HEALTH & CARE

How to Become a Dog Rescuer: Helping Find Homes for Man’s Best Friends

Image showing two little dogs in a cage
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Most animal lovers have something in common: we want to ensure that all animals are treated with care and respect. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in today’s society. There are still so many dogs out there that are being mistreated by those that are supposed to take care of them—and even dogs that just straight out have no place to call home. This is why pet lovers may want to know how to become a dog rescuer.

Luckily, the process is not a complicated one. There are steps you can follow to become a dog rescuer. Helping homeless or neglected dogs can make you feel rewarded, but it is also easy to feel overwhelmed with the number of pets that need to be rescued. This is why instead of going at it alone, you can join or perhaps even start a dog rescue organization instead. The combined group effort will be able to effectively and rapidly remove pets from abusive or neglectful houses.

Image showing a romanian dog

Like all endeavors, it is easy to let enthusiasm and passion overtake the realities of life. This guide can help prospective dog rescuers know what it’s like in real life and how to begin. It is also easy to lose sight of your goal once you know that it is not as easy as what you’d imagined, which is why this article will also help you understand the rewards of being a dog rescuer and why you should not give up too soon.

How to Become a Dog Rescuer

Like most dog lovers, the thought of rescuing neglected and abused dogs can be very exciting. However, being excited can make you miss important steps. Investing in research and planning during the early days can help you save time and avoid many mistakes. When you want to become a dog rescuer, there are two ways to do it.

Join a Preexisting Organization

If you’re brand new to the dog rescue scene, this is a more reasonable choice than starting your own organization. You will be able to learn the ropes through practice, and you can even start building connections. The more people you know, the easier it will be if, in the end, you decide to start your own organization.

Image showing a person from Animal-Rescue holding a little puppy

There are many preexisting dog rescue organizations today. A quick online search should yield plenty of results. It’s more convenient if you can find an organization that’s not far from your house or your workplace. The close proximity will make it less likely for you to quit halfway due to your busy schedule, too.

Start Your Own Dog Rescue Organization

This is not a good option if you’re not yet totally sure that dog rescue is what you want to dedicate your life to. But if you are, starting your own dog rescue organization will allow you to help more dogs in need over the long run. Here’s how you do it:

Know the Basics

Many prospective dog rescuers are as enthusiastic as their best friends. But before you leap into the idea of becoming one, do a little research first. If you don’t have a management degree or training, you need to read books on non-profit management. Many local libraries can give you access to these materials. You can also talk to other rescue organizations or attend seminars and workshops to help prepare you for the road ahead.

Image showing a brown dog and a vet

Before jumping the fence, you also need to about the issues you are going to face. Veterinarians, your local animal control, and kennels can give you insights to your community’s needs. Issues of overpopulation, early-age spay/neuter or adoption rates can help you prepare for them.

Take notes and collect vital information including the contact numbers of the people you have interviewed. Doing volunteer work in a non-profit rescue organization can also help you get acquainted with the day-to-day needs and issues surrounding dog rescue.

Write a Mission Statement

Businesses write mission statements and so should you. A mission statement is a «guide» to your organization’s success. It will give you motivation and purpose for your work. A mission statement can also help inspire people or organizations you will be working with or those who want to support it.

