9 Best Animal Rescue Charities (Complete 2021 List)

9 Best Animal Rescue Charities (Complete 2021 List)

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Dennis Kamprad

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Animal rescue charities play a huge role in our community and world. To not only rehabilitate animals but also provide them with a safe home and save them from cruelty or even extinction. However, many charities have different goals and missions, so it’s essential to understand the differences in each.

The best charities for animal rescue for overall impact are the Animal Welfare Institute and the Brother Wolf Animal Rescue. For specialized charities, the Alley Cat Allies, Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, and the Marine Mammal Centre are great charities to look into.

So, you want to help animal rescue, but do you want to help on a local or a global scale? Do you have a particular animal or species you would like to help out with? It can be confusing. That’s why we’ve included a list of our top animal rescues and a brief background on their history, mission, and programs. Including the best ways how you can contribute and make an impact. 

Here’s What All the Best Animal Rescue Charities Have in Common

The following charities all have an underlying mission and aim to end animal cruelty and rehabilitate and rescue as many animals as possible. They all do this in their own innovative ways and projects. Some charities focus on collective actions, while others focus on governmental and policy changes.

At the end of the day, located all over America and the world, these charities help nationally and internationally to rescue all types of animals and species. To not only give them a new home but also create a safe, liveable and sustainable future and community.

These Are the 9 Best Animal Rescue Charities 

Below are our favorite animal rescue charities (you can click on their link to directly jump to their section in this article):

(At the end of this article we’ll also share our six-step approach on how you can select the best charity to support.)

ASPCA: To Rescue, Protect and Provide Placement for Animals

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, otherwise known as ASPCA, has been fighting against animal cruelty in North America since 1866. Founded by Henry Bergh, the ASPCA is one of the first and largest non-profit organizations established to protect animals in the world. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: ASPCA holds a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar and has a rating of 3 out of 4 stars from Charity Navigator. 

“To provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals.”

ASPCA

What they do: To end animal cruelty and rescue animals, ASPCA has left no stone unturned. ASPCA has multiple different programs and sub-organizations focused on the safety of animals. Such as establishing good animal shelters, hospitals, and rescue hotlines. Even a Behavioral Rehabilitation Centre to treat traumatized and unadoptable dogs. 

What they’ve achieved: In 2020 alone, their Animal Relocation program has relocated over 27,000 animals into new homes. They’ve assisted vulnerable animals in 104,000 cases and saved 370,590 animals in their Animal Poison Control Centres across America. On top of rescue and protection, they have performed over 47,000 neuter/spay surgeries.

Ways to contribute: The easiest way for you to make a difference for this non-profit would be through one-time or monthly donations. You can also make a difference by lending some of your time as a volunteer, donating a vehicle for transport, or even adopting a pet.

Animal Welfare Institute: Ending Animal Cruelty Inflicted by People

Established in 1951 by Christine Stevens, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has dedicated itself to reducing cruelty to animals inflicted by humans through governmental action. What started off as rescuing animals from experimental laboratories has now turned to saving all living animals from any form of inhumane and violent treatment. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: Awarded a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, AWI is awaiting certification for GuideStar – But you can study AWI’s financial insights in their GuideStar report. 

“We seek better treatment of animals everywhere – in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild.”

Animal Welfare Institute

What they do: AWI has a well-thought-out mission of ending animal cruelty and while engaging in policymakers, researchers, and the community. A few of their goals include abolishing inhumane factory farms, finding alternatives to animal experimentation, and protecting pets from cruelty.

What they’ve achieved: Some notable work of AWI in 2020 include passing the PAST act, which incriminates the infliction of pain on horses’ hooves and limbs, and introducing a bill that will ban wild animals in traveling shows. Thanks to AWI’s campaigning and pressure, zero Icelandic whales were killed in 2019.

Ways to contribute: The best way to help AWI protect animals would be through donations. AWI strongly encourages you to take action through their Compassion Index program. It allows you to find and contact your local legislator to share your voice and concern for the animals. Or you can join as an intern at one of their many departments. 

