Services
  • Members of the Metro Denver Shelter Alliance
  • Tompkins Country SPCA
  • Nevada Humane Society
  • Dane County Humane Society
  • Arizona Animal Welfare League
  • Best Friends Animal Society
Economic Analysis

About 70 million homes in the United States of America own at least one companion animal, which translates to 63 percent of homes; with only 6 percent buying their dogs or cats from pet stores and 65 percent of people getting their pets for either a very low cost or for free.

It costs taxpayers $2 billion annually to round up, shelter, kill and then dispose of animals that are homeless. 25 percent of the dogs in shelters are purebred.

Stray or animals that roam freely especially cats have continued to be a challenge in America and even though there are several concerns such as public health and safety, other concerns such as attraction of predators such as coyotes to urban and suburban areas due to these strays seen as food may prove of a more looming concern.

There are more cats that are strays as not many people want cats as compared to dogs. An estimated number of 6 to 8 million dogs and cats however enter shelters every year.

The reasons why animals are being euthanized by shelters is due to lack of space and according to statistics in the United States, about 5,500 dogs alone are euthanized every day which has led to an increase of no-kill shelters dedicated to ensuring that shelter systems are more effective and that healthy pets aren’t euthanized in a bid by some shelters to create space.

The goals of these no-kill animal shelter organizations are to reunite lost pets with their owners, give un-owned animals better homes and also provide care and shelter to these animals.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

Starting a no-kill animal shelter organization is not a business that is profit oriented and as such there are no franchise options in this industry and this is because the same kinds of animals (dogs and cats) are being saved by regular shelters as well as no-kill animal shelters.

Also, because most of these animals aren’t sold, it will be pointless to create any sort of franchise in this industry as there is absolutely no profit to be made in the industry, which leaves the option of starting from the scratch.

Starting a no-kill animal shelter organization from the scratch is not so easy or straightforward even though this is a nonprofit oriented organization. There are several formalities and regulations that are required from those that are starting from the scratch, which is why it usually takes a lot of years before a no-kill animal shelter can be started.

However, there are several advantages to starting from the scratch, which means that you will be able to better articulate your goals and mission regarding the no-kill shelter you are about to start. Also, starting from the scratch will give you the opportunity to understand the industry thoroughly and come up with ways by which you are going to make your own no-kill animal shelter better.

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

Even though the no-kill animal shelter business is a nonprofit oriented industry, anyone looking to start this business shouldn’t think that they are spared from threats and challenges that entrepreneurs starting a profit oriented business face.

Whilst starting this business, you should be prepared for any threats and challenges that might likely crop up as whilst some can be handled, others might not be so easy to handle.

Some of the threats and challenges that you are likely to face during the course of starting or running your no-kill animal shelter organization include; economic downturn which will make less people to donate to the shelter, space issues, new government policies, insufficient funding, poor animal welfare and ethical issues.

7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)

When starting a business, the legal entities available are usually basic and while some are easy to form, others aren’t; however, the case of a nonprofit is different because there are several processes and formalities involved when incorporating your no-kill animal shelter.

While you might be thinking of incorporating your nonprofit organization, there are several benefits you will gain as you can limit your personal liability, enhance the status of the animals in your shelter and also lend more credibility to your no-kill animal shelter.

Once you have incorporated your nonprofit organization, you will need to obtain a tax-exempt status called the 501(C)(3) nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

However, before all these can be done, you must first register your corporate name so that you can gather all the necessary paperwork that you will require to run your operations smoothly. You will also asides from filing for a nonprofit tax-exempt status from the IRS need to file in your state for a sales tax exemption as well as a certificate that will allow you solicit for donations.

Bylaws are a very important part of running your organization smoothly as they help set the framework by which your organization will be governed. These bylaws must be in compliance with the state as well as federal government requirements and might need you to engage the services of an attorney to help out.

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name

Before you can make your no-kill animal shelter organization legal, you would need to have a name at hand. The name that should be chosen for your no-kill animal shelter organization is one that should be catchy, unique, memorable, easily pronounceable and reflective of the industry you are in.

Even though choosing a name might not be so easy, you can look to popular brands so as to give you ideas on the best names for your no-kill animal shelter. Below therefore are names that you would need to consider when looking to start your no-kill animal shelter organization;

  • Humane Pets Society
  • No-Kill Shelter  Society
  • Better Animals Shelter
  • Better Cover Animal Shelter
  • Johnson’s City Animal Shelter

9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

In starting a no-kill animal shelter organization, it is important that you get insurance so that you can protect not only yourself but also your organization from lawsuits and liabilities.

