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How to Start an Animal Sanctuary Business

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

If you are actually going through this unique article, then it shows that you have the zeal and love to care for animals. To take care of animals you need patience, love, time, money and a lifetime commitment.

You must know that the animals you rescue bring with them different needs and experiences, and the demands on you will be huge and exhausting.

Just as you already know, the rewards are worth every minute of care you give to these animals. Also, starting an animal sanctuary sounds like a great idea because you will be helping creatures that can’t help themselves.

But before you venture into this unique business, you need to do your homework and make a business plan from your observations in the industry.

Apart from giving you a day-to-day operation guide, putting the plan on paper helps you to find out any holes in your idea that may require you to think outside the box in order to help as many animals as realistically and financially possible.

Steps to Starting an Animal Sanctuary Business

1. Understand the Industry

It is a notable fact that over the past five years, the animal sanctuary industry has grappled with state budgetary issues which has caused many municipalities to reduce and even stop their animal sanctuary and protection funding. But it is still estimated that six to eight million dogs and cats are rescued and taken to animal sanctuaries each year.

Due to the high number of animals rescued each year, many animal welfare advocacy outreach programs have been striving to get funding for many non-profit sanctuaries in the world.

Analysis also has it that the number of US households that have cats and dogs has more than tripled over the past four decades, which has largely contributed to population growth. Also about 10.0% to 20.0% of households with cats and dogs rescued their pet from an animal sanctuary, which has moved up industry revenue.

It is important to note that a lot of industry establishments provide additional services including animal microchip implantation and sterilization services, which has made a lot of animal sanctuaries to struggle to provide pet care, as many of these costs have heightened.

Also in the industry, animal overpopulation in sanctuaries has been an issue which has partly resulted in the euthanasia of about three to four million dogs and cats per year, yet the industry revenue is believed to grow at an annualized rate of 2.3% to $628.6 million during the five years to 2022, including 0.6% growth in 2017.

It is believed that this increase is mainly due to rising consumer awareness about animal sanctuary overpopulation, which has caused demand for adopting rescue animals rather than buying animals from breeders or puppy mills.

In the industry, gains and profit is expected to grow because of many nonprofit animal sanctuaries getting funding from animal welfare advocacy groups and other organizations.

Analysis also has it that within the next five years, more consumers will be wary of how animal breeders and the lack of pet sterilization can to an extent exacerbate pet overpopulation in the industry. This we believe will move more individuals to adopt their pets from animal sanctuaries, which will blow the industry.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

Before you venture into this unique business, you need to research the industry very well. One of the things you need to do during this research is to take a look at your community to determine how many stray animals you need to make your sanctuary a worthwhile investment of the community’s time and money.

You need to understand the industry and also look for ways to differentiate yourself from other sanctuaries-even though all sanctuaries want to save animals, you need to develop a brand so people remember or have your place in mind once they want or decide to adopt, volunteer or make a donation.

It is advisable that you look at how other sanctuaries get their funding from grants, user fees or donations. Watch and understand the types of animals they accept into their sanctuaries to identify animals that are not being taken care of so that your sanctuary can assist and make a difference.

3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On

Some things have to be in place for you determine the niche to delve into. Since you have this unique passion for rescuing animals from neglect, abuse and disaster, and a head for the business end of the operation, opening an animal sanctuary will sure be a legit business or industry for you to pitch your tent in.

The very first and foremost step is deciding what type of animals you want to take in or rescue, and how many animals you can adequately provide care for at your sanctuary.

This is because animal care is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week responsibility, you will likely need to enlist the help of either volunteers or full-time employees (or both). It is advisable that you 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.

The types of animals you decide on can clearly be your niche market. They may be wild animals, dogs, birds etc.

The Level of Competition in the Industry

Analysis and facts in the industry has shown that animal rescue sanctuaries rescue six to eight million animals every year.

If you add this number to other types of pets and wildlife in places like shelters, wildlife refuge etc., you will 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 revenue from the animal rescue industry exceeds $600 million and growing.