Brother Wolf Animal Rescue: Community-Based Animal Rescue

What began as a foster-based organization, Brother Wolf Animal Rescue has been impacting countless animals since 2007. Founded by Denise Blits in the county of Asheville in North Carolina, Brother Wolf is a community-based and -funded non-profit that aims to save and positively impact as many animals’ lives as possible. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: Brother Wolf has been awarded a Platinum Seal of Transparency by GuideStar and a 4-star rating by Charity Navigator.

“To better the lives of companion animals and the people who love them.”

Brother Wolf Animal Rescue 

What they do: Brother Wolf takes pride in their No-Kill rescue, where they try their best to ensure and aim for a live outcome. Brother Wolf operates an adoption center and foster-care system for cats, dogs, rabbits, and small animals, as well as mobile clinics that offer affordable medical services. 

What they’ve achieved: According to Brother Wolf’s 2020 report, they have impacted over 9,000 animals in numerous ways. Over 1,600 animals have been given a second home through their adoption service, with 605 new volunteer foster homes and over 5,800 animals have been spayed or neutered. 

Ways to contribute: The best way to help Brother Wolf would be through donations. Where every dollar will provide food, shelter, and medical care for the animals in need. You could also consider becoming a business sponsor or volunteering your time. If you have some space in your home and heart, you could become a foster parent or adopt a pet.

International Fund for Animal Welfare: Saving Individual Animals Worldwide

Being a well-known global non-profit organization, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has been believing that every animal matters since 1969. Founded by Brian Davies in Canada, IFAW’s original goal was to stop the hunting of seals in Canada. Since then, they have been protecting endangered animals and species worldwide.

Their impact and transparency ratings: IFAW holds a Gold Seal of Transparency by GuideStar and has been awarded an overall rating of 3-star from Charity Navigator.

“Fresh thinking and bold action for animals, people, and the place we call home.”

International Fund for Animal Welfare

What they do: IFAW has multiple projects worldwide with the focus of rescuing and rehabilitating animals from human and natural disasters. Such as tigers, koalas, seals, and more. IFAW believes that every individual animal is important. Through the collaborative work of communities and governments, we can make a difference.

What they’ve achieved: According to IFAW’s impact report, they have rescued and sheltered 275,598 animals worldwide since 2000. In Cape Cod, 418 stranded dolphins have been successfully rescued and released. In Mexico, IFAW works with local organizations to sterilize over 10,000 dogs and cats.

Ways to contribute: To support IFAW, you can make a direct donation on their website. IFAW encourages you to take action by learning about and supporting them on numerous campaigns. Lastly, you can also gift a legacy in your will.

Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee: A Safe Haven for Elephants

Founded and based in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1995, The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, or Elephant Sanctuary for short, is the largest national natural habitat rescue for elephants. It rescues and houses retired African and Asian elephants from circuses and zoos. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Elephant Sanctuary has attained a Platinum Seal of Transparency by GuideStar, a 4-star rating by Charity Navigator, and is accredited by The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries

“… to provide captive elephants with individualized care, the companionship of a herd and the opportunity to live out their lives in a safe haven…”

Elephant Sanctuary

What they do: The Elephant Sanctuary has over 2,700 acres of land to provide natural sanctuaries and facilities for the rescued elephants. Rightly so, elephants are not opened to the public. The sanctuaries focus on individualized care for the elephants, believe in education, and raise awareness for the cruelty experienced by elephants.

What they’ve achieved: Over the years, the Elephant sanctuary has rescued 28 elephants from the entertainment business. There are currently ten elephants in the sanctuary, and the Elephant Sanctuary notes that they have plenty of room for more. They have also collaborated with international sanctuaries worldwide to aid in rehabilitation and education to better their practices. 

Ways to contribute: You can support the Elephant sanctuary by donating to the non-profit or becoming a herd member. You can also participate in their adopt-an-elephant or feed-an-elephant program. You can also volunteer or simply watch the graceful elephants on their live EleCams

Best Friends Animal Society: Save Them All

Begun as a promise between some friends to build a sanctuary for abandoned animals in Utah, 1985, the Best Friends Animal Society has since pioneered the Save Them All movement in response to the ruthless killing in shelters across America. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: With a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, Best Friends has been awarded a rating of 2-stars from Charity Navigator. 