Most animal lovers have something in common: we want to ensure that all animals are treated with care and respect. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in today’s society. There are still so many dogs out there that are being mistreated by those that are supposed to take care of them—and even dogs that just straight out have no place to call home. This is why pet lovers may want to know how to become a dog rescuer. Luckily, the process is not a complicated one. There are steps you can follow to become a dog rescuer. Helping homeless or neglected dogs can make you feel rewarded, but it is also easy to feel overwhelmed with the number of pets that need to be rescued. This is why instead of going at it alone, you can join or perhaps even start a dog rescue organization instead. The combined group effort will be able to effectively and rapidly remove pets from abusive or neglectful houses. Like all endeavors, it is easy to let enthusiasm and passion overtake the realities of life. This guide can help prospective dog rescuers know what it's like in real life and how to begin. It is also easy to lose sight of your goal once you know that it is not as easy as what you’d imagined, which is why this article will also help you understand the rewards of being a dog rescuer and why you should not give up too soon. How to Become a Dog Rescuer Like most dog lovers, the thought of rescuing neglected and abused dogs can be very exciting. However, being excited can make you miss important steps. Investing in research and planning during the early days can help you save time and avoid many mistakes. When you want to become a dog rescuer, there are two ways to do it. Join a Preexisting Organization If you’re brand new to the dog rescue scene, this is a more reasonable choice than starting your own organization. You will be able to learn the ropes through practice, and you can even start building connections. The more people you know, the easier it will be if, in the end, you decide to start your own organization. There are many preexisting dog rescue organizations today. A quick online search should yield plenty of results. It’s more convenient if you can find an organization that’s not far from your house or your workplace. The close proximity will make it less likely for you to quit halfway due to your busy schedule, too. Start Your Own Dog Rescue Organization This is not a good option if you’re not yet totally sure that dog rescue is what you want to dedicate your life to. But if you are, starting your own dog rescue organization will allow you to help more dogs in need over the long run. Here’s how you do it: Know the Basics Many prospective dog rescuers are as enthusiastic as their best friends. But before you leap into the idea of becoming one, do a little research first. If you don't have a management degree or training, you need to read books on non-profit management. Many local libraries can give you access to these materials. You can also talk to other rescue organizations or attend seminars and workshops to help prepare you for the road ahead. Before jumping the fence, you also need to about the issues you are going to face. Veterinarians, your local animal control, and kennels can give you insights to your community’s needs. Issues of overpopulation, early-age spay/neuter or adoption rates can help you prepare for them. Take notes and collect vital information including the contact numbers of the people you have interviewed. Doing volunteer work in a non-profit rescue organization can also help you get acquainted with the day-to-day needs and issues surrounding dog rescue. Write a Mission Statement Businesses write mission statements and so should you. A mission statement is a "guide" to your organization's success. It will give you motivation and purpose for your work. A mission statement can also help inspire people or organizations you will be working with or those who want to support it. In writing a mission statement, ask yourself what you want to do. Define the purpose of your organization so that it will serve as a guide in what you want to accomplish, help you in your future decision-making plans and get your message out to the public. The mission statement should be: Brief, 1 or 2 sentences Be written in a positive tone Action and results oriented Motivate people to work and support you Set Goals Goals are not the same as mission statements. Goals are specific and measurable activities that you need to do in order to achieve your purpose. To make your goals more concrete, you need to write them down. Write down the goals you want to achieve and the actions you need to do to achieve them. Always make your goals measurable so that you can celebrate their achievements and keep yourself motivated. Goals should be short-term and long-term. You need to think about what you want to accomplish in the near future (1-2 years) and where you want to be 10 years from now. Include steps in how you can get from where you are now so that you will know how to reach your goals. Writing down your goals and the steps you need to achieve them is just like planning for your success. Becoming a dog rescuer takes a lot of work and it is better to have goals as they will serve as plans on achieving success. Organize Dog rescuers and organizations need a lot of work even before they are opened. First of all, you need a dedicated bunch of other volunteers. Other issues that you need to settle are the premises, where you will be getting money and even your organization's name. You need to make a list of what you need to do in order to get started and then assign people to do these tasks. For example, you need a volunteer or two to run your premises and another group to do fundraising and another person for bookkeeping and accounting. But before you do that, you need to give your organization a name. Think of a name that clearly states your objective, and also one that is easy to understand and remember. Good examples include PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society or Philippine Animal Welfare Society) and Adopt-A-Dog. Make It Legal Registering your organization with the authorities has certain benefits. For example, it can help you get tax exemptions, enhance the status of the dogs in your care, and can help increase your group's credibility. Registration procedures vary state-to-state but you have to start by incorporating your rescue organization. You then need to file a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status with the IRS and then you also need