In our world, there has been a growing awareness of the problem of pet overpopulation and an objection to pet euthanasia which is driving more families to choose to adopt rescued pets rather than simply buying a new pet or better still moving individuals who love animals greatly to think up starting a sanctuary.

Because of all these, revenue from animal rescue sanctuaries has been on the rise and is expected to continue its growth trend through 2019.

4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry

  • Tiggywinkles, UK
  • Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, US
  • Boon Lott’s Sanctuary, Thailand
  • Cedar Rowe Sanctuary, Canada
  • Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Australia
  • SanWild wildlife Sanctuary, south africa
  • The Donkey Sanctuary, UK
  • Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, Borneo
  • The Agra Bear Rescue Facility, India
  • China Bear rescue centre
Economic Analysis

It is important to note that the animal sanctuary industry is characterized by a low level of market share concentration. Analysis has shown in recent years that no animal sanctuary has and is expected to account for more than 3.1% of total industry revenue. Animal sanctuaries are known to typically own only one location and offer services to their local region.

Though some leagues and associations have spread their wings nationwide, they typically cooperate with region-based animal sanctuaries and shelters in other areas rather than build new facilities. Additional funds are typically used to increase awareness, upgrade facilities and provide additional services.

Other factors that limit industry consolidation include varying legislation at the local and state level as well as limited grants and funding for industry operations.

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

If you really understand, you will surely know that starting an animal sanctuary comes with a host of financial risks and concerns. If you lack an operational history, you will find it hard to understand and organize how your sanctuary will perform in the industry.

It is important to note that financial risk management requires you to at least consider the possibility of taking time aside to explore acquisition opportunities. Leveraging on existing financial benefits of an established customer base is the reason why most entrepreneurs buy an existing business.

It also offers franchise documented assets and earnings – an awesome advantage with lenders and investors. It is a good idea to consider franchise options of you are looking to reduce the possibility of failing in the industry.

When starting your animal sanctuary it is indeed a smart move to buy a franchise so as to avoid common entrepreneurial mistakes that might prove costly, and also offering you a brand awareness you need to get funding in the industry.

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

Without a doubt, it is a hard and stressful arrangement to run an animal sanctuary; you have no viable shortcut of getting around that. But people tend to ask, how do these well-intentioned small sanctuaries succeed and what is their secret to success?

How come some animal sanctuaries strive year over year while thousands start up and shutdown in the same year? There is no magical formula but a careful consideration and proper research before starting. Possible challenges may include;

  • Viable market
  • Experience and knowledge
  • Capital
  • Land space
  • Sanctuary welfare
  • writing a business plan
  • Animal attacking disease

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

Just like we all must have decoded, an animal sanctuary is a place where animals are brought to live and be protected for the rest of their lives. These sanctuaries are different from animal shelters; sanctuaries do not seek to place animals with individuals or groups, instead maintaining each animal until his or her natural death.

Animal Sanctuaries may differ from an Animal shelter but they sure have some similarities – legal structure. Tax exempt, non-profit, 501(c)(3) status is indeed gotten by filing the necessary forms with the IRS. Note that you need to incorporate your sanctuary as a non-profit organization in your own state before you can apply for 501(c)(3) status. It has been proven to be very helpful, but not essential, to have a professional (an attorney or accountant) do the paperwork.

There are many advantages to having non-profit status:

  • People who donate goods, services, or money can claim their gift as an offset against their taxes, which may well increase how much they give.
  • Starting with this non-profit status gives credibility to your organization.
  • This entity gives proper separation between the charity and personal finances.

From the very moment you complete the necessary paperwork, the legal status may take around three months to obtain. Note that you will be issued a three-year provisional tax-exempt status subject to fulfilling IRS requirements and submitting a Form 990 annually with the government.

Form 990 details the money taken in and the money spent on behalf of the charity. You’re advised to keep good financial records because without them, your non-profit status might be withdrawn by the IRS. Also after three years, when the IRS is satisfied that you are running a legitimate non-profit venture, you will be granted a permanent 501(c)(3) status.

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name

It is advisable that you consider extensively as you choose your organizations name. Remember that it is possible to change a corporate name, but it is much better to get it right the first time when you are still starting the business. You should also know that name changes are expensive, time-consuming and confusing to donors.

