Just as you might suspect, there are no end to charities that would take your good money in the name of our canine friends. Some, of questionable ethics, will prey on guilt and your good nature.
These often rise up after national disasters and/or use emotion-laden phrases such as “puppy mills, starving dogs, put to death without your help.”
Others are good organizations, with effective fund raising arms, doing needed work in the name of our four-footed friends.
Here are four easy steps to help you contribute, if you have a mind to.
1. Decide what type of charity you’d like to support.
- United Way-type organizations support multiple causes. An example would be an company such as PetSmart, who will take your spare change at the register, but also accepts donations on-line. Another good one is the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. Both support a variety of charities including medical research and pet rescue in times of disaster.
- Service dog organizations train and place dogs for the blind and/or hearing impaired. They also work with companion dogs for elderly and disabled and organize petting visitations at local nursing homes.
- Purebred rescue groups. The American Kennel Club has a list of regional clubs in all parts of the country that support the rescue of purebred animals. These range from the nationally renowned rescue of retired Greyhounds from the racetracks to organizations for poodles, bassets, basenjis and more. Name your favorite breed and you’ll find it here.
- Rescue dogs that go into collapsed buildings, search dogs that find lost tots, dogs that sniff out explosives. An interesting one, that has a four star rating from Charity Navigator is Puppies Behind Bars These pups are trained by prisoners and then donated to local law enforcement agencies for use in explosive detection.
- Independent animal rescue organizations in your local neighborhood. Although the US Humane Society gets most of the publicity, it is the local shelter that does most of the work. Be aware that ratings of the local charity, even those with a national moniker, can vary widely. Do your homework.
2. Narrow your choice down to the specific organization within these broad categories that you might want to support
- A good place to start searching is a website such as Animal Charities of America.
- Charity Navigator will also allow searches for specific charities by keywords as well.
- You may wish to investigate charitable organizations that operate out of your area. Ask your vet for his or her recommendation.
3. Investigate the creditworthiness of the specific organization you have selected.
Look for things such as:
- how much executives are paid,
- what specific activities do they support,
- what is their ratio of fund raising expense to pay out.
A good way to do this is to review their annual 990 Federal Tax Return. You can do this yourself, or touch base with someone who has already run the numbers for you.
Four good organizations that do this are:
- Charity navigator, (www.Charitynavigator)
- Council of Better Business Bureaus (www.give.org)
- Guidestar (www.guidestar.org)
- American Institute for Philanthropy (www.charity.watch.org)
There is no free lunch. Well almost. The Charity Navigator site does not charge. The BBB doesn’t either, but their search engine is limited. The Guidestar Organization requires a somewhat cumbersome sign in procedure for their ‘basic’ reports which are free. The AIP charges for theirs.
It depends on what you want or need. If you are going to be checking into numerous organizations, paying a modest fee might be worthwhile. Otherwise, I’d recommend starting with Charity Navigator and go from there.
4. If you have more time than money, consider volunteering on a personal basis:
- Most guidedog organizations have a fostering program available to train young pups.
- If disaster strikes in your area, consider contacting your local organizations to see if you can help with abandoned pets: this will range from temporary fostering care to care at the local facility
- Volunteer hours at your local humane society.
Whatever route you decide to take, know that you are giving back to those loyal companions who have been with us since we crouched by fires in caves. In addition to giving you a warm emotional glow, altruism can also be good for your health, boosting levels of serotonin in your system.