to register with your state's agency that regulates charitable institutions and donations (usually the Attorney General). States have their own reporting and renewing process for charitable organizations so make sure you know what these processes entail. Call your State House and ask for the number and office of the Secretary of State and Attorney General’s office to get the information you need. Have an Accounting System You need dollars, cents, and sense to make your dog rescue organization successful. A good bookkeeper, accountant, and accounting system can keep your income and expenses understandable. First, you need to create a budget. Even if you’re just starting out, your budget will give you an idea how much you need to bring in for donations so that you can pay for your expenses like utilities, dog food, salaries, rent, etc. Your accountant can help you figure this out and then categorize it so that you can have an understanding of the resources you need to make your plan work. Make It Public Once you're done with the groundwork, you can start to take your organization public and reach out to get the support of the community. Remember that you need the support of the people to make your endeavor successful and you can do this by holding a public meeting where you can announce and explain what your group is trying to obtain. You can also start a mailing list. Get the names of dog loving people or people who are interested in animal rescue from your volunteers. A simple computerized mailing list can help you form a foundation for your future fund-raising efforts and can help disseminate information to people about your coming events or your purpose. Put up posters too. A good poster can let people know about your organization and its goals. Aside from this, it can help rescue as many dogs as possible. A brightly colored 8 1/2" x 11" poster with eye-catching design can do a good job of attracting interest in your group. Set them up in places where there are plenty of people so that you can get noticed immediately. Good examples include vet clinics, dog parks, pet stores and supermarket bulletin boards. Contact the media too. You can send a press release on the local paper or a public service announcement on the local radio stations. All your advertisements should be professional quality. Remember that these posters and press releases represent your organization. You want people to see that you are a credible and professional organization that they will want to get involved with or send donations to. Start Fund Raising Donations will be the lifeblood of your organization. Without money, you won't be able to operate your shelter and many dogs will remain in neglectful or abusive situations. When this happens you will fail to meet your goals and purpose. It is also good to remember that fundraising is not just a way to get money. It is also a good venue to raise awareness for your cause. It can also help your volunteers work as a team and align their goals with yours. Prioritizing where the money goes is a constant struggle for non-profit organizations. Managers are constantly juggling their precious resources between paying the food bill and taking in another stray. However, prioritizing is a must and fundraising gives managers an objective outlet to pick out the most important project that is aligned with the mission, goals, and plans of the group. Fundraising events are also great venues to partner or socialize with other like-minded groups. Partnering with other dog rescue groups can help to increase your credibility and open your organization to more grants and donations. So make sure you're finding ways to fundraise all the time. Some great fundraising ideas include walk-a-thons (which more people can do compared to marathons or fun runs), bake sales, cook-offs, t-shirts, quiz bowls and the battle of the bands. Make sure that your team always has a few good ideas for fundraising events. Having ideas and regular schedules for your fundraising events can help keep your rescue center afloat while raising awareness for abused or neglected dogs that need your help. Fundraising regularly can also help you achieve your goals and make your mission statement come true. Start Rescuing Now that the word is out, you can start rescuing stray animals and helping find homes for them. Finding foster homes for dogs is a great idea because the family or individual might want to keep the dog eventually. Aside from this, it takes the dog out of a neglectful or abusive situation so that he has a new chance of being happy or becoming a companion to a new person. Make sure that there is always somebody that is manning your phone or is around your office. People might call to alert you of a case or they might drop in an animal for you to take into your care. Having people on standby will make your organization look professional and credible. We know that all of this information can sound overwhelming, so don't be afraid to start small. You can volunteer at dog shelters or offer to be a foster home for a dog or two. This is a great way to begin to connect with the right people and learning the skills needed to become a dog rescuer. Wrap Up Just like humans, dogs too have their own personalities, quirks, and character. In some cases, humans find themselves not in tune with their dog. This is why some of them neglect their dogs. It usually starts with having no time to play with them or pet them. Then next thing they know they're ignoring their pets altogether. But this does not have to end badly. Approximately 670,000 dogs are euthanized in the United States each year. However, the ASPCA reports that the number of dogs euthanized has declined since 2011 due to the increase in adoption and an increase of stray animals returned to their owners. This is why becoming a dog rescuer is important. You are not only saving a dog's life, you are giving them a second chance at making somebody else happy or reuniting them with their best friends. Rescuing dogs is a noble cause. Aside from giving dogs another chance, you are also helping make the streets a safer space for your community. Becoming a dog rescuer sounds like an overwhelming task what with worrying about the budget and many animals getting abandoned, but dog lovers like us know that these animals are worth the time and effort. Are you interested in joining a dog rescue organization or do you plan to start your own? Do you have any experience on this that you can share with the other dog lovers here? Let us know in the comments section below!

