Skip to Content

How To Open an Animal Shelter

Cats in a room with cat towers and litter boxes

Need a new career,some of the most fulfilling and rewarding jobs are not found in a corporate office cubicle. Sometimes, you will find the perfect career right at your feet. Or walking around outside.

Just look down at your pet or see the many stray dogs in your city. There is a need to help those dogs be safe and find new homes with families who will love them.

To start your new career as a do shelter owner, just keep reading our article. It provides the tips you need to get out of the rat race and into something fun and enjoyable.

Want to donate to an animal shelter, but don’t know what to donate? Check out our post “What to Donate to Animal Shelters – A Complete List”.

Tips To Help You Open Your Own Animal Shelter

Make The Right Decisions

The first step in this process is deciding which animals you want to rescue. Will it be dogs, cats, horses, or whatever? Some shelters focus on specific dog breeds like golden retrievers so this decision is very important.

The animals you focus on will dictate the type of supplies, food, and other items you will need in your new career.

Determine Your Legal Status

2 people in suits shaking hands over a desk with books, a scale, a gavel, a briefcase, and papers.

With the help of a good lawyer, you need to see if your shelter or group will qualify for non-profit status or not. This is important as a for-profit organization may drain needed funds from its revenue sources.


This is also very important as zoning may not allow you to open up a shelter in a building near you or near other vital parts of society. The building you choose needs to be able to separate dogs from cats, etc., as well as provide nursing and quarantine areas and so on.

Ever wonder why you should donate to animal shelters? Click here to learn more.

Decide On Revenue Sources

Hands handing a box marked donations to another set of hands on a tan background

How will you get your money to operate this shelter? This is a very big task as, without a solid and continuous revenue stream, you may not have the funds to do this work.

Get Experience

If you or any partners working with you do not have shelter experience, then you should be volunteering at a local shelter. The experience you gain there will help you in operating your own shelter and help you set your policies.

Also, visit as many shelters as you can. You can get ideas for interior designs and layouts for your shelter by doing this.

Set Up A Good Record-Keeping System & Get Insurance

Hands looking through file folders

A must-have for any business especially if you are a non-profit shelter. Protect your financial investment with the right insurance coverage so you do not lose your shelter to some unfortunate accident or the wrong client

Ask The Right Questions

As you think about starting your shelter it is important to ask the right questions. The answers to those questions will help direct your progress and guide you to the right way to operate your shelter.

1. Is the current shelter insufficient to address the humane requirements of your area?

2. How does your municipality or county deal with animal control?

3. Would adding another shelter drain resources from existing shelters in the area?

4. Would that resource transfer affect the effectiveness of both shelters?

5. Do you have enough funds saved up to run a shelter?

6. Do you have the expertise and experience to run a shelter? (a love for animals will not be enough)

7. Where can you raise the money to help fund the shelter?

8. Will you be a no-kill shelter or not?

All of these questions should help you decide if opening a shelter is right for you or not. It can be a very emotionally trying career especially when you have to put dogs or cats down.

That statement raises another important question you need to ask yourself– can you handle the emotional aspects of running a shelter?

Make Sure Everyone Knows Your Name

Stack of generic advertising papers

When you do finally open your new animal shelter, make sure to advertise it well. You will need community help so make sure your grand opening is splashy, newsworthy, and so on.

You want everyone to know your name and where your shelter is located. That knowledge will help pave the way for donations and rescuing animals.

Some Final Words

A young boy holding the leash of a beagle while petting it with his family in the background

Opening a shelter can be a good idea in the right location. But the one thing you need to know, feeling sorry for animals is not enough to run a shelter.

There will be government regulations to follow, laws to obey, and other aspects. Running a shelter is hard work, legally, financially, and emotionally. Most people are not up to the demands this career puts on them.

Just be ready for all aspects and you should do fine.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.