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Run your own Animal Shelter

By: Margaret Paxton - Updated: 1 Aug 2022 | comments*Discuss
Run Your Own Animal Shelter

Run Your Own Animal Shelter

Before You start

Once you have decided that this is for you, there are several things to consider long before the first animals arrive. Namely, rules and regulations, finance and practical help.

If a premises and land have not been used as an animal shelter before, find out from your local council about ‘change of use’ and necessary planning permissions. Is the proposed site in a residential area? Will the donations received be enough to register your shelter as a ‘non-profit charity’? Is there a local vet who will work with you? Are buildings-that are intended to house animals-suitable, hygienic and comfortable? Where will the different species exercise? How will you pay for food, bedding, veterinary fees etc if funds are insufficient? Who will help to feed, groom, exercise and care for the animals? How many cats/dogs/rabbits/chickens/ponies can you home at once? What animals are best suited to the facilities you are able to offer and how experienced are you in caring for them? There is a lot to consider!

Practical Help

Volunteers are the mainstay of rescue centres, shelters and the majority of animal charities. In order to succeed (and so help more animals) you need to be a good organiser and get on well with the people who have been inspired to offer you their help! In the animals’ best interests this needs to be established in advance-the better the team, the more you can achieve together. Have a rota prepared, so your helpers know when they are expected to be there and what duties they are required to do. Animals need routine, so it is important to plan the basic timetable early on. Try to arrange emergency cover and make sure insurance is looked into-including public liability.

Preparation is paramount to the smooth running of your new shelter. Equipment, like feeding bowls, bedding, dog leads and collars, cat litter and trays, wormers, flea treatments, shampoos and grooming kits, can be stock-piled in readiness. Some private rescue centres have ‘advertisement bins’ in local pet stores and supermarkets; where people leave donations of tinned food and other goods to help homeless animals. Local companies may donate money or sponsor an animal if asked. Approach local papers, radio stations and TV news channels-they might be interested in your story. Send out flyers, get people involved! Publicity helps to get you noticed and raise public awareness of your animal shelter.

Buildings and Land

It would be a great shame to rescue animals only to have them get sick because of inadequate disinfection. Kennels, catteries, stables, hutches, all enclosures, bedding, bowls and equipment must be clean; all the time! Volunteers and visitors must be made aware of the importance of washing their hands and appropriate facilities provided.

If there are turn out paddocks, fencing must be safe and secure and expert advice sought on poisonous plants, harrowing and whether the land is suitable for grazing. Fresh water should also be available and shelter against sun, wind and rain provided. Consider the need for rugs too, and, if housing large animals, where’s the muck heap going to be and how will it be disposed of? If poultry are among the shelter’s residents, they will need protection from foxes and other predators!


Running a shelter generates a lot of paperwork: records for each animal, volunteers’ rota's, dates and programmes for open days and other events, copies of orders for food and other essentials, fund-raising and general book-keeping, to name but a few. There are some free computer packages on offer that may make this less of a headache-utilise the skills of people who have offered their help-designate!

The Rewards

When the first cat, dog, rabbit, pony, or whatever else you have taken in, has settled and the healing process has begun, then you will know that it’s all been worth it. Some animals may stay for the rest of their lives, some a few days or weeks, but, for each animal that the shelter helps, you and your team are the ones who made it possible.