In writing a mission statement, ask yourself what you want to do. Define the purpose of your organization so that it will serve as a guide in what you want to accomplish, help you in your future decision-making plans and get your message out to the public.

The mission statement should be:

  • Brief, 1 or 2 sentences
  • Be written in a positive tone
  • Action and results oriented
  • Motivate people to work and support you

Set Goals

Goals are not the same as mission statements. Goals are specific and measurable activities that you need to do in order to achieve your purpose. To make your goals more concrete, you need to write them down. Write down the goals you want to achieve and the actions you need to do to achieve them. Always make your goals measurable so that you can celebrate their achievements and keep yourself motivated.

Dream Big, Set Goals, Take Action, concept, tags on the table.

Goals should be short-term and long-term. You need to think about what you want to accomplish in the near future (1-2 years) and where you want to be 10 years from now. Include steps in how you can get from where you are now so that you will know how to reach your goals. Writing down your goals and the steps you need to achieve them is just like planning for your success. Becoming a dog rescuer takes a lot of work and it is better to have goals as they will serve as plans on achieving success.

Organize

Dog rescuers and organizations need a lot of work even before they are opened. First of all, you need a dedicated bunch of other volunteers. Other issues that you need to settle are the premises, where you will be getting money and even your organization’s name.

You need to make a list of what you need to do in order to get started and then assign people to do these tasks. For example, you need a volunteer or two to run your premises and another group to do fundraising and another person for bookkeeping and accounting.

Image showing a pet rescuer

But before you do that, you need to give your organization a name. Think of a name that clearly states your objective, and also one that is easy to understand and remember. Good examples include PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society or Philippine Animal Welfare Society) and Adopt-A-Dog.

Make It Legal

Registering your organization with the authorities has certain benefits. For example, it can help you get tax exemptions, enhance the status of the dogs in your care, and can help increase your group’s credibility.

Registration procedures vary state-to-state but you have to start by incorporating your rescue organization. You then need to file a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status with the IRS and then you also need to register with your state’s agency that regulates charitable institutions and donations (usually the Attorney General).

Image showing a man Creating Report

States have their own reporting and renewing process for charitable organizations so make sure you know what these processes entail. Call your State House and ask for the number and office of the Secretary of State and Attorney General’s office to get the information you need.

Have an Accounting System

You need dollars, cents, and sense to make your dog rescue organization successful. A good bookkeeper, accountant, and accounting system can keep your income and expenses understandable.

Traditional accounting system

First, you need to create a budget. Even if you’re just starting out, your budget will give you an idea how much you need to bring in for donations so that you can pay for your expenses like utilities, dog food, salaries, rent, etc. Your accountant can help you figure this out and then categorize it so that you can have an understanding of the resources you need to make your plan work.

Make It Public

Once you’re done with the groundwork, you can start to take your organization public and reach out to get the support of the community. Remember that you need the support of the people to make your endeavor successful and you can do this by holding a public meeting where you can announce and explain what your group is trying to obtain.