Even though there is no such thing as comprehensive insurance, there are still a variety of insurance policies that you can buy for your organization. It is best to find a good insurance agent or broker and ask the right questions that will enable you get the insurance policies and also create the right budget for your no-kill animal shelter.

Therefore, the basic insurance policies that you should consider purchasing when starting your no-kill animal shelter in the United States of America are;

  • General Liability Insurance
  • Property Insurance
  • Workers’ Compensation Insurance
  • Commercial Auto Policies
  • Directors and Officers (D&O) Insurance
  • Umbrella Liability Insurance
  • Police Professional Liability
  • Business Insurance
  • Crime Loss Protection
  • Professional Liability
  • Broiler and Machinery Coverage
  • Electronic Data Processing (EDP) Policy

10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

Due to the fact that you are running a nonprofit organization that is engaged in rescuing animals from poor welfare conditions or being unjustly killed, there are no instances where you will require an intellectual property protection of any sorts.

If you however feel that you should trademark your organization’s name, logo or slogan; you might need to consult with a lawyer to find out if your status as a nonprofit organization is suitable enough.

11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

Even though there are no professional certifications required before you can start your no-kill animal shelter, getting the required education before starting this business is absolutely necessary.

There are several ways to educate yourself and that is by visiting local schools and local animals shelters near you and reading relevant literatures, studies and publications regarding the kind of animal shelter you are looking to go into. Depending on the state where you intend operating the shelter from, you might be asked to take several certification exams before you can be allowed to manage a nonprofit organization.

12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

Getting the required documents that would make running your business legal is very compulsory especially as you are going to apply for a nonprofit status for your organization, meaning therefore that all requirements must be in place so that you have no hitches whatsoever.

Getting the services of an attorney to help with the documents that you need is essential as the lawyer will help you in closing out all loopholes. Therefore, below are the basic legal documents that you would require in order to run your no-kill animal shelter organization legally;

  • Business License
  • Insurance Policies
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax exempt status form
  • Bylaws
  • Missions Statement
  • Kennel License
  • Certificate of Occupancy
  • Business Tax receipt
  • Federal Identification Number
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • IRS Form 1023
  • Release Forms

13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

In order to raise funds for your no-kill animal shelter, you will need the support of the public as you cannot raise funds the way a regular business does.

However, just like a profit oriented business where a business plan is used, your mission statement and goals will be helpful in generating funds for your no-kill animal shelter as it will show how serious and committed you are to starting and running your nonprofit organization.

Therefore, some of the ways by which you can generate the required funds for your no-kill animal shelter organization include;

  • Starting a membership program
  • Make phone calls to people on your mailing lists and ask your board members to do the same
  • Create a website and ask people to donate
  • Create a GoFundMe page and ask people to donate to your no-kill animal shelter

14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

Choosing a suitable location for your no-kill animal shelter organization is very important as there are issues you will need to look into such as zoning and building issues.

This means that you will need to engage the services of a real estate agent and an attorney so that he or she will help you not to only select a suitable location but also obtain the location legally for your no-kill animal shelter organization.

One thing you will need to take into consideration when choosing a suitable location for your no-kill animal shelter is that the kind of shelter you intend to start will be considered as a huge factor on the location. If for example you intend to rescue livestock, then you will need to focus on getting a farmland. If you intend to rescue just pets like dogs and cats, then you will need a building to be able to achieve your purpose.

The lawyer whose services you have engaged should be able to look into local zoning laws for you prior to picking a location for your no-kill animal shelter. Zoning laws means that there are areas outlined where certain kinds of businesses cannot be run.

If you are looking to lease or purchase a building in which to run your no-kill animal shelter, then you should be aware that the building will need to undergo some renovations so that it can suit the purpose you have in mind. You might need to get in touch with a contractor so that they will help you know how much it will cost to either repair or renovate the building you intend to use.

Ensure that the location for your no-kill animal shelter isn’t located in an area that is too hidden or far from a major area. Put up signs that can be seen from far away about your no-kill animal shelter, if you feel that visitors are likely to miss it.

15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

In running your no-kill animal shelter organization, it is necessary that you establish an accounting system that would deal with all the inflow and outflow of money in the organization. If you have no in depth accounting knowledge, it would be best to get an accountant or bookkeeper as they would be very helpful especially when it comes to allocating funds on behalf of the organization.