You should ask yourself how the name sound and what will it will mean to an individual learning about your group for the first time. The name ANPS means that the group performs cruelty investigations. The term rescue suggests that you provide rescue services for animals. A geographic name indicates that you only serve and raise resources from a restricted area. Try to use names that show your vision and purpose, names like Animal heaven, Animal farm, Safe Hub, Free Zone etc.

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

For the sake of this article, we advice that you use liability insurance. You should know that insurance can give you peace of mind around visitors and volunteers or if someone falls or get bitten by your animal. Every state in the united states requires you to have your staff covered by worker’s compensation insurance. There are other types of insurance that you might need but it all depends on your services.

But be rest assured that you will need to obtain an insurance policy that covers liability and other needs. It is believed that this coverage will protect you in the event that someone is bitten or injured by an animal or is otherwise injured on the premises. All the animals in your sanctuary are depending on you, so as an animal protection organization, you will want to protect yourself and your sanctuary from catastrophic loss and lawsuits.

Indeed there are a lot of animal rescue insurance types that your sanctuary will need. You need to start first by finding a good insurance agent to make sure that you get appropriate coverage for your sanctuary. Also have it at the back of your mind that there is no such thing as a comprehensive policy that covers everything. You have to evaluate the various risks of your sanctuary and the programs you run, and discuss these risks with your agent to be certain the policy you purchase will cover you adequately without loopholes.

Also you need to know that every policy have exceptions for certain things, such as liability policies that do not cover events with animals. Also if you are served with a lawsuit for a risk covered by insurance, the insurance company takes care of all the defense costs, including hiring a lawyer on your behalf. So, if you want to purchase proper insurance, you need to build good practices and procedures to reduce risks and keep the cost of insurance low. Insurance policies you will need may include;

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

For the sake of clarity and substantial information, every business needs a form of intellectual property protection. An intellectual property right which comprises of patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights-even the right URLs-, play an important role in monetizing innovation. If you let others to steal your ideas, you can simply delete yourself from the lane or path to success.

Indeed intellectual property does not feed the world, but it does provide the invisible infrastructure that allows innovation and success in any agricultural business. Just some few years back, agriculture and animal welfare as a whole was an empirical science based on trial and fails.

But with the advent of technology, today’s innovations are processed with sophisticated science and technology, including cell biology, genome and proteome research, gene mapping, marker-assisted breeding and hybridization. Intellectual property protection is needed in this unique industry to protect patents and new ideas, registered and unregistered trademarks, copyright and trade secrets.

11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

It is crucial to note that professional certification or qualification is a distinction you can earn that credits you with a high level of skill or expertise in some areas. We all know that certifications can be an indicator of professionalism and aptitude. Certifications are often regulated by a professional organization. There are certifications in the industry that you can acquire to keep yourself abreast of information and trends in the industry. They may include;

  • Certified Wildlife Biologist®
  • Animal Shelter Management Certificate
  • Society of Animal Welfare Administrators (SAWA)
  • Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries
  • Animal Rescue Professionals Association
  • Professional Animal Care Certification
  • Animal Behaviour Institute Wildlife Rehabilitation Certificate
  • Certified Animal Welfare Administrator

12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

You may think that legalities may have nothing to do with your desire to rescue and protect animals; but you need to know that it is an important part of what you hope to accomplish. If you make the mistake of not completing the legal side of operating your sanctuary, you will be jeopardizing your whole operation. It is advisable that you should check into the licenses required by your city and state. You will likely need a business license, and some localities also require a kennel license.

  • Tax
  • Insurance
  • Kennel license
  • Release forms
  • Business license
  • Drivers insurance
  • Employment agreement
  • Business plan

13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

It is important to say that you will need a continuing and reliable source of funding if you plan to run your sanctuary successfully. Indeed this funding might be a private endowment that guarantees a certain amount every year, or perhaps an annual grant from a foundation. But unless you know for sure that the foundation will deliver each and every year, you should be wary in case you suddenly find yourself with a lot of mouths to feed and a well that’s gone dry. Indeed, there are two things you need funding for and they are;

  • Funds for operating expenses

Without much argument, this is the daily expenses of feeding the animals, paying the staff, providing medical care, etc. Most foundations do not offer funding for operating expenses.

