Many Americans don’t want to give to a large national charity because they rightly worry their money won’t be used to help animals. For instance, the Humane Society of the United States and ASPCA spend millions of dollars on fundraising, pay high executive salaries, and stash millions in offshore accounts in the Caribbean. Moreover, these groups, despite their misleading names, are not affiliated with local humane societies, SPCAs, or pet shelters.
It’s better to support local shelters that do hands-on care for animals. But there are also a few bad apples. That’s why we launched the Help Pet Shelters campaign in 2019. The campaign has screened shelters in every state and gives 95% of the money it raises from this project to pet shelters. (If you give to HSUS, as little as 1 percent may trickle down to local shelters.)
Some people may want to do research on their own. What should you look for when researching shelters? Here are some tips.
- Start with visiting the shelter or looking at the organization’s website. Do they publish statistics on the animals in their care? If so, what is the euthanasia rate? While every shelter euthanizes some animals, there’s a big difference between a 95% save rate and a 15% save rate. (The latter, unfortunately, is the case with PETA.) If a shelter does have a save rate that concerns you, you can always ask why. Perhaps with more resources they could lower it.
- Do a search for news coverage of the shelter. Are there any scandals that might not have shown up?
- If the organization seems OK, it’s time for a deeper dive into the group’s tax return. You can do that for free at ProPublica. All nonprofits must file a public tax return. You can also request a copy from the group itself, if you can’t find it on ProPublica.
- The tax return will show you how the organization spends money. This includes salaries of the executive director and other key staff; the percentage of money spent on programs versus overhead; and a number of other things (80% is considered good for programmatic spending). The tax return is how we know that groups like the ASPCA and HSUS store money in the Caribbean instead of using it to help animals.
- If you’re satisfied with the look underneath the hood, it’s a time to help pets.
One more consideration: Shelters can use money, but supplies (towels, blankets, toys, etc.) for the animals are often also appreciated. You can call and ask if they need anything if you can’t make a monetary donation.