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[Add a Comment]
Hi Arol, please email me I just read your message I'm also interested in setting up my own non profit charity. Best Celine
Celine - 1-Aug-22 @ 1:35 AM
I'm really touched for howany people want to help. I'm saving every penny I have to create a sanctuary for farm industry animals. The most difficult is to get the land because of the price. Would be great to be I touch with people with the same interest. You can find me on Twitter as @mrcatcool Also for those who are looking information I recommend to read opensanctuary.org. it's the Wikipedia for sanctuaries. The most powerful tool I know so far
Arol - 14-Jul-22 @ 7:32 PM
I have been rescuing and rehoming rabbits for 22 Years independently, and more recently since 2019 with the help of my friend Pam Medhurst, we do quite a lot of It is non profit making, every penny goes back in the account forfood and neutering etc. Would I actuallybenefit From registering as a non profit making animal. It is for a maximum of25 Rabbits
Donny - 11-Jul-22 @ 1:54 PM
Hi. I currently run a successful licenced boarding business, but would love to start rescuing dogs. I can't seem to find any information on weather or not you need to be licenced for dog rescue and was wondering if anyone could shed some light on this please.
Caninedream - 23-Apr-22 @ 3:43 PM
"Contact Dennis or Jeanne with your ideas and proposals" Your contact details please
Hinck - 8-Oct-21 @ 4:08 PM
Can someone please just tell me where to go to get my animal sanctuary started, I've been going round in circles,know exactly what I'm doing, used my own funds,(into £1,000's now).I've justvaquired another horse who's infact a retired in Jan 2021 race horse, his condition considering his life long purpose to gain man wealth is disgusting. Enough is enough, I can't keep turning horses off his condition down. I have limited land available and need funds to purchase or rent more. I had to turn down 15 other ex racers from same yard he came from their condition I hope is better than his, no time to pity him or them only focus is rebuilding bodies and souls and getting something solid and longterm capacity, SOMEONE PLEASE JUST TELL ME SIMPKE STEPS A TO Z
forcfield - 4-Sep-21 @ 2:14 PM
Hi to Steve who wants to use his land to help@house animals.also,hi to carrina, niki&Claire.im touched that there are decent people in our wicked world.God bless you all.
Liz - 22-Aug-21 @ 1:32 PM
Hi, I have years of experience caring for animals from horses to very small birds. I have a passion for birds of prey but a love for all things great and small. I am semi retiring now and have a few acres of land that I would love to turn into a non for profit animal rescue centre. I have the skill set to design and build the appropriate homes for all animals and once volunteered my time to build 27 aviaries for a bird sanctuary. Any advice or assistance would be gratefully welcome. Steve
SteveP - 7-Aug-21 @ 1:11 AM
Good morning,I would be really interested in taking in stray cats or cats that cannot be looked after anymore by there owners,I already have taken cats in to my care but would like to be able to take more,if you could give me any advice how to go about this has a charity would be grateful,look forward hearing from you
Judy - 19-Jul-21 @ 10:14 AM
Hoping to open a small petting zoo style animal park in my local town. Hoping to house donkeys, goats, pigs etc. Have years of experience with animals, including wildlife. I have the vision, but I have no idea where to start.
Carrina - 23-Apr-21 @ 7:46 AM
I'm currently studying for a OFQUAL approved canine behaviour and welfare qualification, as I desperately would like to set up a dog rescue. In time I would also like to add cats and horses too, and I'm experienced in both. Funding for this venture is where I'm struggling. If anyone can help with advise on raising funds, I would be very grateful. If Jeanne and Dennis in America (from post dated 31st Jan 21) are still on the looking to invest, I would love to discuss. Many thanks in advance of any help or advise. Thanks, Angela
Angela-Claire - 12-Apr-21 @ 5:22 PM
I am hoping to be able to act as a small hedgehog rescue and already overwinter up to 4 hedgehogs at a time. It will not be feasible to house more than 10 at a time so will need volunteers too. Is this possible/legal without becoming a registered charity or will I still need to register?
Niki's Pricklies - 19-Mar-21 @ 8:01 PM
I am an entrepreneur and photographer, i am building my businesses so i have a stable income to start a rescue to dogs and one for horses using unique rehabilitation methods. I am interested to understand the costs of starting and running a rescue small to medium sized? I have all the contacts vets, trainer, knowledge of the animals, business experience, sales, marketing i just dont know what i need to have behind me financially to do it successfully. I dont want to start and fall short and it be at the determent of the animals. If anyone has any feedback on this please feel free to email me.
Claire! - 1-Feb-21 @ 1:50 PM
American couple would like to start an animal rescue farm in the UK. Willing to invest in land and buildings. Contact Dennis or Jeanne with your ideas and proposals.
Dennis - 31-Jan-21 @ 5:14 PM