  • Funds for Capital expenses

These are for fixed assets, such as buildings, vehicles, an information database, etc. Also remember that there many ways to getting funding in this industry and they include

  • Starting a membership program
  • Using your telephone to put calls across to foundations
  • Using emails
  • Using direct mail
  • Doing bake sales and car washes
  • Setting up tables and booths
  • Getting a percentage of one day’s profit
  • Selling products
  • Doing benefit dinners, dog walks, fashion shows, and other larger-scale events

14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

You should know that your sanctuary needs to have sections available to separate dogs from cats, nursing mothers with offspring from the general population, small animals from large animals, and young animals from adults. You should also know that having isolation areas are also important to quarantine new additions so that infectious diseases are not transmitted to healthy animals. You should also bear in mind that providing shelter for the animals mean that you need land and buildings.

Before you decide on a land, try to find out what the zoning laws are for that land. Depending on where you are trying to build, you will need to contact either the city or county offices. If there are existing buildings on the land, a building inspector may be able to advise you about zoning. It is important to know that zoning laws regulate how land is used, how many animals are allowed, and what species you can have on it. You should also know that Agricultural zoning is the most open to animals. But even that type of zoning doesn’t cover exotics.

The issue of zoning is only one of the issues to consider in the purchase of land for your sanctuary. It is also advisable that you consider your neighbours’ rights. How close are they? Sanctuaries can be noisy, and if you don’t have a buffer zone, like land or trees to dissipate the sound, your neighbours can legally file a complaint and perhaps force your hands to shutting down your sanctuary.

Also you should know that leasing land does not offer any stability for the animals. As a new entrant in the business, you don’t want to be in the situation of having to relocate a large number of animals if a lease is not renewed or agreement is breached. That why it is advised and very important for the sanctuary if you own a land.

It is also crucial that you consider the terrain to know if the land is prone to flooding or harsh winds, if it can be easily accessed, is there water and power on the land. If not, can it be brought in easily? Or can alternatives be provided in the form of solar units and water storage tanks?

Also in the industry, it is recommended that the calculated space needed should be 90 to 100 square feet per dog and 45 to 50 square feet per cat. But if you plan are to keep larger animals or marine animals, you will surely 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. In our current world, it is estimated to range from $192 to $258, possibly more or less but it all depends 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 sanctuary.

15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

Just like we stated above, caring for animals is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week job. You cannot do it on your own, you will surely need helping hands. The amount of help you will need rests on how many animals you will be caring for. Most individuals sometimes burn out because they underestimated the stress and work involved in caring for so many lives.

You should also know that people are going to be central in your efforts to save animals. If you have that in mind, you will want to have a staff and volunteers who are pleasant, articulate and considerate, both in person and on the other end of the phone.

As an individual in this industry, you should know that any encounter is an opportunity to share your philosophy, especially by your example. You should employ staff in a variety of areas like: animal care, medical care, clerical work, accounting, fundraising, building and grounds maintenance, counselling, outreach programs, adoptions and education, to name some of them.

Also you should know that some programs cannot exist without the help of volunteers. In fact, many of them are run entirely by people who volunteer as much time as they can. Know that even if you have some full-time staff, having volunteers on the team allows you to do more and it’s a wonderful way of including people in your work. Indeed volunteers are not on the payroll, they do require “payment” of sorts. We all know that people like to be noticed and acknowledged for what they contribute; we all love to be listened to and appreciated. So you have to show your volunteers that you care.

Also most times a volunteer just doesn’t work out. If you have done the best you can to resolve the problem, but it may just be that this person is not compatible with your way of working or with the rest of the team. You should also be focused enough to understand that just because someone is giving their time does not mean that you have to accept their involvement in the sanctuary.

You just need to thank them for their help, explain that there is a problem (without accusing them of anything), and tell them that you think it’s best if they stop working with you. It may be an awkward situation, but the sooner it is done, the better.