“… to end killing in America’s animal shelters and create a time when there are No More Homeless Pets.”

Best Friends Animal Society

What they do: With thousands of animals killed in shelters, Best Friends aims to reach a No-Kill America by 2025. They are pioneering the movement by advocating and educating communities and shelters to adopt humane practices, such as establishing adoption, fostering or neutering, or spaying the animals. 

What they’ve achieved: Best Friends have been saving lives and gaining No-Kill allies all over America. According to their impact report, an additional 1000 shelters have become No-Kill since 2016, making 44% of US shelters no-kill. Best Friends and their partners have also saved over 63,000 cats and dogs in 2019 alone. 

Ways to contribute: To support Best Friends, you can donate on their page, which aids their shelters, outreach, and, importantly, animals. You can also adopt from their sanctuary, become a foster parent, or even give a friend a gift. 

Mountain Humane: Services for Every Animal In Need

Originally known as The Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley, this non-profit has contributed to the community since 1972. They are the first No-Kill shelter in Idaho and have substantially impacted the animals and community. This is mainly through their adoption and foster services, affordable clinic services, and educational programs.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Mountain Humane holds a Platinum Seal of Transparency and has been awarded an overall rating of 4-star from Charity Navigator.

“To change lives by connecting pets and people.”

Mountain Humane

What they do: Mountain Humane does its best to provide in every way for the animals and community. On top of participating in the No-Kill by 2025 movement, they also offer free or low-cost neuter/spay services in their clinic. Mountain Humane and their partners have established a pet food bank called “Paws for Hunger” for those in need. They even have dog training for all owners in the area.

What they’ve achieved: According to Mountain Humane’s 2020 annual report, they have served 1,864 animals at their center. They have distributed pet food to over 400 families in need. And have reported a 33% increase in pets in foster homes, with over 500 animals being adopted into new homes. All of this impact in 2020 alone!

Ways to contribute: The best way to support Mountain Humane and their work would be through direct donations. You can also become a volunteer to work directly with the animals or their retail and administrative side. If you have more time, why not join their foster team, which offers long-, short-term, or adoption options. 

Alley Cat Allies: The Leading Cat Advocate

After stumbling on an alley with 56 cats, founders Becky Robinson and Louise Holton established the non-profit Alley Cat Allies in 1990. They neutered the cats and were the first to champion and use the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) method in America. Ever since then, over 600 municipalities have adopted the TNR.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Awarded a Platinum Seal of Transparency, this non-profit ally has an overall rating of 4-star by Charity Navigator. 

“To transform and develop communities to protect and improve the lives of cats.”

Alley Cat Allies

What they do: Alley Cat Allies work is diverse and substantial; they provide extensive resource guides and information on their website. They work with cats and their animal shelters to implement life-saving programs. Their work also includes educating and advocating for humane and compassionate treatment for cats in our community. Lastly, they push for legislative change, such as anti-cruelty laws to US decision-makers. 

What they’ve achieved: The Alley Cat Allies continue to leave impactful change in multiple states and communities across America. A few notable works in 2020 include gaining access to numerous animal shelter reports and investigations across America for transparency and passing numerous bills and programs to affirm and mainstream TNR in America. 

Ways to contribute: Donations would be a great start to support the non-profit and save and protect the cats. You could also leave a legacy or donate a vehicle. You could share your cat expertise by joining their Feral Friends Network or just reading their Cat Emergency Guide will go a long way for you and a cat in need. 

The Marine Mammal Center: Rescuing The Marine Animals

Established to rescue, rehabilitate and release marine animals, The Marine Mammal Center was founded in 1975 in California. To date, this non-profit has rescued over 24,000 animals and has been part of hundreds of peer-review articles related to animal health. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Marine Mammal Center holds a Silver Seal of Transparency from GuideStar and has an overall rating of 4-star from Charity Navigator. 

“Global ocean conservation through marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation, scientific research and education.”