This will enable you create a budget. Your budget can be created based on what your goals, requirements and current funds are and how they can be allocated to accommodate expenses for the next financial year. Your current funds are money that must have been earned in the previous financial year.

This is why getting a qualified accountant is vital because not only will it help your board members know in clear terms how the money gotten is being spent, it will also be helpful in order to meet the IRS’s requirement of being declared as nonprofit.

There is no how you can run a no-kill animal shelter by yourself and so you would need to get volunteer staff to help keep your organization running smoothly.

Volunteers are very helpful because there is no how a nonprofit organization can pay all the people that work for it due to how many hands are usually required to keep the organization running smoothly. While it might be tempting to recruit just anyone that volunteers, you shouldn’t especially as some might turn out not to be dedicated and committed.

Asides from getting volunteers for your nonprofit organization, it is also vital that you hire professionals that you would be paying.

Even though not all professionals will be willing to work in the nonprofit sector due to the amount that is usually being paid; there are certain professionals who would not mind working in a no-kill animal shelter and it is these kinds of people that you should look out for.

Asides from professionals, you might also need to hire some regular staff that would be in charge of ensuring that the basic operations of your shelter run smoothly.

Those you might need to hire in order to run your no-kill animal shelter asides from board members are; staff veterinarian, accountant, wildlife or livestock zoologists, animal trainers, office and admin manager, cleaner, secretaries, front desk officer, repairman and driver.

Therefore, form the above breakdown; you will need at least 18 to 20 people including board members to be able to run your nonprofit organization smoothly.

The Service Delivery Process of the Business

The process involved in running a no-kill animal shelter is different from that of running a basic animal shelter. No-kill animal shelters came into existence due to the rate by which animals were being euthanized by shelters on the excuse that they weren’t strong or healthy enough or that there were no spaces in which to care for these animals.

No-kill animal shelters work with foster networks and animal facilities in order to ensure that most of these healthy animals get adopted or that sick animals get isolation units where they can recuperate instead of being killed off.

In order to create awareness that will enable them raise the needed funds and also ensure that the animals get adopted, online funding sites are being used to increase awareness. Also, no-kill animal shelters often support spaying or neutering animals as they cannot all be adopted.

16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies

Even though the no-kill animal shelter business is one that isn’t profit oriented, in order to be able to get the donors you need for your organization, you will need to prove yourself over and over again.

Donors want to know that where their money is going into is worth it, and they need to know that you are doing what you promised with the funds gotten. Therefore when looking to create awareness for your no-kill animal shelter organization, you should ensure that you build a formidable profile that will boost your chances of getting the donors you need for your organization.

In some cases, you might need to defend your use of funds to huge donor organizations; therefore you should ensure that all your policies are in place. Below are the platforms you can use in creating the awareness you need for your no-kill animal shelter;

  • Use your mailing lists and that of your board members to let people and potential donors know about your no-kill animal shelter
  • Get in touch with the media by sending a news release to your local newspapers as well as a public announcement to the local radio and television stations
  • Create a website and use this to promote your no-kill animal shelter
  • Use your social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to promote your no-kill animal shelter organization
  • Put up posters and distribute handbills in strategic locations
  • Participate in community events and shows in order to create more awareness for your no-kill animal shelter

17. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

Promoting your no-kill animal shelter is very important if your intention is to become an animal shelter that is recognized by other stakeholders in the industry as well as the general public. There are a number of activities that you need to be engaged in to promote your no-kill animal shelter.

If you intend to have a lot of donors and also get more people adopting the pets in your shelter, then you must be deliberate about promoting your no-kill animal shelter. In promoting your no-kill animal shelter, you can leverage on all the forms of media; electronic, print and social in order to get others to give your organization the awareness that it deserves.

The social media has made it easy and cheaper for organizations both profit and nonprofit to reach as many people as possible. Below therefore are some of the platforms you can leverage on in order to promote your no-kill animal shelter organization;

  • Create a website and use this to promote your no-kill animal shelter organization
  • Distribute handbills and posters that describe what your nonprofit organization is all about in strategic locations
  • Work with other nonprofit organizations in your community in order to create awareness for your own shelter
  • Work with those that work with animals such as pet stores, local shelters and veterinarians
  • Use social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to promote your no kill animal shelter
  • Install flexi banners in strategic locations so as to raise awareness about your no-kill animal shelter