The Service Delivery Process of the Business

As a prospective entrepreneur, you should know that quantity without quality is destructive. You should also know that animals deserve quality care. It is your duty to provide good care for the animals and to give accurate information to the public. Be careful not to expand your services more quickly than your resources can support. Here are the few processes you should consider;

  • Ever ready Medical care
  • Having a good veterinarian
  • Active Spay/neuter
  • Vaccinations/medications
  • Food

16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies

Even a little boy in the streets will tell you confidently that marketing plays a vital role in strategic planning. If you can keep your marketing pressure at an all-time high, your organization will remain ever relevant and booming.

  • Direct Mailings

It is very important for even animal sanctuaries to participate in direct marketing. For those who understand, a coordinated mailing campaign increases your company’s profile and draws new customers into the business. Also top tier mailing list providers consistently deliver high impact and affordable lists to your clients throughout the industry.

  • Making use of Technological Expertise

Our Business world has embraced technology with open arms, transforming basic marketing concepts into sophisticated, tech-driven systems and solutions. Sincerely one of the many things that need to be considered by animal sanctuaries is the use of technological solutions to connect with customers, boost visibility and exploit weaknesses in the marketplace.

  • Making use of referrals

A person who knows about referrals will be glad to tell you that word of mouth advertising is a marketing principle that has never gone out of style.

17. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win

The major competitive fact in the industry is the fight for funding and donations. As we all know, a lot of companies are willing to donate goods and materials to non-profit organizations. For example, a wood processing company may donate surplus building materials. Paint and vinyl flooring can be relatively easy to get if you are not too fussy about colours or patterns.

Also a lot of businesses have end runs or less attractive goods that they are happy to donate for a tax write-off. We also know that Hotels and motels change their beddings often, and we have found them to be very generous with the old blankets, sheets, and bedspreads. Any of your volunteers who loves to sew can take them and make bed pads for use in the kennels and the clinic in the sanctuary.  How then do you get these donations ahead of your competitors?

  • Put a call to the store, ask to speak to the person in charge of donating products in the organization
  • Be very careful while explaining what your organization does for animals. Be brief and friendly.
  • Always remember to follow up your call with a letter to the person in charge, on letterhead stationery, stating your request to be considered for their donations. Have it mind that if you have your non-profit 501(c) (3) status, include that in your letter so the company knows it can write their donation off against their taxes.
  • Also with the letter, send samples of your literature or brochures.
  • If the company concurs to your request for donation, follow up with a personal letter of thanks to the person in charge.
  • Always accept whatever you are offered. Be fast in your pickup of the items donated to your sanctuary, and if it is not something you can use, share it with other needy groups or individuals. Research shows that the company will need you to sign a paper stating that you will not sell the product, but that does not stop you from sharing it, as long as they abide by the same requirement.
  • Always remember those who have given to you by sending them a plaque or some small gift during the end of the year or during festivals. It is advisable that you mention their generosity in your newsletter, which will encourage your members to support those businesses.

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

It is important to note that humane education is an important aspect of your sanctuary work – and not only for kids, but to every individual you come across with. Always have it in mind that any encounter with the public gives you an opportunity to educate and inform. A lot of people do not know or understand pets and their needs. This means that giving people the necessary information they need can aid with keeping pets or animals in their homes.

Also another part of your education program could be visiting local schools and sharing your knowledge and insight about animals and how to take care of them. This will go a long way in protecting the animals in our society because just like it is said; kids are the leaders of tomorrow. You can also educate both children and adults by giving them a supervised tour of the facility. This tour in a long run will aid them to understand some of the problems of unwanted pets and how best to care for them.

Other key areas include;

  • Place adverts on financial magazines and related newspapers, radio stations and TV stations
  • Encourage the use of word of mouth publicity
  • Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like; YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Badoo, Google+ and other platforms to promote your business.
  • Ensure that you position your banners and billboards in strategic positions all around your city
  • Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas in and around our neighbourhood
  • Advertise your business in your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site
  • Brand all your official cars and ensure that all your staff members and management staff wears your branded shirt or cap at regular intervals.