The Marine Mammal Center

What they do: The Marine Mammal Center focuses on animal care, research, and education. With their hospital in Sausalito, volunteer and professional veterinarians rescue and rehabilitate mammals, such as sea lions and seals, received from their 24/7 helpline. The organization also conducts educational programs for marine scientists lovers of all ages. 

What they’ve achieved: On top of the thousands of animals saved and impressive accomplishments, according to their 2019 impact report, in just two months, the Marine Mammal Center rescued over 320 sea lions and pups from starvation and toxicosis. They also performed the first CT scan of a wild Hawaiian monk seal for successful treatment.

Ways to contribute: To support the Marine Mammal Center, you can donate, give a gift in honor of a loved one, or symbolically Adopt-A-Seal that has been released to aid future animals. Why not work first hand at one of the centers located in California and Hawaii as a volunteer? Or simply join a virtual event to show support.

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best animal rescue charities. However, you may have a particular charity you want to support. Let’s look at what you can do to ensure your contribution has the most significant impact.

  • Check out the charity website. Charities that are worthy of your donations are transparent in their mission and their figures. Familiarise yourself with their history, mission, and values. Their website usually is the best place to start.
  • Identify the charity’s mission. Without a goal, the charity is likely to fail. If the charity’s mission isn’t clear, it’s probably worth looking for a charity that does have a clear mission. 
  • Check if the charity has measurable goals. An effective charity has clear goals. You want to know your donation will help the charity reach its goals. But if it doesn’t have targets, it’s likely to fail or squander your gift. The charity should be able to account for its spending and supply evidence of the work they do.
  • Assess the successes or goals the charity has achieved. You wouldn’t invest in a business if it kept missing its targets. In the same way, charities are like this too. If no one is assessing the progress a charity makes in reaching its targets, the chances are not making positive change.
  • Check the charity’s financials and stats. Trustworthy organizations will publish financial statements and reports each year. Some might be exempt from having to do so, but they should be able to provide them to public members who are interested in donating.
  • Locate sources who work with or benefit from the charity. Word of mouth and first-hand experience of a charity’s work lets you know the charity’s quality. If you’re able to do so, check out the charity for yourself or speak to someone familiar with it. This way, your donation will go to the right place. 

How Can You Best Support These Charities?

After you’ve made your decision, it’s time for you to decide on how you’d like to help the charities you’ve chosen. Check how you can help – each charity runs specific programs that have unique aims. Find out what the aim of such programs is and whether they are right for you. 

Here are a few ways you can help your chosen charity:

  • Donate money. You can find donation pages on the website of most charities. Your donation can be a one-time payment, or you can set it to be deducted regularly at different intervals. You can mostly pay via credit card, but some charities also take PayPal or Bitcoin payments.
  • Buy their official merchandise. The charities can also raise money by selling merchandise. So, you can support them by buying the mugs, shirts, caps, pens, pencils, and any other such items they may be selling. Ideally, you should buy as much as you can to share and spread the word about the charity’s activities.
  • Donate a percentage of your online purchases. If you bought anything on sites like Amazon lately, you’d find a prompt asking you to donate to your favorite charities through their Amazon Smile program. You can set this up so that your chosen charities will get a fraction of your online purchases.
  • Engage in volunteer work. As you’ve seen from our descriptions above, some charities engage in a lot of local and grassroots programs. You can help by taking on and organizing the program in your local area.
  • Help their fundraising efforts. You can spread the word about the charity in your workplace, school, church, etc., and hold creative fundraising drives on social media or offline within your small circles.
  • Share their stories. Most charities have compelling stories that you can share with your audience to attract more people to the cause.

Final Thoughts

There are so many animal rescue charities for you to choose from and show your support. While it may be tricky finding an organization true to your heart, think about why and how you want to contribute to the charity. How impactful and lasting will your actions be for the well-being of the animals?

Stay impactful,



PS: Finally, I want to leave you with a thought-provoking TED talk from Dan Pallotta, a leading philanthropic activist, and fundraiser, about what is wrong with the way we think about charities – and what we can do about it:

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