Volunteer at the ASPCA Adoption Center

You can also start a mailing list. Get the names of dog loving people or people who are interested in animal rescue from your volunteers. A simple computerized mailing list can help you form a foundation for your future fund-raising efforts and can help disseminate information to people about your coming events or your purpose.

Put up posters too. A good poster can let people know about your organization and its goals. Aside from this, it can help rescue as many dogs as possible. A brightly colored 8 1/2″ x 11″ poster with eye-catching design can do a good job of attracting interest in your group.

Little dog rescued by a volunteer

Set them up in places where there are plenty of people so that you can get noticed immediately. Good examples include vet clinics, dog parks, pet stores and supermarket bulletin boards. Contact the media too. You can send a press release on the local paper or a public service announcement on the local radio stations.

All your advertisements should be professional quality. Remember that these posters and press releases represent your organization. You want people to see that you are a credible and professional organization that they will want to get involved with or send donations to.

Start Fund Raising

Donations will be the lifeblood of your organization. Without money, you won’t be able to operate your shelter and many dogs will remain in neglectful or abusive situations. When this happens you will fail to meet your goals and purpose. It is also good to remember that fundraising is not just a way to get money. It is also a good venue to raise awareness for your cause. It can also help your volunteers work as a team and align their goals with yours.

Prioritizing where the money goes is a constant struggle for non-profit organizations. Managers are constantly juggling their precious resources between paying the food bill and taking in another stray. However, prioritizing is a must and fundraising gives managers an objective outlet to pick out the most important project that is aligned with the mission, goals, and plans of the group.

Image showing little dog sitting on a shoe

Fundraising events are also great venues to partner or socialize with other like-minded groups. Partnering with other dog rescue groups can help to increase your credibility and open your organization to more grants and donations. So make sure you’re finding ways to fundraise all the time. Some great fundraising ideas include walk-a-thons (which more people can do compared to marathons or fun runs), bake sales, cook-offs, t-shirts, quiz bowls and the battle of the bands.

Make sure that your team always has a few good ideas for fundraising events. Having ideas and regular schedules for your fundraising events can help keep your rescue center afloat while raising awareness for abused or neglected dogs that need your help. Fundraising regularly can also help you achieve your goals and make your mission statement come true.

Start Rescuing

Now that the word is out, you can start rescuing stray animals and helping find homes for them. Finding foster homes for dogs is a great idea because the family or individual might want to keep the dog eventually. Aside from this, it takes the dog out of a neglectful or abusive situation so that he has a new chance of being happy or becoming a companion to a new person.

Image showing little puppy beeing rescued

Make sure that there is always somebody that is manning your phone or is around your office. People might call to alert you of a case or they might drop in an animal for you to take into your care. Having people on standby will make your organization look professional and credible.

We know that all of this information can sound overwhelming, so don’t be afraid to start small. You can volunteer at dog shelters or offer to be a foster home for a dog or two. This is a great way to begin to connect with the right people and learning the skills needed to become a dog rescuer.

Wrap Up

Just like humans, dogs too have their own personalities, quirks, and character. In some cases, humans find themselves not in tune with their dog. This is why some of them neglect their dogs. It usually starts with having no time to play with them or pet them. Then next thing they know they’re ignoring their pets altogether. But this does not have to end badly.

Approximately 670,000 dogs are euthanized in the United States each year. However, the ASPCA reports that the number of dogs euthanized has declined since 2011 due to the increase in adoption and an increase of stray animals returned to their owners.

Image showing a rescued dog looking at the camera

This is why becoming a dog rescuer is important. You are not only saving a dog’s life, you are giving them a second chance at making somebody else happy or reuniting them with their best friends. Rescuing dogs is a noble cause.

Aside from giving dogs another chance, you are also helping make the streets a safer space for your community. Becoming a dog rescuer sounds like an overwhelming task what with worrying about the budget and many animals getting abandoned, but dog lovers like us know that these animals are worth the time and effort.

Are you interested in joining a dog rescue organization or do you plan to start your own? Do you have any experience on this that you can share with the other dog lovers here? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

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