I have wanted to start a cat shelter for a while now but just don’t know where to start Any tips please Thank you
Nealam - 13-Dec-20 @ 4:23 PM
I have 10 rabbits and 3 guinea pigs all of which were unwanted pets.I live alone and only work p/t.So can tend to them well.Im an ex veterinary nurse which comes in handy.Ive had all the rabbits vaccinated but the financial costs are crippling.People dump the rabbits in my garden at times as they know il look after them.People are asking me to take them all the time but i need some help to maintain the project
Ali - 9-Oct-20 @ 2:25 PM
I have a big garden I would like to run a shelter for cats please assist me anyone to get started I will be living in the house
Debs - 6-Sep-20 @ 3:04 PM
Do you have to live on site if you have a rescue centre for dogs or n Boarding kennels
Caz - 1-Jul-20 @ 7:02 PM
Please can someone explain why some animal sanctuaries are set up as registered charities and some are businesses/limited companies? What is the difference with regards to rescue? Will welfare be affected? Thank you
Cat lady - 6-Jun-20 @ 7:53 PM
I would love to open an animal shelter in Wiltshire. I honestly wouldn’t know where to start, I would just love to go to work everyday feeding and caring for animals. If anyone out there has any ideas or tips or would like to get together to create something special for our animals please get in touch with me.
Em - 21-Apr-20 @ 8:38 PM
Hi is there any charity or government help to set up a dog sanctuary
Stevey - 13-Aug-19 @ 11:05 AM
Hello ro, In Wales kennels meet problems with dog waste. Inspectors seem to want septic tanks or dogg mess collected in skips. This means huge costs for boarding kennels. The rules appear not to apply to rescues. My own dogs weren't planned for rehoming, but serious illness may make it inevitable. The fact tons of cow and sheep waste are spread on fields seems unfair to dog owners.
dogbone - 11-Nov-18 @ 12:33 PM
Hi, I’m from Ireland and have lived in the U.K. for 6 years. Myself and my partner of 4 years rescued a 6 year old GSD and we absolutely love animals. I’m an engineer and my partner has his own business. I have wanted for years to open my own animal shelter. Only recently a friend of mine opened a shelter in Bulgaria and the rules she had to get through are unbelievable. One massive wall that came up against her, was the government restriction on ‘animal waste’ from a shelter. I am a drainage engineer by trade and I have never heard of a separate law or restriction on foul waste from animals. If anybody knows anything about this, please let me know. I’ve tried to look it up online to no avail. I understand all other requirements in relation to land and planning, but I’m at a loose end on a potential need for specific animal foul disposal. Any help appreciated!
Ro - 29-Oct-18 @ 11:55 PM
I wanted to breed and rescue Labradors when we moved into a smallholding. For various reasons our relationship failed and she left me to pay off the mortgage and I struggle to make ends meet. There are 22 labs living inside with me as a group and, I've found the relationships between the dogs very rewarding. Unfortunately it seems like I have a serious illness and my worry now is how to do the best I can for the future of the pack. For people with families who are into dogs having a number of dogs may be fine, but I now wish I had given more thought for their future.
dogbone - 27-Oct-18 @ 10:13 AM
I'm running a business already and am already struggling to get it off the ground but I also work with troubled young people at a local youth club and spent alot of time studying different psychologies in order to be able to help and support these young ones but I also want to open an animal rescue locally and have the young people volunteering and bring everything together while still running my business which is selling raw food for raw fed pets, I have no funds and no clue where to start, please help
Kelz - 19-Jul-18 @ 2:27 PM
Hello I’m wanting to open my own shelter to help all these lovely animals as I’ve wanted to since I can remember has any one got any information at all what licenses do I need ? what’s the best support ? what’s the round about monthly price of a normal shelter Thankyou
Amylp - 14-Jun-18 @ 8:56 PM
Ive been wanting to open my own shelter but i dont know where to get started. I dont know where to go to get licenses that i may need or what paper work i need, this is has been my dream since i was little. But i really need help though.
Stell - 8-May-18 @ 1:57 AM
I'd love to set up a animal shelter in the UK, animals and their welfare are my passion in life
Want 2 help animals - 12-Feb-18 @ 12:13 PM
I'm desparate to open a small farm animal sanctuary, these animals suffer so much in the farm industry, i love all animals but these have special place in my heart for the suffering they endure, there are a few farm sanctuaries in UK but not many in north England, just need the farm and land to do this, if i can just help a few of these poor babies, sheeps, cows, veal calfs, goats, pigs, ponies etc, already have a rescue cat:), any advice how to go about this, thanks Melx
MelBardot - 13-Dec-17 @ 7:58 PM
I want to start no killdog shelter sick of seeing dogs killed because of over populated love dogs need help with getting funds to start a dog shelter
Kay - 6-Nov-17 @ 6:32 AM
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