Help Your Animal Friends with These Top Charities

Animal charities appeal to just about everyone. So why not support one in the name of the animal you love, admire, or wish you could save?

By far, the best way to support animals is through your local animal shelter. Be sure to check yours out and then donate or volunteer.

But also, consider supporting one or more of these top-notch animal charities. We’ve broken the list into a few categories and then listed some of the best organizations in each. Start a family animal project should you have children or grandchildren. Some of the charities listed even welcome visits.

An online search for animal groups will turn up abundant resources if you wish to look further.  The one I liked very much is the Directory of Charities and Nonprofit Organizations by Guidestar.

Note: The charities listed below have all been vetted by organizations that review nonprofits for efficiency and transparency.

Domestic Animals Like Dogs and Cats

Cat hugging dog while being licked.
 Arkadova/iStock / Getty Images Plus

Puppies Behind Bars

Help several causes with a donation to this heart-warming group. Puppies are trained by prison inmates which helps in their own rehabilitation as well as training the pups. Then the trained dogs go on to be service dogs for veterans or work with the police.  It doesn’t get much better than that. 

Alley Cat Allies

The only global advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and improving cats' lives. This organization does it all from educating the public about cats, rescuing cats, and working on trap-neuter-return. Rated a top charity by Charity Navigator too!

Can Do Canines

What can't these dogs do? Can Do Canines trains dogs to work with people who have hearing loss, mobility issues, seizure disorders, diabetes, and autism. Check out the website for some feel-good stories and images and then donate.

Best Friends Animal Society

Best Friends, located in Utah, could be the best-known animal rescue organization. They rescue and nurture not only dogs and cats but horses, pigs, bunnies and more. People come from all over the country to visit the beautiful facility, to have overnights with prospective animal adoptees, and to volunteer their time. They partner with shelters in other locations and sponsor the famous run/walk called “Strut Your Mutt.” Many donors choose to sponsor an animal( easy to do through the website).

Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation

A seal waving.
    Elena Eliachevitch/Moment/Getty Images

The Marine Mammal Center

This California based organization (founded in the mid-1970s) keeps up an exciting pace of helping marine wildlife, including running a Hawaiian Monk Seal Hospital.

Activities focus on education, of course, but also rescue, rehabilitation, and release. It also partners with scientists around the world to expand the knowledge base about marine mammals. 

How to help. You can volunteer for rescue and hospital teams, donate, participate in events, or help with advocacy campaigns. Oh, not to mention “adopting” a seal of your own.

Jane Goodall Institute

If you haven’t heard of this organization, you’ve been hiding under a rock! Jane Goodall became famous for her research on chimps. Today, she heads up this Institute to raise awareness of the plight of wildlife the world over.  

For instance, in 1900, there were more than a million chimpanzees in the world. Today there are about 340,000. The Goodall Institute wants to keep these precious animals from extinction and energize people worldwide to take care of the natural environment.

How you can help. If you haven’t seen the National Geographic documentary, “Jane,” then do go and take your children (also available as a CD). The film documents Jane’s life and work. But don’t stop there. Donate to Jane’s Institute, volunteer, become a Chimpanzee Guardian monthly donor  ​and follow Jane’s work.

Farm Animals

Piglets awaiting rescue
 kickers/iStock / Getty Images Plus

Humane Farming Association

Farm animal activists have been on a mission for many years, but more and more Americans have started paying attention. The Humane Farming Association is active in anti-cruelty campaigns across the country. Some initiatives include fighting bills in CA that would restrict space for egg-laying chickens, a national veal boycott, a farm that cares for rescued animals, combating inhumane conditions for pigs, and more.

Here's how to help. You can donate, demonstrate, volunteer, and advocate. 

The Good Food Institute

The Good Food Institute helps animals differently by advocating for plant-based foods that are more sustainable and humane than animal-based diets. This movement is in its early stages but has scored some rapid wins. It's not just about veggie burgers but encompasses issues such as environmental degradation, poverty, animal welfare, and human health.

The "clean meat" movement includes more humane animal production and affordable plant-based food alternatives.

Even Bill Gates and Google's Sergey Brin have invested in new companies pushing plant-based products. There has also been increased interest from countries like Japan and corporations such as Tyson Foods. Naturally, this movement has stirred up the ire of the ag industry.  

How can you help? Donate but also keep up with the field and the trends, such as wholly engineered foods.  

Horses, Performing Animals, Research Animal Rescue

Elephants performing in a circus.
 Darika Suwanmongkol/EyeEm/Getty Images

Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)

As children, we all loved the circus, but now we realize that no animals should ever be used for entertainment. That’s where PAWs comes in.

This organization has been rescuing captive animals, investigating abuses, providing sanctuaries, and educating the public since 1984. We can see the changes that PAWS and other animal advocates have made, from the demise of the circus to changes at zoos and aquariums. 

What can you do? Donate, advocate, volunteer, follow the trends. “adopt” an animal.

 Front Range Equine Rescue

Who doesn’t love horses? From the beloved Black Beauty to My Friend Flicka, nary a child hasn’t wished for a horse to love.

Horses are more in danger than ever. So Colorado-based Front Range Equine Rescue works to mitigate the hazards through programs that address horse rescue, horse slaughter, horse adoption, horse-related education, and horse owner assistance.

What can you do? Donate, volunteer, report abuse, get the word out, advocate, and educate.

Chimp Haven

Chimps are so like humans, aren’t they? Maybe that is why they have been so often used for biomedical research. That doesn’t make it right.

Chimp Haven has dedicated itself to rescuing chimps from abusive environments, often medical research labs. Those chimps then live in peace, just being themselves at the Chimp Haven sanctuary.

What can you do? That retreat needs to be expanded. Although the National Institute of Health ended research on chimps in 2015, many chimps still reside at the labs. Chimp Haven is the only designated sanctuary for NIH chimps. You can help it bring home the remaining chimps to live happily in retirement.