Pet Charities: Is your money making it to needy pets?

1. Please consider only donating to programs that use means testing to identify actual needy pets. Sadly, many non-profits now have programs that are being misused by large numbers of people who can afford to have their pet spayed, neutered, vaccinated and microchipped at a regular veterinarian, but choose to abuse the subsidized programs instead. This pulls money directly from poor pets with poor owners and injured animals with treatable illnesses who are being euthanized for lack of funds.

By donating specifically to programs that utilize means testing, your money will be much more likely to be used to help a pet in need rather than to subsidize the spay or neuter of a pet with an owner who can afford treatment. It is such a simple question to ask before you donate and will make a world of difference to huge numbers of homeless or needy pets.

2. Pet Owners: Please do not utilize subsidized non-profit clinics unless you are receiving some form of public assistance, are maintaining a colony of feral cats or have truly fallen on sudden hard times. These programs are run largely using money donated in good faith by well-meaning individuals who believe their money is being used to help the truly needy. Your pet is better served by seeking out and maintaining a relationship with a regular veterinarian.

3. If you are thinking about donating a very large sum, please do a LOT of homework. Tax statements are a matter of public record. What percentage of the money you are donating is being used to directly help the animals and what percentage is going toward salaries? You will have to decide what you are comfortable with, but I have to say that it makes me very concerned that there are Executive Directors of major pet charities making over six figures.

Go to the facility and directly observe the work that is being done. Are animals being rehabbed with good outcomes? If not, why not? If there are hundreds of thousands or even millions in donations, but animals are not having wounds treated or fractures repaired, where, exactly, is the money going?

4. What is your goal with your donation? If it is to help injured animals, most private veterinary clinics accept donations that go directly toward paying for treatment of injured animals for owners who cannot afford treatment or for the homeless animals the clinic works with. If your clinic does not directly accept donations, they will probably be able to point you to someone who does. Don't be afraid to ask for your money to be earmarked specifically for care for an injured homeless or needy animal. Check out the veterinarian to see if any complaints have been filed with the state board.

5. Use caution when donating to "Sanctuaries", often referred to as "No-Kill" shelters. The more appropriate name for these facilities is "Limited Intake Shelter". Please make certain that the animals are receiving more daily attention and time out of their kennel than they are in their kennels if they are long term or lifelong residents. It is not humane to keep a companion animal in a cage for the majority of the rest of their life, particularly if that individual animal has aggression or fear issues. Don't be afraid to ask how much time is spent inside the kennels at these facilities.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Make sure your money is making it to the animals that you intend to help and not just subsidizing your next door neighbor's spay or neuter.


Richelle Smith, DVM

Safe Harbor Animal Hospital

4547 Cascade Rd. SE, 49546

(616) 942-8147


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